thinking about oneself
by Julia Held
Lately, the concepts of self-image and self-conception kept me thinking. While I was observing myself behaving differently depending on with whom I interact, questions started to become puzzling. Am I what others think of me, or rather what I think about myself? When am I who? When does the image I have of myself change? And how does it affect me and others?
From early childhood on, others kept telling you how you are, what you are like and thus, who you are. The labels others put on you and the traits they put down on you highly influence the way you see and perceive yourself and the kind of attributes you ascribe to yourself. It is important to get aware of this mechanism of the production of various images of oneself, stemming from different sources outside oneself and how in turn, they work within the self.
puzzle pieces: infinite
Self-image is a powerful idea we all have of ourselves. It has the potential to transform the quality of one's life either to better or to worse, depending on if and how one works on it.
When people go to plastic surgeons because they are unhappy with the way they look like and let it change in order to become more beautiful and acceptable, the "ugly" things get removed and made pretty. After such surgeries, there are two kinds of ways for the operated persons to develop:
Their self-image gets a boost and they develop a lot of self-esteem, as the things they found unattractive about themselves was the only reason for their unhappiness and has been changed. Their self-image and thus, their life quality, gets transformed into the better.
Others don't experience such a change for the better. They still think they are ugly, even if they were beautiful objectively. They accuse doctors for not having made a change, because they can't see it. Here, the self-image of who they were before the operation is so strong that it remains and skews their picture of themselves even after the intervention. My guess is that this form of negative self-image only superficially arises from dissatisfaction with how one looks - there is more for people who are trapped in such kind of never ending thought spirals to be unhappy about. The look was only one thing and even when they got it changed, their discontent remains, because it was not the source.
Our self-images are the subconscious framework for how we see our lives and ourselves and what we think is true. The concept applies to reality and to oneself, it determines what one thinks about oneself and the imagination of what is possible. Is it possible for me to earn 100k a year? The answer to this is part of your self-image. You can see it as kind of a mental model of reality and of how the world works your mind is creating.
The tricky things is that mostly, you are not aware of that. You have all sorts of assumptions directing your thoughts, your decisions, your actions, your life - all gotten in there unconsciously while you were growing up yet to the point of your life you're reading this. All the different experiences and beliefs about yourself and the world, others and reality are caught in a sticky, messy, tight ball of yarn.
You can observe the surface but have no idea how its inner world looks like and about how it is composed. And while this thing actually is pretty mysterious to you, you still have to carry it everywhere, unable to let it go, letting it determine your actions with its heavy weight, not knowing about its nature.
And indeed you can't! Because 95% of this yarn ball are in your subconsciousness, invisible for you. Invisible things influencing your actions, your decisions, your feelings, thoughts and emotions. And because you're not aware of this, you can't work with it and so you get determined if your range of action and get stuck on certain levels. Levels of where you stand in your relationships, of how happy you are, of how motivated you become etc. These levels become the boundaries you set yourself, your imaginary finish line which exist nowhere but in your head, not having to do anything with objective reality.
tackling the puzzle
But you know what? Everyone, including you, can actually break out of these limitations (provided that you are okay with the thought to break out of something non existent). The things you have to do is unraveling that stuff and look at the inside of this sticky, heavy ball called self-image.
And of course, it ain't easy. Because everyone of us has his and her own truth. Anything we believe is true is something we align our behaviour and our actions with. Everything we do is all shaped by what we believe is true. And it doesn't even matter, if what we believe is true, is false in reality. We are still operating based on the beliefs we have. So in order to actually be able to become aware of this, you have to make room for this:
Most of your self-image is complete bullshit, keeping you stuck where you are.
Once you got that without completely losing your shit, you start to create a change in your life. And for that, the first step is digging. Dig in the self-image you and others created of yourself. Reflect your assumptions, your thoughts, scrutinize your core-beliefs and track them back to where they stem from. By uncovering your bullshit, you will create lasting changes that are not like a Jojo, but are actually lasting and the most powerful tool for problems in people's lives they never thought they could handle. Changing strong, contra-productive thought patterns, creating success, dropping addiction and depression. Start telling yourself different things than you always used to without lying to yourself (and here is where the work is). Watch it work and enjoy.