Children who have a positive self-image are able to share their happiness about their appearance in a healthy way, for example, showing you their new shoes or haircut. This is an important aspect of children learning to be happy with who they are and along with self-confidence and self-esteem plays a role in self-acceptance. However, for some children this can be a preoccupation and override any sense of the person they are. They may feel that the person they are is defined by how they look and what they wear rather than the qualities and attributes they have. This needs to be handled in a sensitive way by focusing on their personal characteristics.
A child who has a poor self-image may put themselves down by criticising their appearance and making comments such as ‘I hate my hair’. This may demonstrate a deeper sense of self-loathing and needs to be monitored closely. They may also have a lack of body awareness and disinterest in their appearance. This may be noticeable if a child has experienced neglect and may be unaware that their clothes or bodies are unclean. These children may be particularly vulnerable to being bullied by other children, especially as they start to become more aware of appearances as they get older. A balance between the two extremes is emotionally healthy, where a child is happy to get themselves and their clothes dirty playing outside but is also happy to wash their hands when they come in.