“Self-Image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment.”
Maxwell Maltz, American author of Psycho-Cybernetics
“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
I was speaking with a dear friend about self-esteem and in particular, self-image.
He sat, staring at his coffee for a few moments before answering. “I see an old, broke fool,” he replied without looking up. “Someone who made a series of poor decisions.”
“That’s not what I see,” I responded. “I see someone who is smart, talented, exceptionally kind and generous – someone who cares so much for others, but little for himself.”
If asked to describe yourself, how would you answer? Put another way, who do you think you are? I am speaking of self-image and the mental/emotional picture you carry of yourself. Self-image is a fundamental component of self-esteem and is comprised of a series of self-beliefs ranging from deservability and capability to personal value and even body image.
Most of us would agree that having a good self-image is important but, in my experience, few of us seem to possess it and fewer still know how to shift from a negative to a positive version.
It is certainly possible to change your self-image, but before you can do so, you need to understand how the foundation of your self-image was formed. As a child, the initial building blocks were handed to you by the influential people in your life: initially, your parents, grand-parents and siblings and later teacher, coaches and peers. These messages and your responses to them settled deep in your unconscious mind.
Over time, these ideas accumulated, reinforced each other and crystallized into your self-image. For some, the image was positive. For others, the opposite was true. Most of you grew up with a mixed bag of negative and positive beliefs. Over time, you began to believe you were your beliefs and lost yourself in this unconscious collection of impressions. Now you blindly reinforce what you falsely assume to be true.
It’s interesting to note that you can place so much faith in these ideas about yourself that you’ll argue for their validity. “That’s just who I am,” you’ll assert, “And I can’t change it!” If you believe you’re a failure, that you can’t inspire others, that you’ll never have any money or a loving relationship, you will unconsciously choose a course of action that will make it a reality.
Your self-image determines success or failure in life – what you will pursue and what you will flee from – and the only way to change it is to stop what you’re doing and to wake up! Wake up to the fact that you create your reality. Success in life is about responding thoughtfully rather than unconsciously reacting to whatever you’re handed. It’s about making well-considered conscious choices rather than offering unconscious obedience to a set of uninvestigated thoughts.
You can respond to your desire for a better self-image and improved self-esteem by taking deliberate action to examine and replace those old, negative beliefs. Drag them out of your dark unconscious and into the bright sunlight of conscious scrutiny. You’ll discover that most if not all of what you thought were your shortcomings and limitations don’t even exist.
American best-selling author, Robert Kiyosaki said, “It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.”
Chances are, you’re not who you think you are and your self-image does not accurately reflect who you are today. You are not that collection of painful or self-limiting memories. You are not your history. You are extraordinary. There is no one else like you. No one else thinks like you or has your thoughts. No one does things quite the way you do. No one has your mind or your memories. You are precious and one-of-a-kind. And that is who you are.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His recent book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.