Self Image Improvement

We all have a self image. Our lives are an exercise in actualizing that self image. A poor self image, and we have a poor life. A high quality self image, and we have a high quality life. Self image is not just something we are born with. It is something that we learn as we are exposed to others opinion of our selves, our personal experiences with our successes or failures in life, and how we deliberately view and “program” our own minds.

The concept we have of ourselves, the totality of our feeling about ourselves, shapes and influences out self image, good or bad. A self concept can be defined as something that can be expressed as, “I am,” or “I am not.”
I am fat.
I am not a good person.
I am not smart.
I am weak.
I work hard.
I am not making enough money.
I am not worthy of happiness.

Our self concepts begin to form in early childhood. They form regardless of the truth of untruth of these impressions and beliefs. At adolescence, the malleability of the mind decreases and our early concepts become fixated and form our personal self image. As an adult, our self-concept is well fixed, but slowly changes based on our life experience.

Our self image is a self-reinforcing function. If we succeed beyond our image level, we embark on self “correcting” actions that return us to the prior level of self image comfort.

I once knew a young man who felt he was too small and underweight. I asked him why he didn’t lift weights to bulk up some. He told me that he’d try lifting weights and it didn’t work. I told him that if he did it properly, it would work. We finally made a bet on it. I bet him he’d gain a certain amount of weight in a month, I think it was 5 pounds.. I don’t like losing and I know I could do that.

I gave him a routine, told him how to do it and checked each day that he was doing it right. At he end of the month, I asked him how he’d done. I’d avoided asking all month long because I was enjoying the suspense. He just smiled and handed me a ten dollar bill. He not only gained the five pounds I’d bet on but closer fifteen pounds.

Point is, he’d been conditioned to see himself as a certain size and that preconceived notion caused him to act in a way that maintained it. I, as an outside force, changed his concept and he succeeded. I lost touch with him, so I don’t know if he developed a new self image and maintained or not, but it does demonstrate the point.

The point is: Self Image is a heavy contributor to the success and quality of life. Underestimating the importance of self image can lead to feelings of loss of control, which will further compromise the concept set and self image.

If you want to change something in your life, be it physical or psychological, if you fail to change the underlying concepts and self image, any change made will probably be doomed to failure. How many people make money and then lose it? How many lose weight and then gain it back or gain it and then lose it? How many reach the edge of victory, or achieve their goal, only to have it slip away? This is not a deep dark mystery. It is and example of the underlying concepts and self image not being brought into line with the new and desired circumstances. It is simply that action of basic psychology.

When we have a certain self image, we act as if that’s what we are and that is what we end up becoming. An out of shape person who wants to get into shape, but misses workouts, eats improperly and fails to get enough rest, will not get into shape. The self image of being out of shape and weak can cause a person to act as if they are out of shape and weak, and that is what they will become. To improve any situation in life, start by improving your self image.

Step 1: Make a new self image.
Sit down and visualize what you wish to be. I think all of us have a concept of what we’d like to be. Our problem is that we do not see ourselves as this ideal being. No matter! Think about the ideal state and get the details firmly in mind. Step one is to define what the ideal state for your self is.

Step 2: Write it down.
Once you have the ideal state defined for yourself, write it on paper. Putting in on paper makes if much more real to yourself. It is the start of a contract with yourself. You are acting to make the purely mental a physical reality, and writing it down is an intermediate step to that goal. It's important that you express these ideals as positive statements that are expressed in the present tense. Make it personal and make it real. Do not say, “I am not sick and weak.” Do say, “I am healthy and strong.” The basic function of the brain is to deal in equalities and if you focus on sickness, you will feel sick. Focus on health and you will feel healthier. This is not mysticism. It is simply basic psychology. You can edit this down and summerize it and carry it with you. That can be a useful, positive reminder.

Step 3: Act out the part.
Once you have this new image defined and written out, live the part. You have it all defined in your written statement, now live it. Yes, you will experience resistence. The old, ingrained habits will die hard, but you kill them, not by denying them, but by affirming just the opposite. When I quit smoking, it was by visualizing myself free of the nicotine habit. My success, the third time I tried, was not by NOT SMOKING, but by acting like someone who is smoke free. I can not honestly remember how it felt to want and need a cigarette and I smoked for over 25 years. I don’t see my self as someone who quit smoking. I see myself as someone who is a nonsmoker. Act the part of the new image you’ve chosen. Be the one that is living the new image.

Step 4: Reinforce the image.
It is absolutely necessary for you to reinforce the idealized image that you have chosen for yourself. This is done, very simply, by repetition. There are two types of memory, long and short term. Someone did some research and determined that consistent repetition is what moves something from short to long term memory. Your current concepts and self image are based on years of repetition. While it will not take years to counter the negativity, it will take consistent repetition for the required period of time. Some form of reinforcement should be use several times each day. A note where you can see it and take the time to consider it, is an effective tool.

Read over your written ideal. Don’t hesitate to change and update them. As you read them, visualize them as being real and true and visualize it as being you. See it like a movie. The power of visualization is remarkable. It is the minds basic tool of reason and is the workshop of mental reality. Use it daily to your advantage. Allocate some time, maybe just before you go to sleep to take the time to see you new state as it applies to you. It can be a pleasant and productive exercise.

Have you noticed how, when you think, you have a conversation with yourself? You may question yourself: “Now where did I put my glasses?” You may make negative statements about yourself: “That was a stupid thing to do!” How many times do you tell yourself, “Good job!” This conversation you are having with yourself is reinforcing and modifying your self image. Become aware of this and keep this conversation positive. Yes, we all make mistakes, but we can keep the conversation about it, with our self, positive. “Wow, I ran that red light! I’ll be more careful next time and really pay more attention.”

During this period of self image reorientation, you should read your written list at least twice a day: Morning and night. Start the day with the positive image and end it the same way. If you wanted added impetus to the effect, every so often rewrite it. Writing something out has an enhance effect on the brain. I know a straight “A” student that takes detailed notes and then never reads them. She has found that the benefit is in the taking them, not the reviewing them. Use this to your advantage. Rewrite you goals as often as possible. Each rewriting of them will further impress them on your mind and make the realization of them closer to reality.

Make a list.
Write it down.
Act it out.
Repeat it many times.
Rewrite and refine it.

Books have been written on the subject and people have gotten rich writing those books. Why? Because it works. So, here it is, for free, in under 2000 words. You might as well get started.

What have you got to lose except the old self you don’t really like all that much?