What do you see when you look in the mirror? What do your thoughts say to you when you are alone with them? What does the tape play over and over again in your head that nobody else hears but you?
The answer to these questions is incredibly important in telling you a lot about your self-image. A simple definition of self-image is: a set of beliefs you have about yourself including what you are or are not capable of, your appearance, and your personality. It is a mental picture that determines how you live life as well as whether you even try certain things in life. Here are a few helps to begin understanding what your self-image is as well as some tips (more to follow in the coming weeks) on how to begin changing that set of beliefs.
4 important points to understand about your self-image:
1. This set of beliefs that makes up the mental picture is resistant to change; over your entire life you may not change your mental picture of yourself by very much at all. If you have a lot of confidence in who you are, this is wonderful because some negative comments from other people, getting fired from a job, or failing at something won’t rock your self-confidence. On the other hand, if you struggle with a mental picture of yourself and see yourself as inadequate, incapable, or ‘bad’ on many levels, the positive comments, job promotions, and great successes you realize in life will be difficult for you to acknowledge. So, the first question you can ask yourself is: How do I handle compliments? If you have a hard time taking a compliment, you can begin to explore why that is.
2. Most of the beliefs you have of yourself don’t come from you! They come from your family, your friends, your culture, and media. Begin paying attention to your internal dialogue. If you catch yourself saying “I can’t do that” or “I don’t deserve that” you can ask yourself: “Where did I learn I couldn’t do something or that I don’t deserve something?” You will be surprised at the answers you find. Begin to separate what others have told you about yourself and who you really are.
3. The more you get to know yourself the more you will love yourself. That may sound strange, but it is absolutely true. Over years of spending time with clients both as a therapist and as a coach I have been consistently amazed at the magic of this process. Are you afraid that if you get to know yourself better you will be disappointed? I believe that is impossible! I have not yet met a person who, if they are willing to understand who they are, do not begin having more compassion for themselves and even liking themselves. It is fun to be a part of. I encourage you to take a leap of faith and instead of judging yourself for everything that has taken pace in your life, even the greatest failures, begin to ask yourself questions. Be curious and willing to explore the answer to “Why do I keep getting into certain kinds of relationships?” or “Why am I consistently late for work or other appointments?” or “Why do I have such a difficult time losing weight and keeping it off?” or “Why do I tend to sabotage myself just when I am seeing improvements in my life?” or even “Why, no matter how much money I make, do I still have nothing at the end of the month?”.
4. You can change your self-image. The set of beliefs you have about yourself can be changed just like any belief can change. Do you remember when you believed adults, specifically your parents, knew all the answers to life’s questions? That changed, didn’t it:) Just because the beliefs you have about yourself are resistant to change does not mean they cannot be changed! The reason your beliefs about yourself are difficult to change is because they’ve been with you so long. If you need help with this process, do what you need to to get help whether it is free or costs money. Any investment you make in yourself will pay you back many, many times over. It is the absolute best investment you can ever make and you will never lose what you learn in the process.
A great tip to begin changing your self-image:
I was recently encouraging my 5 year old to finish his morning chores so that we could have some fun on a Saturday morning. I asked him: What with be the biggest help to you in finishing your chores? His answer? “I just need to get started, daddy. Then it will be like a snowball rolling down the hill”. I’m not sure I can say it better myself. Simply begin, regardless of what that looks like, and you will give yourself momentum and allow the snowball to pick up speed as it gets bigger and bigger for you. By simply starting to think about these questions you’ve already begun to understand yourself and the more you understand yourself the more you will fall in love with yourself. It can be extremely daunting to tackle your internal belief system especially after I’ve told you it is resistant to change. I’ll end with some wise words I was given a while ago: Positive change is difficult in the beginning, messy in the middle, and beautiful in the end!