Self-image: Why Does It Matter?
We all possess a “self-image”. It’s a mental picture acquired through our beliefs about ourselves. Self-image is how you perceive yourself and it grows out of past experiences of success and failure. When you internalize the judgments of others, those judgments become part of your self-image.
Your perception of self is a by-product of your upbringing, the response you get from your teachers and peers and the people you grew up with. Those who grow up with healthy doses of unconditional love from their parents will most likely will have a healthy self-image. If your life have not been a bed of roses and your self-image had taken a beating. However, your self-image can be re-programmed.
A person who is generally happy with his or her self-image will most likely to be self-confident, very effective at work and thrive in social situations. Those who lack a healthy self-image may have a tendency to be self-conscious, inhibited, and less adaptable in social situations.
My study of self-image psychology and its impact one’s success started when I was a scrawny teenager struggling with self-consciousness and a lack of self-confidence. During those awkward teenage years, I stumbled upon the 1960 classic by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics.
Beyond Positive Thinking
Cybernetic is Greek for ‘steersman’. So Psycho-Cybernetic is about being at the helm of your own ship and being in control of steering your life towards the direction that you want.
Dr. Maltz, a surgeon who specializes in cosmetic surgery – has helped numerous clients rid themselves of disfigurement, scars and other malformations. However, what perplexed him was the fact that many of his clients were no happier with their new faces than before they undergo reconstructive surgery. This fact aroused Maltz’s interest in self-image psychology, which held that our thoughts and actions govern us.
Thoughts and actions grew out of your experiences of success and failure and how others perceive you. Hence, any change to the outer image without change to the inner image, will only generate a superficial effect. Self-image is not just about positive thinking and positive affirmations. Saying ‘I will get a promotion’ alone will not be effective. Deep down inside your heart, you must believe in the idea of getting a promotion.
Dr. Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People refers to this as the inside-out approach. Inside-out means to start first with self. Any changes, in order to be effective, must start with the most inside part of self – your paradigms, your character, your assumptions, and your motives.
Your Internal Dialogue
One of the basic steps to nurturing a healthy self-image is taking care of your inner voice. You can begin by listening to your inner voice. Because of its self-critical, self-denying, and even self-destructive nature, some call it the inner critic.
Thus, rather than suppress your emotions, acknowledge that they are real. Make a note of all the negative thoughts and statements made. The thoughts and words that you internalize have powerful effects on you and it affects your attitude, physiology and actions.
Cognitive science has proven that outward performance is linked to inward thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, to set yourself free from limiting beliefs, all you need to do is change the messages that you play in your head.
According to Covey, “you can choose your response to any situation, to any person. Between what happens to you and your response is a degree of freedom. And the more you exercise that freedom, the larger it will become.”
Therefore, choose wisely.