How might your life be if you truly loved every aspect of you?
If you accepted yourself completely, including your ‘flaws’?
Maybe you’d find it easier to relax; to be more playful.
Maybe you would take more risks.
You’d ruminate less.
You feel more free.
Life would have its challenges, but you might sense joy more often.
In everyday things.
Could life even be experienced as a kind of bliss?
Self-respect. Self-love. Self-acceptance.
It is all rooted in our self-image.
How we see ourselves in the world.
“A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment. Imagination sets the goal ‘picture’ which our automatic mechanism works on. We act, or fail to act, not because of ‘will,’ as is so commonly believed, but because of imagination.” ~Maxwell Maltz
Self-image is the connected series of images, flashes of memory, words and even voices that we hold in our minds that create the all-encompassing picture of how we perceive ourselves.
Rather than manifesting as a single, sharp, CGI-style picture, it is more like a mesh of interconnected pieces.
And it is not real.
It is an entirely fabricated matrix of subjective, twisted, and mirage-like elements that we have constructed for ourselves.
Think of that.
And yet, all the decisions we make; all the goals we pursue or choose to quit on; all of our behaviours, all of our insecurities; all those awkward moments…
…All of it is defined by this image.
If we see ourselves as incapable of finishing things, we will find a way to confirm that image.
We will not finish.
If we see ourselves as unworthy of making lots of money, we will act in a way to ensure we do not, even if we verbalise that we do.
I believe understanding self-image — honouring it and taking action to improve it — can do more for us as individuals than anything else.
“The ‘self-image’ is the key to human personality and human behaviour. Change the ‘self-image’, and you change the personality and the behaviour.” ~Maxwell Maltz
(Can you tell that I dig Maxwell yet?)
Whether you succeed in life or not has very little to do with how intelligent, or intrinsically disciplined or motivated your ‘personality-type’ is.
It has everything to do with what you think of yourself.
How you see yourself.
The good thing is that we can take a crinkled, discarded and blemished self-image, and breathe life back into it. We can iron out the creases, and infuse colour and beauty into it.
These are some ways that are working for me:
Spend time every day visualising yourself as competent, successful, and so on.
Enjoy this process. Make it fun.
I find it’s helpful to write out this vision of who I am in an ideal world and what that world looks like in detail. I read over it, and images are better constructed that way.
Make use of your powerful imagination to alter the self-image over time. This will have an effect because your positive visions need not have actually taken place to convince your mind that you are that person.
“Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a ‘real’ experience.” ~Maxwell Maltz
Repeat mantras and affirmations often.
Language and how we talk to ourselves directly generates the images you see in your mind. So make them supportive. Avoid negative self-talk and shower yourself in positive talk.
The more you speak uplifting words, the more solidified the images become. As discussed in this post, there is tremendous power in repeating the words: “I love myself.”
Take your focus away from the self-conscious, ego-driven: ‘what is wrong with me?’ to ‘what is good in others?’
Rather than trying to fix yourself, or overthink things, divert your attention to other people, especially what there is to like in other people.
When you develop the habit of seeing good in others — and asking how you can improve their lives — your self-image inevitably changes. You are becoming a leader, a supporter of people; someone who doesn’t focus on self obsessively, and therefore someone worthy of respect and self-love.
It becomes effortless because the evidence is there.
Change your goals.
We all have goals, whether we’re conscious of them or not. Many of these aims are keeping us stuck. For example, we might have the goal of avoiding awkward situations with people. And so our self-image of being a social phobic is continually reinforced.
Changing this goal to ‘becoming confident around people,’ will change everything for the social phobic.
Different goals, different self-image, different behaviours, different you.
Merely changing your targets could make you see yourself as someone entirely different, very quickly.
So be clear about your commitments and make them positive. When you commit to success, rather than to fixing your perceived problems, your self-image changes.
You see yourself as ‘normal,’ driven AND successful, rather than ‘flawed’ and unsuccessful.
The above examples show that to alter our self-image requires a similar process we used in building it. Repeated, and (re)directed action over time. But it won’t take a lifetime to see change.
The results can be surprisingly rapid.
You just need to commit to a new way of thinking (and doing) that respects, nourishes and guides a positive picture of you.
I’ll be writing more on these ideas in upcoming posts, so make sure you have followed me here, and my newsletter for extra bonuses.