Sometimes we feel like our stars have radiated their last bits of light, and we would prefer to be sucked into a black hole rather than get up to face the world.   

It's not uncommon to feel like this. I've been there myself.  

There are days when covering our heads with a blanket seems like the only reasonable thing to do. 

Perhaps you think, "I just don't like socializing. I'm an introvert."

While this might be true, it's worth taking a closer look. If this meh feeling is your everyday reality, you might not be such a homebody after all – it could be that you're struggling with a poor self-image. 

What is Self-image, and Why Does it Matter? 

Cleveland Clinic describes self-image as the mental picture we have of ourselves. It involves the thoughts that run through our minds as we look in the mirror and what we think about our other traits, such as whether we are intelligent or kind. 

Our self-image influences every aspect of our lives:

  • How we interact with others
  • The goals we set (or fail to set)
  • The places we hang out
  • Our income
  • How we spend our money
  • Who we choose to partner with romantically
  • The clothes we wear
  • Who our friends are – everything!  

Self-image has nothing to do with your physical appearance or accomplishments: it's all about your perception of these things. 

You can have the beauty of Saturn and a Jupiter-sized bank account and still have a poor self-image. 

What Shapes Your Self-Image?

Where do these beliefs about yourself come from? 

None of us is born with a poor self-image. Self-image is a product of learning. Somewhere down the line, probably in childhood, our self-image was damaged by a caregiver, authority figure, or someone we love. Someone might have called us "stupid" or failed to give us the recognition we desperately needed. Perhaps we've had a series of failed romantic relationships that made us believe there must be something astronomically wrong with us. 

Regardless of our experiences – good and bad – they've played a part in shaping how we see ourselves.    

Some experiences felt good, and some felt bad, but they all influenced our thoughts. Since our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings create our behaviors, it becomes a cyclical situation where we perpetuate more of the same. 

The Consequence of a Poor Self-image

When we believe we are unworthy, our knee-jerk reaction is to retreat from the world and the people around us. We think if others cannot truly see us, there is little to judge and reject. 

By keeping ourselves hidden and small, we hope to protect ourselves from the negative responses of others and negative situations.

Unfortunately, a poor self-image tends to operate much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

If, for example, we believe that we are unattractive and difficult to get along with, we begin acting in ways that elicit precisely the negative responses we fear. 

We may slouch, avoid eye contact, or say rude things, alienating others who seek acceptance much as we do. And because we're already convinced that we're undesirable and unpleasant, we see everything through those obscure lenses. As a result, we might even push away those most determined to connect with us.  

But there's something even more regrettable about moving through life with a poor self-image: we end up hiding from ourselves. 

When we feel unworthy and insecure, we lack the courage and willpower to seek out and develop our best qualities. Instead, we focus so intensely on everything that's wrong with us that we don't see our potential or discover who we really are.

You're Not Broken - Your Self-image is

I have good news for you, my friend. You are not broken – it's just your self-image that is. 

The upside to being socialized and 'trained' into a poor self-image is that it can be unlearned. Sure, it will take some soul-searching, but changing a dimming self-image into a beaming one is possible. 

And, here's the kicker. When you think you are broken, you will be on a constant journey to fix yourself. But, when you are focused on fixing yourself, you're hyper-focused on what's "wrong" with you - the things you feel resistant to. 

What you resist persists. 

Creating Rather Than 'Fixing' Yourself 

Your journey toward a healthy self-image begins and ends with you. 

But how do you muster the energy when it feels like the universe has turned against you? 

The first thing is to change your approach from a reactive (fixing) to a proactive (creating) one. 

A reactive approach might sound a bit like this: I am silly for not thinking better thoughts about myself. People don't like me because I'm incapable of getting out of this rut. I need to fix myself, or I might end up with nothing and no one, which is probably what I deserve anyway.

When you're in damage-control mode – you stay focused on the problem.

On the other hand, a proactive approach might sound like this: I realize that my poor self-image is causing problems and unhappiness in my life. I've been hurt in the past, but it no longer has to thwart me. I plan to create myself – to become the best person I can be. I am taking positive action to build myself up toward that goal. 

When you're choosing to create yourself – you are focused on the solution. 

Do you see the difference?

In a best-case scenario, both approaches may eventually deliver the same result, but you'll get there much faster (and the journey will be happier) if you choose to think about what you can do instead of what you have to mend. 

A creative approach to a healthy self-image means that you take action – even if you don't always feel up to it. It means you act as if. It means living from your future. 

How to Begin Creating Your Best Self

So, what kind of actions can you take to begin creating your most luminous self? Cleveland Clinic offers some helpful suggestions: 

  • Take stock of your current self-image
  • Consider the things that have hurt you most, embrace them and then let them go
  • Identify negative thought patterns and
  • Make a list of your strengths (natural abilities, skills, personality traits)
  • Ask your friends and family to add to the list
  • Set a few realistic, measurable goals toward improving your strengths 
  • Cultivate the habit of speaking kindly to yourself 
  • Write down a few mantras and stick them somewhere visible
  • When setbacks happen, consider how far you've come
  • Celebrate every small win

Shine that big, bold light of yours 

Knowing yourself and your potential must be one of life's greatest joys. It fosters an optimistic outlook and motivates you to uncover the best parts of yourself. You can accept your weaknesses when you have a good self-image while making the absolute most of your strengths. 

There will still be days when you don't feel good about yourself, but they will become fewer once you start exploring and building on your talents and skills.  

You will also realize how your unique brand of shine serves everyone. Your family, friends, and community will benefit from your light – and it might even inspire them to fuel their own.  




Self-Image Makeover

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