Do you ever think about yourself? And then I mean, really think about yourself? Do you have a certain image of yourself? Do you know the way you tick and what makes you happy? Where is that based on? Does this come from yourself or does it come from the outside?
“No, it’s my self-image so I imagine that I created this myself.”
Are you sure about that?
Self-image is a curious little thing. According to the Oxford dictionary, the meaning of self-image is as following:
The idea one has of one’s abilities, appearance and personality.
So indeed, self-image is your own idea about how other people perceive you. However, who judges your self-image? When you express behavior that is perceived as not so positive by society, for example, but it is behavior that makes you feel good, will you keep on showing that behavior or will you amend your behavior, those parts of personality, to fit in to what society wants you to be? Trust me, a few years later, you will perceive that behavior as completely normal for you. Even though it was kick-started by others. Funny eh.
Self-image in basic comes from yourself, I do believe that. However, over the course of the years you go and you measure your self-image to what other people think. For example, when your mother has always told you, when you were little, that you should be less impulsive and think more about your actions, chances are that, as an adult, you will be more considerate and calm. And you will think of yourself: “One of my qualities is that I am a calm person.”. So the calm trait became embedded into your personality even though it never originated from your personality.
Over the course of the years we take our good and our bad qualities and we measure them to the people around us. Or even better – we let them be measured by the people around us. Based on that we decide which qualities we want to keep and improve and which qualities are less socially acceptable and which we should let go.
This process starts when we start hitting puberty. The moment that we become more and more self-aware is often the moment that we start to think about our self-image. Children, especially in puberty, spend all their time measuring themselves to others just to find their own true self. They want to fit in, they want to be like everybody else, they want to be accepted. Unfortunately, this also means that some qualities that we have in us since the day we were born will be let go. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it’s also a bad thing.
Imagine a boy who is highly creative – from the moment that he can hold a pencil he is always buys drawing. Then he hits puberty and his environment says: “You are such a loser, that you spent all your time on drawing.” His family tells him: “Go and study for a real job because with drawing you can never make a decent living.”. The boy goes on to study economics and will use his creativity in that new business. But the pencil and the piece of paper lay forgotten in a drawer somewhere and the boy will never consider drawing as a part of his personality anymore.
What if Mozart had thought: “Nah, this music will never bring me anything. I think I will become a carpenter.”
So, as we are measuring ourselves to our environment all the time this can also result in a very negative self-image. If you have people around you all the time who tell you that you cannot do something, you will eventually believe them, even though your heart is telling you that you rock that ability. After all, it takes years to build up confidence in something, but only seconds to completely tear it down. And I do not know a single person who has never doubted him- or herself at least once.
It is always very good to look at yourself and to judge yourself. As long as you judge yourself based on your own principles! The minute that you are able to do that, then you are actively judging your own self-image, free from the opinions of others. For example, a friend of mine has recently quit her job without any new job to look forward to. She took the chance because she felt, in that moment, that it didn’t fit anymore. There are a 1001 reasons why she should at least first stay on and find something as a replacement. But she listened mostly to herself, she judged herself and deemed herself strong enough to fix this on the roll. She has complete faith in herself that it will all play out ok and that with her abilities, her appearance and her personality she will be able to find the job that she loves to do. In other words: she has a very positive self-image and does not allow the judgement of others get in the way of her decisions.
Now that is something that I salute to. I think it’s incredibly awesome. And honestly – I wish I could have a bit of that confidence as well ; -).
If you wish to spend some time on getting a good idea of who you are, so in short, to build up your self-image, get a feeling of where you stand, here are some things that will help you with that:
- Spend some time alone.
I know, this sounds like the ultimate description of boring! However, being alone with your thoughts and your feelings helps you develop your beliefs. You will get a better insight of who you are as a person and what you like to do. It will also help you stop seeking judgement from others, as after all, there is no one around you to judge you.
- Write down the things that you like.
Making a list is always very helpful for these kind of things. Do you remember what you liked to do most when you were a kid? Do you remember what kind of movies you actually like or what kind of music gives you just that feeling? Write it down and compile a list of qualities and treats that are specifically for you.
- List your success
First off – this is not arrogant! Most people feel uncomfortable listing down their successes as they quickly think it’s considered arrogant or self-centered. However, if you do take a moment and list down all your good achievements, you can afterwards easily define in what kind of areas you actually achieved it. It will help you define the qualities you rock and in the long run help you define which of these qualities are a part of you.
- List your losses
And this is usually a bit more painful, also for some reason easier than the above step. We humans are always very capable of writing down the things that we cannot do. Take a good look at these things. How many of these were influenced from the outside? So to speak, how many of these losses were considered losses by others? It will help you define which of these negative qualities you consider negative from your true self or only defined by others. As soon as you can list down the ones that are defined by others you can immediately let those go. After all, what others consider negative is not necessarily negative for you.
What do you think about your self-image? Where do you stand? Is it positive or negative? Did you know that a positive self-image will lift you higher whilst a negative self-image takes you lower? How do you influence it?