Understanding Self Image

"You can not outperform your self image."

We all have a self image. A multi dimensional picture of who we are in our own minds. Our self image has been under construction since the day we were born. Our parents shaped it. Our peers shaped it. Our culture shaped it. Our religion shaped it. The society we grew up in shaped it.

As babies, we were born a clean slate. Yes, there are personality attributes that can be chalked up to genetics, but what we THINK about those attributes came from the feedback of our surroundings, and created the image we hold of ourselves in our head.

Self image creates our reality. Our brain moves us into action to bring the self image we have into reality. If this image is negative, our reality will be negative, though it might not be all negative. People with a poor self image can actually be quite successful, partly because they are driven to try and prove the self image wrong. Even though they have found success, they have not found happiness.

This is because the self image is always there, and it can feel like a mocking entity, always hiding behind a door, waiting for the right opportunity to quietly slip into the room. And no matter what, we can not outrun our self image. In order to truly create change, we have to change the current image we hold about ourselves. If we don't, even with the best intentions, change won't stick.

This is why you'll see people say they're going to change, get super charged up about it, make some headway for a few weeks, and then start to slip back into the old way of doing things. They want the change, but unknowingly give credence to the image they still hold in their head.

Changing Your Self Image

So how does a person change their self image? It definitely takes work, especially for the parts of an image that were created in childhood. Those thoughts have been reinforced for a very long time. They are the roots that run deepest.

Step One

Clarify the image you want to have of yourself. One easy way to do this is to think of the things you wouldn't mind changing about yourself. Once you have those in mind, what is its opposite? Do you have an image of yourself in your head of always being an overweight person? The new image is of a healthy weight person. Do you have an image in your head of being a push-over? The new image is of someone that can gracefully say no. 

Step Two

Write it all down. Get your new image out onto paper. Write about the person you want to become. The only limit to the image you create is what you decide is the limit. Sure, you need to make the new image believable enough to go after, but don't be afraid to stretch yourself a little. People are capable of incredible things. They just have to see themselves doing them in order for it to become reality.

Step Three

Meditate on or visualize this image everyday. Read the statement you wrote about the new self image you would like to have in your head. Close your eyes and visualize yourself as the new image. Everything impressive that humans have ever done started out as a vision, an idea, an imagined scenario, before it became reality.

Step Four

Feel it. I was working with a client not long ago, and he brought up how he couldn't remember something he read last week, but he can distinctly remember a negative conversation from high school (over 20 years ago). I told him it was because the conversation in high school had a strong feeling attached to it, so it stuck.

Emotion seems to be the magic elixir that makes a thought stick in our brain (whether positive or negative). When you're imagining, or visualizing the image of yourself you want to have, bring feeling into it. Let yourself get excited, get happy, get relieved about this new person you plan to become. 

Don't Overdo It

If you're a grab the bull by the horns kind of person, you can certainly create a sweeping new self image in your mind, and work towards that. But if you're concerned about biting off more than you can chew, create smaller changes bit by bit.

A perfect example of this is changing punctuality. If you're always late, even when you try to be on time, you're likely working against a belief in your head attached to your self image that you're a habitually late person. You can create a new self image that you are always 5 minutes early. Repeat that over and over in your mind. Write about how you are now always 5 minutes early. Write about arriving 5 minutes early to your future appointments. Get excited about the prospect of always being early, of never having to apologize again for being late, of never having to feel the stress of running behind. Of course stuff happens, and it's not likely that you will never be late again in your life, but you can certainly change your self image to create the reality that being early is the norm, and being late is highly unlike you. 

This is just one thing, but changing a small part of your self image like this can put you on a roll to changing more.

Repeat

Again and again. Self image is based on habit. All the little things that have added up over the years that created the thoughts we access habitually. If you want to change any part of your self image, you must train your brain to access the NEW thoughts on a habitual basis, rather than the old. This takes persistence and repetition. 

Bottom Line

You don't have to be the person you were conditioned to be. You can intentionally change the image you have of yourself, and create wondrous and positive changes in your life. Challenge your fears, and create exactly who you want to be, or at least get as close as humanly possible! If this is your one life, make it the one you want.

If you'd like to make a change to your self image, but don't know where to start, I can help! Just fill in the form below to start a conversation with me.