When someone asks you who you are, how do you describe yourself? When you go for an interview what do you represent about yourself? At social events, how do you introduce yourself? You would most likely start with your name. Then, your job title? Awards received in college? Color of your hair? Or that you are witty and love cats?
And how do you feel when you tell them who you are? Do you feel good about yourself and are you proud? Feeling good about yourself most likely means you have positive self-identity. However, it also says you feel good about your ego which is simply labeling. A real sense of positive self-image is based on core consciousness which lies beyond your ego and has nothing to do with your personality, accomplishments or talents. Are you the person who you think you are, really? Do you identify yourself based on how others see you or how you are supposed to be seen?
If we believe that the opinions of others are more important than our own, we will end up living our lives in accordance to their expectations. Sometimes others try to force their opinion of who we are onto us. That is a dangerous black hole to fall into because their opinion of us can run our lives. Thus, it is crucial to develop our own self image that is based on our own evaluations rather than how we believe others see us.
A sense of ego, so called self-identity, is mostly determined by external conditions, circumstances or events. Most of us today suffer from this to a certain extent as society seems to want us to think, behave and live in certain ways in order to get a sense of belonging and significance which may not be exactly what we want and who we are. However, a true self image is determined by internal conditions like attitude, values, compassion, belief, emotions, passion and personal vision.
Our thoughts and feelings about ourselves can easily fluctuate depending on our daily experiences. A real sense of who we are, however, is something more fundamental than the ups and downs associated with changes in circumstances. With a true sense of who we are, the normal situational fluctuations in how we feel about ourselves are rather temporary. People with negative self image often rely on how they are doing in the present moment to determine how they feel about themselves and swayed by the external circumstances. They need positive external experiences to counteract the negative feelings and thoughts that are harsh, critical, punish and threaten their sense of identity.
Developing Positive Self-Image
Positive self image is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately and objectively and still be accepting of who we are. This means being able to be vulnerable and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses and at the same time recognize that we are still worthy and worthwhile in spite of them. Have you met anyone who’s perfect in this world? I certainly have not. Perfection does not exist. It’s an idea that we’ve created to give ourselves an “end goal” which actually cannot be achieved.
Besides accepting our imperfection, the way we perceive our own strengths determines the way we evaluate reality as well. A positive self image allows us to be courageous, take a risk, and, at the same time accept that we might succeed or just as well fail without being attached to the outcome. A negative self image makes us avoid an action because we evaluate it as being beyond our capability. Also, it makes us vulnerable to others’ negative opinions of us, if tolerated, which contributes to our own negative beliefs about ourselves. When we have a realistic perception about ourselves including our qualities and shortcomings, the external reality confirms what we already see in ourselves.
So, why am I so passionate about self image? I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having positive self image because it affects our behavior. And it certainly influenced many areas in my own life. When we have a positive self-image of ourselves, we have the energy, enthusiasm, the high spirit, inner peace, the determination to fulfill our purposes. Also we see obstacles as challenges which must be exceeded. This heightens the external results as well such as professional performances, personal relationships and social success. A negative self-image lowers the motivation due to the lack of self-assurance. This lack of action leads to unreasonable blaming and harsh criticism, thus cementing the negative beliefs about ourselves.
We all have an inner voice. If that voice is pessimistic, negative and critical, then our self-image is a negative one. How we perceive ourselves depends on our self-appreciation, sometimes called self-love, and self acceptance. I believe that if we are true to our nature and our values, accept and appreciate ourselves for who we are, and embrace our weaknesses without judging ourselves based on end results, we will be able to make better decisions which move us closer to where we want to be on the road to building a strong self-image. Being able to trust ourselves energizes and gives us the self-confidence we need in order to overcome challenges and finally head to where we want to go in life.