The current pandemic has led many people to wonder about changing careers; an not surprisingly so. Here are a few simple principles to consider when deciding on career reinvention, that can guide aspiring career-changers through the process during these hard times.
When facing a challenge, do you feel like you can rise up and accomplish your goal or do you give up in defeat? Are you like the famous little train engine from the classic children’s book (“I think I can, I think I can!), or do you doubt your own abilities to rise up and overcome the difficulties that life throws your way?
Part of becoming Resilient is learning to Believe in Yourself
What Is Self-Efficacy?
Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a particular situation. Psychologist Albert Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.1
Self-efficacy plays a role in both how you feel about yourself, as well as whether or not you successfully achieve your goals in life. Self-efficacy is part of the self-system comprised of a person’s attitudes, abilities, and cognitive skills. This system plays a major role in how we perceive situations and how we behave in response to different situations.
Albert Bandura, suggests that self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations and belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.
Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation.
Why has self-efficacy become such an important topic of discussion. As Bandura and other researchers have demonstrated, our belief in our own ability to succeed plays a role in how we think, how we act, and how we feel about our place in the world.
Self-efficacy also determines what goals we choose to pursue, how we go about accomplishing those goals, and how we reflect upon our own performance.
Virtually all people can identify goals they want to accomplish, things they would like to change, and things they would like to achieve. However, most people also realize that putting these plans into action is not quite so simple.
An individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached.
People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:
- Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
- Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
- Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments
- View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:
- Avoid challenging tasks
- Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
- Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
- Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities
How Does Self-Efficacy Develop?
We begin to form our sense of self-efficacy in early childhood through dealing with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. However, the growth of self-efficacy does not end during youth but continues to evolve throughout life as we acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding.
There are four major sources of self-efficacy:
“The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences,” Bandura explained. Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.
Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.”
Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.1
Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations.
By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, we can improve our sense of self-efficacy.
Examples of High Self-Efficacy
So what exactly does high self-efficacy look like? You can probably think of some examples from your own life including areas where you feel a great deal of efficacy.
Some examples of strong self-efficacy include:
- A man who is struggling to manage his chronic illness but feels confident that he can get back on track and improve his health by working hard and following his doctor’s recommendations.
- A student who feels confident that she will be able to learn the information and do well on a test.
- A woman who has just accepted a job position in a role she has never performed before but feels that she has the ability to learn and perform her job well.
Self-efficacy can play an important role in how people manage their health, nutrition, and illness. For example, having a strong sense of self-efficacy can help people who are trying to quit smoking stick to their goals.
Maintaining a weight loss plan, managing chronic pain, giving up alcohol, sticking to an exercise schedule, and following an eating plan can all be influenced by a person’s levels of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy can benefit a person’s sense of well-being in a number of ways. For instance, remaining optimistic and confident in your abilities, even when things become difficult.
Individuals with high self-efficacy tend to look at difficulties as challenges rather than threats. They tend to be more intrinsically interested in the tasks they pursue. Difficulty and failure don’t mean defeat; instead, these individuals double their efforts and look for creative and innovative new ways to overcome.
Issues with Low Self-Efficacy
People who are low in self-efficacy tend to see difficult tasks as threats they should avoid. They also tend to avoid setting goals and have low levels of commitment to the ones they do make.
When setbacks happen, they tend to give up quickly. They don’t have much confidence in their ability to achieve and they are more likely to experience feelings of failure and depression. Stressful situations can also be very hard to deal with and those with low self-efficacy are less resilient and less likely to bounce back.
Evaluating your Self-Efficacy Strength
There are a number of different scales that are used to evaluate levels of self-efficacy.
For a quick, informal assessment of your own self-efficacy levels, consider the following questions:
- Do you feel like you can handle problems if you are willing to work hard?
- Are you confident in your ability to achieve your goals?
- Do you feel like you can manage unexpected events that come up?
- Are you able to bounce back fairly quickly after stressful events?
- Do you feel like you can come up with solutions when you are facing a problem?
- Do you keep trying even when things seem difficult?
- Are you good at staying calm even in the face of chaos?
- Do you perform well even under pressure?
- Do you tend to focus on your progress rather than getting overwhelmed by all you still have to do?
- Do you believe that hard work will eventually pay off?
If you can answer yes to many or most of these questions, then chances are good that you have a fairly strong sense of self-efficacy. If you feel like your self-efficacy could use a boost, consider some of the following strategies for improving your sense of efficacy.
Fortunately, self-efficacy is a psychological skill that you can foster and strengthen. Start by looking for ways that you can incorporate these sources of self-efficacy into your own life.
Celebrate Your Success
Mastery experiences play a critical role in the establishment of self-efficacy. This is the single most effective way to create a strong sense of self-belief.
When you succeed at something, you are able to build a powerful belief in your ability. Failure, on the other hand, can undermine these feelings, particularly if you are still in the early phases of building a sense of personal efficacy. The ideal sorts of successes, however, are not necessarily those that come easily. If you experience a lot of easy success, you may find yourself giving up more readily when you finally do encounter failure. So work on setting goals that are achievable, but not necessarily easy. They will take work and perseverance, but you will emerge with a stronger belief in your own abilities once you achieve them.
Vicarious experiences obtained through peer modeling is another important means of establishing and strengthening self-efficacy. Seeing others putting in effort and succeeding, as a result, can increase your belief in your own ability to succeed. One factor that plays a key role in the effectiveness of this approach is how similar the model is to yourself. The more alike you feel you are, the more likely it is that your observations will increase your sense of self-efficacy.
Seek Positive Affirmations
Hearing positive feedback from others can also help improve your sense of self-efficacy. By that same token, try to avoid asking for feedback from people who you know are more likely to have a negative or critical view of your performance.
For example, your doctor telling you that you are doing a good job sticking to your diet plan can be encouraging. Feedback from friends, mentors, health practitioners, and people who you respect can help you feel greater confidence in your own abilities.
Positive social feedback can be helpful for strengthening your already existing sense of efficacy, but negative comments can often have a powerful undermining effect. Social feedback alone is not enough to build your self-belief, but it can be a useful tool when you need a little extra encouragement.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts and Emotions
If you find yourself getting stressed out or nervous before a challenging event, you might feel less sure of your ability to cope with the task at hand.
Another way to boost your self-efficacy is to look for ways to manage your thoughts and emotions about what you are trying to accomplish.
Do you feel anxious? Looking for ways to ease your stress levels can help you feel more confident in your capabilities. Do you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts? Look for ways to replace negativity with positive self-talk that promotes self-belief.
Developing a strong sense of self-efficacy can play an important role in almost every aspect of your life. Life is full of challenges and high levels of self-efficacy can help you better deal with these difficulties more effectively. Your belief in your abilities can predict how motivated you feel, how you feel about yourself, and the amount of effort you put into achieving your goals.
If you want to know about how to build your own Self Efficacy pop over to the contact page here and book a free chat with me.
Career limiting habits (CLHs) are, repeated behaviours that keep us from greater success or enjoyment in our careers. These apply really to all aspects of our life. Research has shown that most of us are aware of our career limiting habits but have not made much progress in addressing them.
What are self limiting Behaviours in the context of our careers
This behaviour is when you hear that little voice start talking to you out of doing great things.
Self-limiting beliefs in your career includes thinking
you are too inexperienced for a job, or a promotion opportunity
believing you shouldn’t take a risk because you’ll fail,
thinking it is too late to change careers or find the job/career of your dreams
thinking or believing you don’t need more money because you are comfortable.
Self-Limiting Behaviours & Beliefs That Hinder Your Career Success
- Seeking perfection. There is no perfection in life. The highest we can aim for is excellence.
- Pleasing everyone. This is humanly impossible. While you can certainly please some people some of the time, you cannot please everyone all of the time.
- Controlling people and things. This is not a fun nor a healthy way of living.
If you want success to find you attractive and be associated with you. You need to avoid doing these 7 things.
- Procrastination – an automatic, negative, problem habit of needlessly postponing and delaying a timely and relevant activity until another day or time. This is often a result of being afraid of failing at the tasks that they need to complete. or even start.
There are four main types of avoidance archetypes, or procrastinators: the performer, the self-deprecator, the over-booker, and the novelty seeker. Figuring out which group you’re in can help you break out of your procrastination patterns
- Fear of Failure – when we allow fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.
This fear often stems from childhood, perfectionism, ego and over-personalization, and a lack of confidence. At the root of failure and the fear of failure is shame, which is a very unpleasant emotion associated with feeling like one is a bad person, or has a flawed or defective self. It also brings up fears of what others will think of us post-failure.
- Ignorance – can appear in three different types: factual ignorance (absence of knowledge of some fact), object ignorance (unacquaintance with some object), and technical ignorance (absence of knowledge of how to do something). Ignorance can kill you! Lack of knowledge, stupidity and deception of yourself and others are all life denying and can destroy happiness and meaning in your life.
- Lack of Purpose –We need to have a purpose in our lives. Purpose gives us direction, it motivates us, it gives reason for our existence. It also helps make decisions, both minor and major. Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well.
- Lack of Courage – You need courage to begin something. … Courage is the secret sauce that allows you to act despite your fears. Courage gives you the ability to put aside your fear of failure and take the first steps. Courage helps you overcome the fear of rejection and engage your stakeholders.
- Fault Finding – to criticize someone or something, often after deliberately looking for mistakes. When we find fault with others, we tell ourselves that there is not much work to be done regarding our own shortcomings.
Faultfinders are almost always tell others, in one form or another, what he or she should be doing. When you make demands on other people, you send the message that you not only disagree with them, but that they have violated some standard. That is misleading.
Lack of Self-belief – An inability to believe in o ne-self due to Low self-esteem characterized by a lack of confidence and feeling badly about oneself. People with low self-esteem often feel unlovable, awkward, or incompetent.
If you need help removing any of your self Limiting Beliefs that are keeping you from the Success you know you can have then why not Book some time in my Calendar and lets chat and find our How I can help you Remove these limiting beliefs for good.
You get times like that don’t you? My current blame du jour are the retrogrades, that those in the know predicted would throw all unfinished business and all that has been emotionally papered over, into deep fractures.
Change is one of life’s inevitabilities and as much as we are digging the vintage vibe or doing the ostrich thing to the stuff we can’t bear; change is the only constant. We are all having to dig deep these days. Not just profoundly into our pockets but into our psyches too, to help mend and make do and get through in these volatile and uncertain times.
Redundancy, relationship crises, health issues and financial worries are becoming an increasing life burden for all of us. When the future is foggy, we struggle to find an anchor to keep us from feeling like we are drifting aimlessly and uncontrollably. We want black and white answers when those 50 rainbow shades offer an overwhelming and altogether unsexy prospect.
So, the buzzword to hold on to is Resilience.
Simply put, it is the ability to dig deep within ourselves to find that reserve of energy and resolve we need to help us through the tough times. Resilience is a skill and it can be practiced just like practicing to play a musical instrument or a sport.
Easier said than done for many, especially when you feel like jelly and you find yourself on shaky ground. Where is that strength you need to draw upon?
It is right there at the core of your being. You must have faith in your own instincts and abilities which will help guide you along the way. Digging deep into hitherto unknown reserves of self is what Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes about in his book on spirituality, philosophy and marathons What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Keeping the goal in mind and consistently reminding yourself that things will get better; as you take baby steps each day towards it. Coaching is great for this. Ordinarily we seldom, if ever, need to dig that deep for our everyday lives. It is however, worth creating systems which you can turn to when you feel the ground shaking and your nerve is heading for the Exit with someone else’s coat.
Here are a few coaching tips to help consolidate Resilience.
- Maintain good relationships with your family and friends. Accept their help in times of stress. Offer help to those who are less fortunate than you are – and YES there are always others in a worse situation than you are. Give generously and earnestly, especially when you feel you have little to give. We feel at our best when we are able to help those less able than ourselves. The smallest act of kindness done in earnest will open the door of abundance.
- Try to look at the big picture of life and avoid viewing difficult times as insurmountable. Take small steps toward your goals and take one day at a time. Avoid the pitfall of trying to solve tomorrow’s problems today. Deal with what you can deal with today, do it well – tomorrow is not guaranteed. Stay focused on what you can manage today, right here, right now. Remember there are things you can control and there are things you cannot. So do what you can do, manage what you can manage and keep moving forward.
- Accept that change is a part of life and acceptance of what is – is key. Keep working toward your goals every day, and keep asking yourself “What can I do today to move in the direction I need to go in? Small consistent acts in the right directly get results.
- Maintain a positive view of life and visualize what you want. When we feel like our resolve is fading, often times our energy levels tend to wax and wane as well. It is critical at these points to take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep and exercise to keep yourself healthy – even if you only do a quarter of what you would normally do. This is especially important during times of stress. There will always be an obstacle or hurdle that we will need to navigate in our lives. Learn to navigate these hurdles with confidence in your own abilities is key. Fear and anxiety will always rear their heads – it’s perfectly okay to recognise that you are fearful or anxious. The trick however is to not allow it to paralyse you into inaction.
- Make the Decision to Prevail. This too shall pass. As the Good times come and go so too, do the Bad times. Nothing is permanent – as sure as day follows night these periods of volatility and uncertainty will pass.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress. Learn and practice self-compassion and recognize that everyone suffers. Being gentle and kind to yourself is a much more effective road to healing. If your best friend were going through a rough time you would be kind and gentle with them; NOW go and do the same thing for yourself.
Another sure-fire way of developing some psyche superglue is to hire a coach. Book your 30-minute trial telephone session today by emailing me at email@example.com
The past week has been an interesting one, filled with both joy and sorrow. As is want to happen the new week arrived in all its magnificence and serendipitously, I found these Four Stories that gave me pause to reflect. These are old familiar stories and you have probably read them before with slightly different people and contexts however the lessons remain the same.
Story #1: All the Difference in The World
Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.
This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.
“Hello,” I said. “I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”
She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”
“Wow! That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.
She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”
“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.
“Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.
I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are freshwater turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”
The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”
The moral: You can change the world – maybe not all at once, but one person, one animal, and one good deed at a time. Wake up every morning and pretend like what you do makes a difference. It does. (Read 29 Gifts.)
Story #2: The Weight of the Glass
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
The moral: It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down. (Angel and I discuss this process of letting go in the Adversity and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Story #3: Shark Bait
During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.
As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.
The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.
This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.
The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack. The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.
The moral: Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
Story #4: Being and Breathing
One warm evening many years ago…
After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled – the kind of smile that makes me smile back –and she said, “When I’m seventy-five and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful – almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her and breathing with her.
The moral: We must not allow the clock, the calendar, and external pressures to rule our lives and blind us to the fact that each individual moment of our lives is a beautiful mystery and a miracle – especially those moments we spend in the presence of a loved one.
How do you think differently today, than you once did? What life experience or realization brought on a significant change in your way of thinking? Please leave a comment below and share your story with us.
What is Resilience?
We all demonstrate resilience in some form or the other at some point in our life. This is a very ordinary and normal process we all go through when we need to rebuild our life.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Quite the opposite the road to resilience is often paved with considerable emotional distress.
Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress.
We have all dealt with the death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness or some other traumatic event that has left an indelible mark on our life. These are all very challenging life experiences and many people react to these circumstance with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Eventually though they adapt well over time to these life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enable s them to do so? It is resilience – the ongoing process that requires time and effort and taking a number of steps to enhance and build their resilience.
Here are Six Strategies that can help you Build resilience
Change the narrative
When something bad happens, we tend to relive the event over and over in our heads. We step onto this merry-go-round and we rehash the pain the event has caused. This process is called rumination; it is the proverbial cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.
The practice of Expressive Writing can move us forward by helping us gain new insights into the challenges in our lives. It involves free writing continuously for 20 minutes about an issue exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper. You do not necessarily want to create a memoir-like masterpiece.
Research conducted back in a 1988 study found that participants who did Expressive Writing for four days were healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later compared t those who did not write or those who wrote about superficial things. The act of writing allows us to slow down our thinking and forces us to confront ideas one by one and give them structure, which may lead to new perspectives.
By doing this we are actually crafting our own life narrative and gaining a sense of control. We are also able to find the Finding Silver Linings which requires us to list at least three positive things about the experience or the lessons we learnt through this process. This helps us to become more engaged in our life post the event and increases our optimism over time. This in turn reduces our depression levels suggesting that looking on the bright side is something we have to practice regularly.
Face your fears
The practices above are helpful for past struggles, ones that we have gained enough distance from to be able to get some perspective pn. What about those knee-shaking fears that we are experiencing in the here and now?
The Overcoming a Fear practice is designed to help with everyday fears that get in the way of life, such as the fear of public speaking, heights, or flying. We can’t talk ourselves out of such fears; instead, we have to tackle the emotions directly.
The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the thing that scares you—in small doses.
For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge until you’re ready to nail that big speech.
This kind of “exposure therapy” helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus. If we have flown 100 times and the plane has never crashed, for example, our brain (and body) start to learn that it’s safe. Though the fear may never be fully extinguished, we will likely have greater courage to confront it.
Fears and adversity can make us feel alone; we wonder why we are the only ones feeling this way, and what exactly is wrong with us. In these situations, learning to practice self-compassion and recognizing that everyone suffers, can be a much gentler and more effective road to healing.
Self-compassion involves offering compassion to ourselves: confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness, without judgment. The Self-Compassion Break, is something you can do any time you start to feel overwhelmed by pain or stress. It has three steps, which correspond to the three aspects of self-compassion:
- Be mindful: Without judgment or analysis, notice what you are feeling. Name it and acknowledge it. Say, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts” or “This is stress.”
- Remember that you are not alone: Everyone experiences these deep and painful human emotions, although the causes might be different. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life” or “We have all felt this way at some point in our life” or “We all deal with some kind of struggle in our lives.”
- Be kind to yourself: Put your hands on your heart and say something like “I give myself compassion” or “I accept myself as I am” or “I will be patient with myself during this time.”
If being kind to yourself is a challenge which it can sometimes be. Consider how you would respond if your best friend were going through what you are going through. How would you respond and support your best friend; what would you say or do for your bestie? Now go and do that for yourself.
Once we start to develop a kinder attitude toward ourselves, we can crystallize that gentle voice into a Self-Compassionate Letter. Just as yo would write words of understanding, acceptance, and compassion towards your best friend write those same words to yourself in a letter.
In the letter, you might remind yourself that everyone struggles, and that you are not alone; if possible, you could also consider constructive ways to improve in the future.
As mindfulness gurus like to remind us, our most painful thoughts are usually about the past or the future: We regret and ruminate on things that went wrong, or we get anxious about things that will. When we pause and bring our attention to the present, we often find that things are…okay.
Practicing mindfulness brings us more and more into the present, and it offers techniques for dealing with negative emotions when they arise. That way, instead of getting carried away into fear, anger, or despair, we can work through them more deliberately.
Strong feelings tend to manifest physically, as tight chests or knotted stomachs, and relaxing the body is one way to begin dislodging them. There are thousands of meditations techniques and practices available.The Body Scan is one of the many you can use to focus on each body part in turn—head to toe—and can choose to let go of any areas of tension you discover. Being more aware of our bodies and the emotions we are feeling might also help us make healthier choices, trusting our gut when something feels wrong or avoiding commitments that will lead to exhaustion.
If holding a grudge is holding you back, research suggests that cultivating forgiveness could be beneficial to your mental and physical health. If you feel ready to begin, it can be a powerful practice.
Both Nine Steps to Forgiveness and Eight Essentials When Forgiving offer a list of guidelines to follow. In both cases, you begin by clearly acknowledging what happened, including how it feels and how it’s affecting your life right now. Then, you make a commitment to forgive, which means letting go of resentment and ill will for your own sake; forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender off the hook or even reconciling with them. Ultimately, you can try to find a positive opportunity for growth in the experience: Perhaps it alerted you to something you need, which you may have to look for elsewhere, or perhaps you can now understand other people’s suffering better.
If you are having trouble forgiving, Letting Go of Anger through Compassion is a five-minute forgiveness exercise that could help you get unstuck. Here, you spend a few minutes generating feelings of compassion toward your offender; s/he, too, is a human being who makes mistakes; s/he, too, has room for growth and healing. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts and feelings during this process, and notice any areas of resistance. Research suggests that letting go and forgiveness rather than ruminating on negative feelings or repressing them cultivates compassion, more empathy, positive emotions, and feelings of control.
That is an outcome that victims of wrongdoing deserve, no matter how we feel about the offenders.
Develop mental agility
It is possible, without too much effort , to literally switch the neural networks with which we process the experience of stress in order to respond to rather than react to any difficult situation or person. This quality of mental agility hinges on the ability to mentally “decenter” stressors in order to effectively manage them. “Decentering” stress is not denying or suppressing the fact that we feel stressed, rather, it is the process of being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then to try to solve the problem. When we are able to cognitively take a step back from our experience and label our thoughts and emotions, we are effectively pivoting attention from the narrative network in our brains to the more observational parts of our brains. Being mentally agile, and decentering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of “response flexibility,” which renowned psychologist Linda Graham describes as “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely.” We often tell our children who are upset to “use your words,” for example, and it turns out that stopping and labeling emotions has the effect of activating the thinking center of our brains, rather than the emotional center a valuable skill in demanding, high-performance workplaces everywhere.
‘Who is your hero? ‘I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time”. Ten years late I was asked the same question by the same person Who is your hero? ‘Again I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time” – Mathew McConaughey
What Exactly is an Ideal Self?
An ideal self is an ideal future version of “you” that encompasses your personality, beliefs, values, and behaviour under various conditions. It can be summarized in the following way:
My ideal self is who I want to become… the best version of myself in every situation.
The “ideal you” is, therefore “you”. However it is not the person you are today, but rather the person you are striving to become tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on.
This ideal self is not a state of perfection; it is not a fixed destination or a finished product. In fact, it is far from it. This ideal self is constantly evolving and changing, and as such is somewhat elusive in nature.
Your ideal self should always be several steps ahead of who you are today. When you do become that ideal version of yourself at some point in the future, the ideal version of “you” at that point should have changed. Therefore you should still be in pursuit of this ideal self.
This is, an important progression because it leads to healthy growth and development. It is also the process of continuous improvement.
If one day you were to catch up to your ideal self, that is possibly the day when life would lose all meaning. When there is nothing greater to strive for, and with no new challenge on the horizon you would end up in a state of stagnation from that point onwards. There would be no motivation to grow or to improve yourself and as a result, life would become perfect for you. That, of course, does not sound so bad, right? Well…It is not so good either. It is not good because reaching a state of perfection leads to boredom, restlessness, and a less than satisfying life.
All this, sounds quite counter-intuitive. Becoming everything you have ever wanted to be sounds like bliss. And yes you would be right. It would be as if all your dreams had come true. You are however, not that person today. It is the journey towards becoming that future person that will bring you fulfilment. It is, therefore, not the destination but rather the steps you take to get to that destination that makes life incredibly fulfilling, enjoyable and fun. Moreover, it is the process of learning, growth, and development along that journey that makes life truly worth living.
Given all this, it is quite clear to see why our ideal-self must be elusive in nature. It must change over time because you are recreating yourself daily through your choices, decisions, and actions. Every thought you indulge in leads to a decision, which leads to an action. These actions form the habits and rules you live by and that shape your future life and behaviour. In fact, every experience you have changes you in some way. These changes might be slight, however, these always impact the kind of person you are striving to become (your ideal-self).Many small changes over a period of time will lead to big changes towards the vision you have for your future self.
Your ideal-self, of course, encompasses the many roles you fulfil. You might be a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a sports coach, a leader, an employee or employer. Within every one of these roles there exists an “ideal you”. You might, be striving to become better at any one of these. As a result, you are working towards this ideal version of who you would like to one day become, and this helps keep you growing and developing yourself in that role. This is true for any role you fulfil.
Our growth and development in each role is the fuel that keeps pushing us forward through every decision we make and action we take. As long as these ideal versions of ourselves are somewhat out of reach, we will keep striving and pushing forward. This ideal version of you is what fuels your motivation.
This is all good-and-well , however, at times we end up walking along the wrong path because we succumb to other people’s expectations. These people shape how they would like us to be within the specific roles we fulfil. This, of course, might not be such a bad thing. Sometimes we just don’t have enough clarity to understand how we can grow and develop ourselves within a specific role. However, at times giving into other people’s expectations can lead us down a less than optimal path.
The key is to take on board what is helpful and allow that to shape your ideal self. Everything we take on board we must make our own. In this way will we fully accept what we need to do to bridge the gap between where we are and where we desire to be.
Take a moment to decide if…
You know exactly who You are…
You accept who you are right now…
You seek to become a better version of yourself…
You commit yourself to growth and development…
When you know who you are today (your self-image), and when you fully accept this person, that is when you can commit yourself to becoming a better version of yourself, which of course comes through the process of growth and development.
That, in a nutshell, is what the ideal-self is all about. It is about striving to become the very best version of yourself within every role you fulfil.
So what if you are not sure? What if you don’t quite have the clarity you need to bring that ideal- self to life?
Well, that is what the following four-step process to help you consciously begin shaping your ideal-self is for.
Often we desire to be better at certain roles and/or areas of our lives, however, we never quite take the time to clarify what “being better” actually means to us.
We tend to be vague about the things we would like to improve upon. Therefore, we never truly build enough momentum to carry us forward to this desired destination.
Avoid falling into this trap by going through a four-step process that will help you shape your self-ideal the same it helped me – with purposeful intention. These steps are designed to help you lay down a path from where you are [your current self] to where you desire to be [your ideal self], thereby bridging the gap between the two.
Step 1: Analysis of Your Current and Ideal Self
Your first task is to get to know yourself at a deep level. Yes, this means warts and all. It means acknowledging parts of yourself that you are pleased with and being honest about parts of yourself that tend not to live up to your personal standards and/or expectations. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I value most about myself?
What would I like to leave unchanged moving forward?
What don’t I like about my current behaviour?
What aspects of myself would I like to alter?
There will naturally be parts of yourself that you are quite happy with and would not want to change, however, there will be other parts where you see room for growth and improvement.
Think about situations where you face adversity, conflict, making mistakes and dealing with difficult emotions. These are challenging situations that may or may not bring out the best in you. Consider these situations and ask yourself:
How do I typically handle adversity?
How do I respond when I make mistakes?
How do I tend to handle conflict?
How do I deal with difficult emotions?
Reflect on “how you are” in these situations and consider how you might be able to improve in these areas. Your answers to these questions will lay down the foundations for your ideal-self.
Now, let’s take a look at that ideal-self by exploring the kind of person that you would like to become. Consider your answers to the previous questions, then take a moment to step out of who you are and project yourself into the future.
See and Feel the Ideal You then ask yourself:
What kind of person am I?
What standards do I like to uphold?
What do I believe about myself?
Here you are building a picture of “you”. This is not who you are now, but rather someone who you would Ideally like to become in the future.
Now consider breaking this down even further by completing the following statements:
I want to be a person who is…
I want to be a person who keeps…
I want to be a person who lives…
I want to be a person who doesn’t…
I want to be a person who solves…
Going through each of these statements will provide you with a much clearer picture of the kind of person you envision yourself becoming in the future. Now your task is to simply follow through with making these positive changes.
The only thing mission now is WHY?
Why is it important to make these changes?
In order to make change stick, you must have a “good reason” to make this change in the first place. There must be enough motivation for you to change, or otherwise, your efforts will be fleeting. What is Your WHY?
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Self-esteem is not everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it. – Gloria Steinem
Is your Self-Esteem Low?
Do you lack the self-confidence and self-belief you need to make your own way in this world? Is this destroying your spirit and preventing you from moving forward in the way you imagined?
Many people suffer through periods of low self-esteem, and often for many different reasons. If you are one of these people, then you probably recognize the fact that you tend to judge and/or evaluate yourself negatively. You probably have a low personal value and opinion of yourself, or maybe a low appraisal and evaluation of your self-worth. In fact, low self-esteem might be making you feel somewhat useless, inferior, inadequate, incomplete and worthless. This is no way to live.
The Symptoms and Habits of Low Self-Esteem
There are many symptoms and habits of low self-esteem. However, taken in isolation, these symptoms do not indicate that you have self-esteem issues. Red flags should only be raised when several symptoms come bundled together and begin taking over your life.
Here is a list of the symptoms of low self-esteem you should look out for:
- Constantly striving for perfection.
- Having low or biased expectations of yourself.
- A tendency to exaggerate your problems.
- The habit of accentuating the negatives.
- Underestimating your personal ability.
- Ignoring the positives and potential opportunities.
- Being riddled with self-doubt.
- Constantly blaming and criticizing yourself.
- Lack of self-confidence in your ability to get things done.
- Inability to accept compliments.
- Unable to concentrate because of a lack of energy, which often results from poor sleep patterns.
- Hesitant and tense physiological movements.
- A tendency to avoid people and social situations in an attempt to steer clear of judgment, criticism, and the evaluations that other people might make about you.
- Often experiencing the emotions of loneliness, guilt, frustration, dejection, hopelessness, anxiety, anger, shame, worry, sadness and depression.
Experiencing one or more of these emotions from time-to-time is not a clear indication that you have self-esteem issues. However, if you tend to cycle through many of these emotions throughout your week, then it is a clear sign that something is not right and that low self-esteem could be the underlying problem.
How is Low Self-Esteem Maintained?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how individuals maintain low levels of self-esteem. There are however, certain factors that can often lead you down the self-esteem spiral.
Indulging in any of the low self-esteem habits discussed above will tend to keep you within a very poor state-of-mind that positions you on the low end of the emotional spectrum. In fact, the more of these symptoms you have, the more you will struggle with your emotions.
In addition to these symptoms and habits, low self-esteem is often maintained because you have very restrictive personal assumptions and rules. What this means is that you make assumptions about things in a very negative way that provides you limited options for moving forward.
You tend to see the worst in every situation, which gives you very little hope for the future. In addition your rules and personal standards are very restrictive. You don’t expect much of yourself, and as a result, you tend to stay constricted within the confines of your comfort zone and never take the necessary risks to break out of emotional slumps.
Your restrictive rules for living your life are often built upon poor language choices that provide you with minimal options moving forward.
For instance, you often use words such as:
- If I don’t… then…
- I should never…
- I must… or else…
- I can’t…
- I should do this… but…
The language you use provides insight into the rules that govern your life, decisions, and actions. These rules drain your self-esteem consistently. You tend to aggravate your self-esteem by making negative self-evaluations which are poor and limited. This leaves you feeling that you have no hope for the future, and no hope of improving your current circumstances. You do this because it helps “ground” you and gives you a sense of control.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem Over Time
Self-esteem encompasses your personal attitudes, beliefs, emotions, biased self-opinions and expectations, as-well-as your behaviours, decisions and actions. It also encapsulates the unhelpful assumptions you tend to make, the rules you live by, and the negative self-evaluations that tend to rob you of any hope for the future.
All of these factors go into building or destroying your self-esteem and have manifested in your life over time and are built on certain events that have influenced your emotional growth over the years. Low self-esteem often stems from negative life influences and/or experiences you have had over the course of many years, often going right back to early childhood.
Your family, friends, peers, teachers, role models and society, all played an important part in the development of your self-esteem as you were growing up. They showed and taught you, directly and indirectly, how to best handle your emotions during difficult times, how to overcome obstacles, how to interpret the events and circumstances in your life, etc.
Some of these lessons were helpful. If you are experiencing low self-esteem at the moment though, then it’s likely that other lessons you learned over this period were quite unhelpful. The net result is now you have a set of ineffective emotional coping skills that are restricting you in a variety of ways.
There might have been significant moments of your life that left profound emotional and psychological scars. For instance, prolonged illness, neglect, abuse, hardship, and punishment can leave a lasting impression on your mind. These things are currently influencing how you process and interpret the world around you. You might have found it very difficult to fit-in socially at school and/or at home while growing up. This has left a very deep emotional scar that you tend to hold onto in the present moment directly affecting your levels of self-esteem.
Other reasons why you might be suffering from low self-esteem today could be because of a lack of attention, encouragement, warmth, praise or affection you received as a child. Maybe you simply failed to live up to other people’s expectations of you. They may have had very high personal standards and limiting rules that you found very difficult to live up to. This entire experience while growing up has made you feel somewhat incapable, incompetent, worthless, inadequate, inferior and useless.
You have no self-belief and meagre expectations of yourself and your ability. Your low self-esteem can also be attributed to the observations you made as a child. You would observe adults going about their daily lives and these adults experienced hardships, setbacks, and personal problems. How they dealt with these challenges was important, because the habits, behaviours, and emotions they displayed during these moments has left a lasting impression on your mind.
These adult mentors taught you how to handle life’s difficulties and how to cope with your emotions indirectly. Today, you are doing what you know what you have been taught; for better or worse.
All this goes to show that your low levels of self-esteem are not entirely of your own making. In fact, you learnt and picked up certain ways of doing things and responding to situations from other people. Your current levels of self-esteem and the coping mechanisms you use to work through your personal challenges are a result of many years of conditioning that you went through while growing up.
However, even though you might not be responsible for this conditioning, you are responsible for your own life today. If something is not working for you, then you must take responsibility for changing things for the better and reconditioning your mind in a more positive and empowering way that will help you to live the life you desire to create for yourself.
How to Improve Self-Esteem
There are certain things you can do that will naturally help you raise your self-esteem throughout the day. Many of these suggestions are very straightforward and simple to implement. Some might take a little more time and effort. Either way, there is no miracle cure here. You will need to commit and dedicate yourself to adopting new habits, behaviours, and ways of thinking and doing things to reap the rewards in the long-run.
Take Care Emotionally
Raising your self-esteem begins with your emotional health. Your emotions are the keys to your well-being and provide you with the stability you need to get through difficult moments of your life successfully. When you are in control of your emotions, you will be more capable of handling the challenges that life throws your way. However, this requires you to focus on developing your emotional coping skills to prepare yourself for these difficult moments of your life.
It is important that you prepare yourself by learning how to manage stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, guilt, anger and worry in more effective and productive ways. These are emotions you are likely to confront throughout your day. These emotions can either control you, or you can learn to manage them in ways that will help empower and strengthen you during difficult moments of your life.
Developing these important emotional coping skills will help you to take charge of your thoughts, behaviours and the decisions you make. This will provide you with certainty and confidence moving forward, and as a result, it will help raise your levels of self-esteem.
Take Credit for Your Successes
This is a straightforward idea. However, it can have a profoundly positive impact on raising your levels of self-esteem.
When you deflect credit for your successes, you deny yourself the opportunity to gain something of value from your experience. And because there is no psychological reward, there is no emotional gratification, and this will tend to keep you in a weak state-of-mind that provides you with no avenue for further emotional growth and development.
The moment you begin taking credit for your accomplishments, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you. You begin developing higher levels of self-belief and self-confidence. This has a tendency to improve your ability to make decisions, and the better decisions you make, the more confidence and self-belief you will have. Taking credit for your accomplishments will focus your mind on what’s working and on all the positive aspects of your accomplishments.
It is not unusual to only focus on or take notice of the negatives, and this would only leave you feeling discouraged and unhappy. Therefore, taking credit for your successes, owning them, and embracing your accomplishments is a good step to building you self confidence. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Use this ongoing momentum to help you to permanently raise your levels of self-confidence and with it your self-esteem.
Focus on Solutions
Whenever things do not go as expected and you are tempted to get down, take notice of these changes and switch on your solution-focused mindset. First, recognize the positives of the situation, and then look for ways you can make things better to improve your circumstances. Solutions might not always be immediately evident, however with a curious mind, and a desire to ask the right kinds of solution-focused questions, you will eventually find the answers you are after.
If you are suffering from low self-esteem, it is easy to exaggerate the negatives and minimize the positives of your situation. It is also easy to underestimate your own ability, to doubt and criticize yourself, and to ignore the opportunities that may be present. On the other hand, it is difficult to see things in a positive light. In such instances, you might like to focus on reframing your circumstances differently or simply asking someone else for their unique point-of-view or perspective.
Other people might often see things very differently, and you can use their view of the situation to build the confidence you need to move forward.
Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself that will help you shift your perspective about the situation:
What conclusions and/or assumptions am I making about this situation?
How am I exaggerating the negatives?
How am I minimizing the positives?
How else could I view this? How else could I think about this?
How could I view this situation in a more positive and empowering way?
How would another person view this situation? What would they tell me? Who could I ask?
What are the potential opportunities here?
What is there to feel good about and grateful for?
What positive action could I take right now to help me work through this successfully?
By focusing on what you want, as-well-as on potential solutions and opportunities, you are putting yourself in a primary position to find the answers you need that will help you move forward in a positive way.
Avoid Limiting Language
Raising your self-esteem requires you to consciously take charge of your language. This includes your verbal language as well as your self-talk or the thoughts you tend to indulge in that make you feel absolutely miserable.
Focus on talking to yourself more positively and encouragingly. Yes, you might not have all the answers or the confidence you need to get your desired outcome, just yet. The answers and confidence will come over time, however, what is most important here, is that you get yourself into a positive frame-of-mind. Do this by focusing on your strengths, on your positive qualities, and on the things that you are able to control and/or influence in the moment. Once you feel that you have some form of control over your circumstances, this will give you the confidence you need to move forward in a more positive way.
Create or Join a Support Network
There are many groups and support networks out there both online and offline. Like-minded individuals who are going through the same challenges you are attempting to work through gives you a sense that you are not alone. They are there to support you, and you can be there to support them. Sometimes just by sharing your story and experience with a group of supportive individuals will help you find the confidence you need within yourself to move through difficult moments of your life.
Alternatively, you could join a sports team. Even if you are not a sporty person, just getting involved in sporting activities can do wonders for your self-esteem. Sport provides a social and very supportive environment that can help build the foundations for your growth and development on a physical and emotional level.
Update Your Knowledge and Skills
Often a lack of self-belief is a clear indication that you simply do not have the necessary skills, knowledge or experience required to excel in a certain area. For this very reason, it is important that you actually take the time to assess what kind of knowledge, skills or experience you might need moving forward that will help you improve your confidence within specific areas of your life.
Where do I want to feel a little more confident?
What kind of knowledge might I need in this area of my life?
What types of skills might I need to develop?
What kind of experience might I need to gain?
How will I acquire this knowledge, learn the skills, and gain the necessary experience?
What small steps could I take daily that will help me move forward confidently in this area of my life?
Raising your self-esteem will take time, and it will take gradual steps. It is important you commit yourself to taking a long-term view of your journey. Your short-term results might be inconsistent, however, if you remain focused on the bigger picture you will find the motivation you need to persevere through the short-term pain.
Spend Time Pampering Yourself
Take time for yourself. Take time to relax, to play, and to pamper yourself.Self care and self love is very important to ensure you reward yourself for your efforts. Maybe you could get a massage, go to a spa, relax in a steam room, or enjoy a nice warm bath. Not only will these moments give you time to relax, but they will also provide you with an opportunity to reflect and gain some perspective on your life’s choices, decisions, and actions. When you are relaxed, you will tend to think differently about circumstances, and this could potentially help you gain the perspective and confidence you need to make better decisions moving forward.
Creativity, Confidence, and Passion
It is very possible that the reason why you are suffering from low self-esteem is simply because you are focusing on the wrong things. Maybe all you need is to tune-in to your passions and your life’s purpose. Maybe you simply need to tap into your talents and strengths. Or just maybe you need to focus on activities you are good at and enjoy doing.
Take time to have a think about some of the things you are passionate about. Have a think about the activities you enjoy, and consider your talents, strengths and your core values. Within these areas, you will find the answers you need to build your life with purpose. Also, within these areas is where you will find your creative spirit.
Once you are living with purpose, you will find the confidence in yourself to do things that otherwise seemed very difficult and problematic. You will finally have the self-esteem you need to make those tough decisions and to take the chances that will help you improve your life for the better.
Set Inspiring Goals
To live with purpose, you need to set inspiring goals that keep you motivated and excited.
What’s something that inspires and motivates me to get out of bed in the morning?
How could I turn this passion into a concrete goal?
How will I go about pursuing this goal?
As you work towards your goal, keep track of your progress and thoughts within a journal. The act of putting your thoughts and problems down on paper will help you to more effectively work through any emotional challenges you might face along the way. In fact, use it as a tool for self-improvement and self-reflection.
Over time you will make progress. However, it is sometimes difficult to recognize these advances. This is where your journal comes in handy. Every week take some time to read over your thoughts and reflect upon the progress you have made and the lessons you have learned along the way. This by itself could provide you with the boost you need to raise your levels of self-esteem moving forward.
Make Better Decisions
Raising your self-esteem mainly comes down to making better choices throughout the day. Instead of choosing to accentuate the negatives, you choose instead to focus on the positives. Instead of exaggerating your problems, you choose instead to look for solutions. It all comes down to the choices you make.
To improve your choices, take the time to evaluate your behaviour, thoughts and the emotions you tend to experience on a daily basis. Keep track of these things within your journal and periodically assess how your behaviours, thoughts, and emotions are influencing the choices and decisions you make. The insights you gain from this exercise could help you make better choices in the future. And the better the choices you make, the higher the levels of self-esteem you are likely to experience.
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It is not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it is what you whisper to yourself that has the most power! – Robert Kiyosaki
What is a Self-Image?
A self-image in its most basic form is an internalized mental picture an idea you have of yourself. It is how you think and feel about yourself based on your appearance, performance, and relationships that consistently impact your outlook on life as well as your level of happiness and fulfilment.
Whenever you ask:
How do I look?
How am I doing?
How important am I?
These are all examples of the internalized mental picture/idea you create of yourself that builds the foundations of your self-image. However, this does not provide us with nearly enough information about what this “self-image” thing is all about. So let us break this down even further.
Your self-image is the impression you have of yourself that forms a collective representation of your assets and liabilities. In other words, your self-image is how you see yourself based on your strengths and weaknesses.
These assets and liabilities often are evident through the labels you give yourself that describe your qualities and characteristics.
For instance, you might say:
I am intelligent… therefore I can…
I am loser… therefore I believe I can’t…
I am outgoing… therefore I am able to…
I am shy… therefore I am unable to…
I am a late bloomer… therefore I take longer…
These are just some examples of the many labels you potentially give yourself and the inevitable conclusions you may reach as a result. It is these conclusions you make about yourself that either form the foundations of a healthy self-image or an unhealthy self-image. Moreover, these labels form the foundations of your belief systems.
Your self-image is not something that is based on reality. In actuality, your self-image is built upon your perception of reality and that is influenced by how you believe you are being viewed by society and other people.
Your self-image is something that gradually develops over a lifetime of experience through learning and societal influence. It is, however, something that is constantly changing over time as you gain more life experience, as you think and reflect, as you learn, and as you interact with other people.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Self-Image
So what does a healthy self-image look like? What does an unhealthy self-image? What is the difference? And what impact do both have on your life?
Let us answer these questions by breaking down what it means to live with a healthy and an unhealthy self-image. As you read through these two examples, take inventory of yourself and identify whether your self-image borders more to the healthy or toward the unhealthy side of the scale.
An Unhealthy Self-Image
A person with an unhealthy self-image tends to consistently focus on their flaws and limitations. They persistently criticize themselves and tend to judge most of their decisions and actions:
What was I thinking?
That was such a stupid decision.
I can’t believe I just did that.
I am so useless.
I can’t do anything right.
This constant critical judgment tends to distort their imperfections making these seem larger than life. In fact, everything on the negative side tends to be exaggerated and blown out of proportion. This often happens because they are heavily influenced by other people’s opinions of them; to their own detriment.
In fact, these peoples’ lives are very much defined by societal views, opinions, standards, norms, and expectations. As a result, they are consistently comparing themselves to others and trying to live up to other people’s expectations. When they notice that they just don’t measure up, this sends their emotions into a tailspin which triggers doubt, pessimism, insecurity and eventually leads to discouragement and potentially depression.
Whenever a person builds their self-image upon external factors, there will always be drawbacks. People’s opinions change and societal expectations constantly shift. When these opinions and expectations are weighed in our favour this leads to a positive outlook and greater fulfilment. However, when they flip and become unfavourable or unhelpful in respect of the outcomes we would like to achieve, this causes upheaval by sending our emotions into a tailspin. Why? because suddenly the perfect mental picture/idea we had of ourselves has been thrown out the door. It is certainly not a healthy way to live. Inevitably these people find themselves on a constant see-saw of feeling good about themselves and feeling terrible about themselves.
A Healthy Self-Image
A healthy self-image is primarily based on an individual’s personal feelings and perspectives. Here individuals are no longer influenced by other people’s opinions of them or by societal expectations. They instead make up their own minds about the internalized mental picture/idea they have of themselves. As a result, these people often have a more optimistic outlook on life and thereby more confidence in themselves and in their own ability. Why? Because they feel a greater sense of control over themselves and over their life.
A person with a healthy self-image doesn’t deny that they have flaws. In fact, they are realistic and clearly understand and accept the fact that they have their personal shortcomings. However, there is no critical judgment here. They acknowledge who they are and how they are in this very moment and they do the best they can with what they have.
A healthy self-image is of course built upon a high level of self-worth. These work together to help shape a healthy personality, which effectively builds the foundation of an empowered life. An empowered life in turn allows us to incrementally improve those areas of our life we believe requires improvement.
How to Build a Healthy Self-Image
Here is a four-step process that will help you build a healthy self-image. This process is closely tied to the process we used for building more self-worth. Because these two are related, there will be some crossover. Having said that, there are some variations here that will help you dig a little deeper in this area.
Step 1: Explore Yourself
Your first step is to explore who you are and what that means to you. This is an important first step because unless you clearly define who you are, you will never really develop a clear and accurate picture/idea of “you”.
Who am I?
How am I?
What defines who I am?
How do I see myself?
How accurate is this view?
Is this who I really am? Is it really?
Is this my true self? Or is there something more below the surface?
It is important that you keep digging deeper and deeper using these questions. It is very much like peeling back the layers of an onion. The surface layers will reveal a fuzzy picture of who you are. However, as you dig deeper and deeper by peeling off more layers you begin to get a clearer picture/idea of yourself. This is why it is important to periodically question the accuracy of your view. Your goal is to get to the core of who you really are without the need for all those external layers.
Step 2: Take a Personal Inventory
It is time to take a personal inventory by listing your positive qualities, goals, passions, and purpose.
What are my positive qualities? I am… therefore I can…
What do other people say are my positive qualities?
What personal strengths do I have? I am… therefore I am able to…
What goals would I like to achieve?
How could I live with more meaning and purpose?
What does all this mean to me?
Why is all this important?
The purpose of this step is to unlock all the good things you feel about yourself; to unlock all the things you have going for yourself that will now add layers back onto that onion to help form a strong personal impression of who you are today from a bigger picture perspective.
In the previous step, you were removing unnecessary layers to get to the core of yourself. Within this step, you are adding layers to that core to form a definitive and comprehensive picture/idea of yourself at this very moment. And it is, of course, that very picture that forms the foundations of your self-image.
Step 3: Analyze Your Struggles
A little earlier I mentioned how a healthy self-image is primarily based on our own personal feelings and perspectives. In other words, how we think about ourselves as well as the opinions and labels we create are all critical components that go into building a healthy self-image.
A person with a healthy self-image does not rely on outside opinions or circumstances to define who they are. They must instead rely on internal resources for this purpose. It is therefore absolutely critical that we take personal control of our internal world because it is the only thing that really matters when it comes to building a healthy self-image.
To get an understanding of this internal world we need to take a look at four key areas. These areas include your critical voice, your unhelpful thoughts, beliefs in the form of labels, as well as incorrect assumptions you might be making about yourself.
Here are some questions to help stimulate your thoughts in these areas:
How do I tend to talk to myself throughout the day?
When things go wrong, what is my internal dialogue like?
Am I mostly critical or encouraging?
Given the outcomes I would like to achieve are my thoughts mostly helpful or unhelpful?
How do my thoughts tend to distort my reality?
How do I tend to label myself?
Are my labels helpful or unhelpful?
Are these labels rational? Does it even make sense for me to label myself in this way?
What assumptions do I tend to make about myself?
How are these assumptions potentially hurting me?
Working through these questions will effectively help you get a better understanding of how your critical voice, unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions are shaping the picture/idea you have of yourself that builds your self-image.
If you discover that you tend to be overly critical of yourself; that your thoughts tend to be unhelpful; that your labels are negative; and that you tend to make assumptions that lead you astray, then it is important to work through these areas one by one in order to solidify your self-image.
If you are constantly being critical of yourself, then this is an indication that your self-image is not as healthy as it could be. It is therefore important to silence that critical voice and begin using more encouraging words.
Changing your language patterns in this way will help settle your thoughts and help you think more clearly and effectively. This subsequently means that you will be less likely to make negative assumptions or label yourself in unhelpful ways.
Step 4: Create an Accurate View of Yourself
The final step is to create a more accurate view of yourself that you can use as the foundation for building a healthy self-image. This view of yourself must be built upon all the positive qualities and strengths you outlined in Step 2 of this process.
Take those positive qualities and strengths and ask yourself one simple question:
How would I ideally like to be?
Take time to really have a good-long-hard think about this question and answer honestly how you would like to “be” starting today. There is, no one right answer, but rather a variety of answers that go into building your self-image. You will still have flaws and things that you might be struggling with. Accept these things. They are a part of you in the moment. You can work on improving these areas as you go along.
What is important here is that you are honest, genuine, authentic and real. This is who you are and this is how you see yourself with warts and all. In the end, building a healthy self-image is all about you. It is all about HOW you alone without external influences see yourself. It is this picture/idea of “you” that is what matters above all else. You are in the driver’s seat here; you alone define how you see yourself, and that is what counts in the end.
How to Strengthen Your Self-Image
Within this final section let us discuss some ideas to help you strengthen your self-image. Some of these suggestions are quite self-explanatory. In fact, many of them are simply decisions you make or slight shifts in the way you think about yourself, think about your life, or how you approach circumstances. Other suggestions will require a little conscious effort and self-discipline. So all-in-all there is nothing complex here. Strengthening your self-image is simply about doing small things consistently over time that will make a big difference in the long-run.
Do not Allow Society to Define You
Many people walk through life as a passive bystander. They accept how things are and allow society to influence/manipulate them into thinking and doing things in a specific way. They may have an opinion, but they rarely stand up for what they believe in, and instead allow society to shape their attitudes and opinions. As a result these people are at the mercy of the society.
They experience a roller-coaster ride of emotions because their internalized mental picture/idea of themselves shifts and changes depending on what is happening around them. They are therefore rarely satisfied and never completely fulfilled because they are always comparing themselves to others and trying to live up to societal expectations, opinions or views.
We often get stuck in this scenario because we regrettably take responsibility for other people’s problems. This is harmful because, for the most part, we are unable to control or influence these problems, and yet we lay the burden on our own shoulders. At times this is not even of our own doing. Other people place the burden of their problems on our shoulders and we suffer as a result.
It really should not be this way. Everyone should take responsibility for their own problems. In fact, you must be the one to take responsibility for your own choices, health, happiness, finances, relationships and life. Do not burden others with these things. You and you alone shape your life with purpose, and only in this way will you gain the personal power you need to develop a healthy and empowered self-image.
It is important to begin primarily living through our own internalized representation of ourselves and not relying on society to define us. This of course, starts with fully understanding and accepting who you are and then taking charge of the mental processes that are running your life.
Don’t Indulge in Self-Judgement or Self-Criticism
When you judge and overly criticize yourself, that is a clear indication that your internal voice is taking over your life. What I am talking about is that type of judgment and criticism that leaves you feeling helpless and deflated. That is the self-talk that it hurting your self-image and depleting your reservoirs of self-confidence.
While constructive criticism can be helpful, constructive criticism does not leave you with a foul taste in your mouth. It is rather something that leaves you feeling hopeful, optimistic and motivated that you can do better next time.
Instead of judging and/or criticizing yourself, choose to give yourself feedback. Feedback will provide you with an avenue for improvement and will help you to progressively develop the self-confidence you need to build a healthy self-image that allows you to be the best you can possibly be in every situation. After all you are not perfect, and you will make mistakes and fail miserably at times. That’s just part of life.
Actually, it’s just part of being human. You are not perfect and you will never be. Accept yourself with warts and all because a healthy self-image always comes through self-acceptance, which of course stems from self-understanding.
Don’t Expect Others to Complete You
When you rely on other people to complete you, you are at that very moment giving away your personal power. You are building your self-image on external factors (people). This might initially make you feel great about yourself and will undoubtedly help you boost your levels of confidence, however, the problem with this is your self-image is now at the mercy of other people.
If one day they tell you they do not love you anymore, then suddenly you feel unlovable. Or if suddenly they vanish from your life, then all of a sudden there is this empty hole inside that makes you feel incomplete.
You are not this other person, and they are not you. You are your own individual self and you certainly do not need other people to complete you. All you need is to gain a deep sense of understanding of who you are. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses. Then take full responsibility and control of your internal habitual patterns, and finally, fully accept that you are complete in your own right.
Other people can add value to your life, but in-and-of-itself you are complete in every way. This does not mean you are a finished product. You are not. There is much room to grow, develop and evolve in the coming years. However, this growth comes from within and then expresses itself outward in everything you do. That is the key to developing an empowering mental picture/idea of “you”. It starts from within. It starts with how you see yourself. It starts with building a healthy self-image.
Always Follow-through with Your Word
Your word must become your law. In other words, the promises you make to yourself you must keep. Promises kept help you create consistency, and you need consistency to build a healthy self-image.
Consistency is important when it comes to building a healthy self-image because a healthy self-image is not something that suddenly fluctuates with changing opinions. It is something that is steady and steadfast. I am not suggesting that your self-image does not change over time. Of course, it does. You certainly do not see yourself the same way today as you saw yourself a few years ago.
In fact, you might see yourself very differently in a variety of roles and/or situations. Your self-image is fluid, however, it requires consistency and consistency come from your ability to keep your word to follow through and do things a certain way.
A person who does not keep their word (the promises they make to themselves) is often the person who is heavily influenced/swayed by other people and their opinions. When you keep your word you are sending a strong message that you are running your life based on your own feelings and perspectives. You are not swayed by outside circumstances. This, does not mean you can’t change your mind. But that “change of mind” must come from a decision you make from within that is not primarily based on external factors.
When you reach this point you know that you are the one in the driver’s seat of your life. This is when you know you are the captain of your own ship.
Build Your Self-Image Upon Strong Foundations of Self-Worth
Finally, a healthy self-image is built upon the strong foundations of a high level of self-worth. Self-worth is of course all about how much you value and regard yourself despite what others might say and/or despite unfavourable circumstances. When you have a high level of self-worth nothing shakes or phases you. Likewise, when you have a healthy self-image you don’t look to outside sources to define who you are.
You alone create your own definition of who you are. You create the impression you have of yourself in each and every situation. You alone mould and shape the person you are today, and the person you become tomorrow.
Was this article helpful? Please leave a comment and let me know how you have built on your self image, I would love to hear from you.
We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. – Henry Longfellow
What Exactly is a Self-Concept?
A self-concept is an understanding we have of ourself that is based on our personal experiences, body image, our thoughts, and how we tend to label ourself in various situations.
A self-concept can also be defined as an all-encompassing awareness we had of ourself in the past; the awareness we have of ourself in the present, and the expectations we have of ourself at a future time.
Our self-concept is built upon how we perceive ourself based on the knowledge we have gained over a lifetime of experiences.
A self-concept is a perception we have of our image, abilities, and [in some ways] of our own individual uniqueness.
This perception we have of ourself is based on the information we have gathered about our values, life roles, goals, skills, and abilities over time.
Our self-concept is a collection of beliefs we have about our own nature, qualities, and behaviour. It is about how we think and evaluate ourself at any given moment in time.
To truly understand what a self-concept is and its impact on our life, we first need to break down the three components of a self-concept. These three components are based on the work of Humanist Psychologist Carl Rogers.
Our Self Image
Our self-image comes down to how we see ourself in the present moment. This includes the labels we give ourself about our personality and the beliefs we have about how the external world perceives we.
It is, however, important to note that our self-image is not necessarily based on reality. For example, a person with anorexia may have a self-image that makes them believe they are obese, however, in reality, that is far from the truth.
Given this, it is crucial to recognize that a self-image is only our own perception of ourself and has no real basis in reality.
Our self-ideal is how we wish we could be at a future time. This is our ideal self or the ideal person we envision of being and becoming. Often times, how people see themselves and how they would like to see themselves does not quite match up. This is precisely what causes problems and often leads to self-sabotaging behaviour patterns and emotional struggles.
Our self-esteem encompasses our current emotional experiences. It refers to the extent to which we like or approve of ourself or the extent to which we value ourself. We might, for example, have a positive or negative view of ourself. When we have a unfavourable view of ourself, we are seen as having low self-esteem. This often manifests in a lack of confidence and pessimism.
On the other hand, when we have a favourable view of ourself we are seen as having high self-esteem. This often manifests in a confident disposition, self-acceptance, and optimism.
A healthy self-concept will help us to get ahead in life. It will allow us to maximize our potential and get the most from our strengths, talents, and abilities. A weak self-concept on the other hand, will hinder our progress. In fact, a fragile self-concept will most likely lead to self-sabotaging behaviour. As a result, we will struggle to follow through with our actions. Subsequently, we will fail to achieve the goals and objectives we set for ourself.
The Value of a Healthy Self-Concept
The value of having a healthy self-concept becomes more evident when we recognize how much it influences our ability to manage our emotional experiences. However, it does not stop there. A healthy self-concept also determines how far we will step outside our comfort zone to solve a problem or achieve a goal. It also influences how we utilize our physiology while confronting challenges, obstacles, and problems.
A healthy self-concept impacts the questions we typically ask ourself each day. It also affects how we interact with people, how we think about ourself, others, and circumstances.
When we put all this together, our self-concept effectively determines what we will do or choose not to do at any given moment in time. It, therefore, influences our inherent potential to do, be, have and achieve our desired objectives.
The Forces Influencing Our Self-Concept
There are a number of forces that shape our self-concept and, therefore, impact its health and vitality over time.
Some of these forces come from internal sources, while other forces come from external sources.
Internal sources include what we think about ourself and/or others, what we pay attention to, how we interpret the events and circumstances of our life, and how we reframe both failure and success.
External sources include the environment we spend most of our time in, our interactions with others, and how other people tend to label us.
The most important thing to note here is the impact that other people have on our self-concept.
Through rejection, judgment, ridicule, and criticism, other people often influence how we feel about ourself, the labels we give ourself, and fundamentally what we believe about ourself, about our own abilities, and the world around us.
In many ways, our self-worth is tied to the people in our life. Therefore, if we are struggling with an unhealthy self-concept, then it could very well be a direct result of the interactions we have with other people.
The bad news is that all of these internal and external sources have a profound impact on our self-concept. The good news is that starting today, we can begin taking affirmative and proactive action to improve our self-concept and optimize how we live our life.
Tell-tale Signs that We Have an Unhealthy Self-Concept
An unhealthy self-concept is something that often drags us down in life. It’s something that limits our opportunities, denies we access to essential resources, and undermines our potential.
An unhealthy self-concept implies that we have a low value of ourself. When we have a low value of ourselves we typically lack the confidence needed to move boldly in the direction of our goals. Without self-confidence, we lack the resourcefulness needed to overcome uncertainty, to solve problems, and to effectively manage change.
Life rapidly gets overwhelming and difficult to bear. We struggle with our emotions and make poor decisions. Everything essentially becomes a struggle and things really should not be this way.
Our unhealthy self-concept is getting in the way of living our life to our best potential. It is filtering out the reality of how life is and creating an alternate reality that we have unfortunately accepted as the truth.
What is more is that we become so caught up in our own lives, that it is difficult to pinpoint whether or not we are actually struggling with a weak self-concept.
There are, however, specific signs to look out for that can help us identify whether or not we are struggling with a weak self-concept.
We likely have a weak self-concept when we…
- Fail to give affection.
- Always compare ourself to other people.
- Succumb to jealousy.
- Consistently reject compliments.
- Perpetually criticise ourself and others.
- Indulge in negative self-talk that manifests in pessimism.
- Persistently suffer from guilt about what we could, should, or would have done.
- Undermine our own personal needs in favour of other people’s needs.
- Suffer from poor emotional and physical health.
Taken individually these symptoms do not signify that we have a poor self-concept. However, if you have ticked 3 or 4 items off this list, then it is probably a clear indication that your self-concept has taken a hit.
If we have a low self-concept, then it is time to commit yourself to upgrading your thoughts, beliefs, decisions, and actions moving forward. Only in this way will you transform your self-concept and optimize how you live your life.
Given all this, it is important to note that all these signs are nothing more than defensive mechanisms that protect us from emotional harm.
Our body and mind are doing their best to cope with life, events, and circumstances. However, frequently these coping strategies do not quite work to our advantage.
What is worse is that we might succumb to indulging in limiting behaviours in a feeble attempt to feel better about ourself.
- Shift into “denial mode” and deny that anything is wrong despite evidence to the contrary.
- Make assumptions and/or justifications that are not based on fact but rather on our biased “rose-coloured” view of reality.
- Launch into a verbal barrage where we attack ourself and others based on false perceptions of how we see things.
- Choose to bask in negativity. Life sucks as it is, so why not just wallow in self-pity and experience the full brunt of our negative feelings?
- Try and avoid people and circumstances by distracting ourself with addictions and other unhealthy habitual behaviours.
All of these semi-coping strategies might provide us with some semblance of control. They may even provide us with some relief and temporary satisfaction. However, in the long-run, they will only hurt us. We will hurt because we struggle to face the reality of our situation.
We are incapable of facing the truth and without the truth, we won’t make the necessary changes that will transform our self-concept and help us take charge of our life.
How to Improve Our Self-Concept
Transforming our self-concept won’t be easy. In fact, it will take a great deal of patience, time, and effort.
Along this journey, we will likely need to release old habits, limiting beliefs, and unhelpful thoughts. We will essentially need to question the value of how we have been living our life, which includes the choices and decisions we have been making.
If the choices we make are not stretching our comfort zone and pushing us toward our goals then change is something that needs to be on the horizon.
Even though this journey and the inevitable transformation will not be easy, it will, however, be worth your while.
No longer will we be at the mercy of our rose-coloured view of reality. Instead, we will have taken control. With control comes confidence and with confidence comes potential to transform our life with purpose.
It is important to note that the quality of our life is a direct reflection of our emotional state of mind. What this means is that when our emotions are healthy and serving our greater good, then the quality of our life will likewise improve.
Our life improves because life always comes down to the emotional experiences we choose to indulge in. When our emotional experiences are of a healthy and positive nature, this improves the quality of our thoughts. As our thoughts improve so do our choices, decisions, and actions. When we make better choices, we get better results. With improved outcomes, we feel immeasurably better about ourself and when we feel better about ourself, our self-concept grows stronger.
That is, in essence, the key that will help transform a poor self-concept into something that can help optimize how we live the rest of our life.
Lets have a look at the steps we can take to Improve our Self-Concept
Step 1: Make a Personal Contract
Before we begin working through these suggestions, it’s imperative that the very first thing we do is make a personal contract.
Write up a contract with yourself that gives You the green light to initiate the process of change.
Things must change…
I am responsible for this change…
I am committed to making this change…
If for any reason you are unable to tick-off all three boxes, then you are just not ready to instigate change yet.
Let us look at this in a little more detail.
Firstly, acknowledge that changes need to be made. If you are unable to admit that there is something wrong, then there is no point moving forward with this process.
Secondly, you need to take responsibility for making these changes. Nobody is responsible for your life but YOU. Without YOU this can not be done. Only You can make this decision. If at any point you feel or believe or think that someone else is going to or should be involved in this process for you or with you – You are not ready to initiate changes yet.
Thirdly, you must be committed to making the necessary changes to improve our life. Without commitment, there is no motivation and without motivation, there just are just not enough reasons for you to initiate change. You need to know WHY you need to and want to make the changes. Without a solid WHY to keep you motivated things will fall apart.
You therefore, need to acknowledge that things must change, You need to take responsibility for this change, and You need to commit yourself to follow through with the change.
Once you have ticked all three of these boxes, you will be ready to take the first step along your journey toward a healthier self-concept.
Step 2: Discover Who We Are then Bridge the Gap!
Your next step to transforming your self-concept is to discover who you are.
Now, on the surface, this might seem kind of silly. We already know who we are, right? I am me and yo are you! We are a physical beings living a life that is uniquely ours. However, below the surface, we are in reality so much more than that.
So, my question is, do you honestly know who you really are?
What we are going to try and do here is identify the gap between “who we are” and “who we are seeking to become.”
To strengthen our self-concept, we must figure out how to bridge this gap successfully. We must essentially merge the ME [YOU] in the NOW together with the ME[YOU] in the FUTURE.
This, of course, is not going to be easy. In fact, there will always be some kind of discrepancy. This is important to understand because without a discrepancy there is no motivation to grow and develop ourselves over time.
However, if this discrepancy is too significant between the YOU of today and the YOU that you desire to become in the future then your self-concept will never bloom into its full potential. There must, therefore, be congruence, or otherwise, self-actualization is impossible.
With this in mind, take time to answer the following questions:
Who am I?
Who am I really?
Who am I physically?
Who am I socially?
Who am I emotionally?
Who am I spiritually?
Who am I in terms of my accomplishments?
Who am I in terms of my failures and mistakes?
Who am I in terms of my goals?
Who am I in terms of my social roles?
Who am I really? Why?
Who am I not? Why not?
The purpose of these questions is to identify how we see ourself in the present moment and then compare that against the final set of questions laid out below. The final set of questions focuses on what kind of person we are seeking to become.
As we go through each question, we will gain various insights and perspectives into who we are. And that is perfectly okay. Embrace these differences, because this is in essence how we see ourself each day.
It is also important to note that there are no incorrect answers. Things are the way they are.
What is most relevant here is whether or not these answers are congruent with the answers we give to the following set of questions:
Who am I ideally seeking to become?
How do I see myself in the future?
What kind of person is this person? What is this person like?
What kinds of qualities does this person have?
How does this person think?
How does this person talk to themselves?
What kind of questions does this person ask themselves?
What kind of emotions does this person experience?
What kind of habits does this person indulge in?
What experiences does this person have each day?
What kind of goals is this person working towards?
What kind of person is this person really?
Our ideal self must be congruent with our perceived self in the present moment.
If there is a significant difference between the two, then we must work on bridging that gap thereby strengthening our self-concept.
Let’s take a closer look at that gap.
What is the gap between my perceived self and my ideal self?
Where is the gap most significant?
Where is the gap not so significant?
Is the distance between the gap realistic?
How could I begin bridging this gap starting today?
Our objective for the remainder of this journey is to begin bridging that gap between our ideal self and the self we are experiencing at this very moment.
The more congruent both of these “selves” are, the stronger and healthier our self-concept will become.
Before moving on, I do have a few words of caution.
Our self-ideal must be realistic and achievable otherwise, we will struggle to meet our highest standards of performance. Subsequently, our self-concept will continue to suffer.
The key therefore is to ensure that our self-ideal is not entirely out of this world at least not at the beginning.
Given this, be sure to look at your standards and expectations to make them more achievable. Only when you reach these set standards and expectations should you incrementally raise the bar higher.
Remember though that your self-image is often not based on reality BUT rather based on your interpretation of reality.
Therefore, if your self-image is based on false assumptions or distorted perspectives, then you will first need to work through these issues before moving through the process outlined here.
Our discussion here is more about using this process to help build our self-confidence so that we can then take the necessary action steps to achieve our desired goals and objectives.
Time to Make Some Key Changes to Improve Our Self-Concept
Below you will find numerous suggestions and guidelines to help you transform your self-concept. Some of these suggestions are easy and quick to implement, while others might take a little time.
What is, however, crucial here is what you focus on while making these changes. This essentially comes down to three fundamental things:
- Changing Your habits of thought.
- Changing Your self-talk.
- Changing Your belief systems.
No matter how we proceed, every particular change we desire to make comes down to just these three fundamental things.
No matter what ideas we decide to implement, be sure to always keep in mind how these changes can be made in relation to your thoughts, self-talk, and the belief systems that govern your subconscious behaviour.
Let us work through the following ideas and this will start making more sense.
Our first objective is to look within and become very consciously aware of our daily thoughts, self-talk, belief systems, psychological rules, and the questions we tend to ask.
Are my thoughts aligned with my self-image?
What kind of thoughts do I allow myself to dwell upon?
What are these thoughts doing to me?
How do these thoughts make me feel?
How do I tend to talk to myself?
What questions do I tend to ask myself?
What are the consequences of my self-talk and the questions I ask myself?
What do I tend to believe about myself?
What do I tend to believe about my abilities?
Is this congruent with my self-ideal?
How does all this make me feel?
How do these “rules” influence my daily undertakings?
Are all these things congruent with my self-ideal?
How can I make the necessary adjustments to match my self-image with my self-ideal?
Our objective is to reach congruence in these areas.
Our self-image will never directly align with our self-ideal. However, we can certainly make the necessary adjustments to our mindset to move in the right direction.
To assist you with this transition process, it is necessary to give yourself time for meditation and visualization.
Meditation will help clear the clutter in your brain. It will encourage you to think and act more mindfully throughout the day. This will subsequently improve your ability to make effective decisions. Visualization, can provide you with the necessary vision you need to better understand your future direction. This will likewise help you lay down a much clearer path toward your desired outcomes.
Remember, that how we think about things has a lot to do with our perceptions and interpretations of reality.
Interpreting things one way will give you access to a particular set of resources and opportunities. However, interpreting things another way will provide you with access to a different set of resources and opportunities. Ironically, it might even deny you access altogether.
It is therefore paramount to keep in mind that how we frame and/or reframe our experiences essentially determines what we gain or lose from those experiences.
Therefore, when problems arise, it is not what happens to us, but how we interpret what happens that makes all the difference.
Transforming Our Physiology
When it comes to our physiology, it is important to remind ourselves that the body and mind are intrinsically connected.
What this means is that how we think and how we emotionalize our experience influences how we use our physiology. Likewise, how we use our physiology influences how we think and emotionalize our experiences. These are both interconnected, and therefore what we do to one directly influences the other.
With that in mind, have a think about your body and how you use it throughout the day. Do you move your body with confidence, or do you tend to move it sluggishly? What about your breath and posture? What is that like? How active are you during the day or do you tend to spend your days confined to a specific room or area without much movement?
By making small adjustments to our physiology, we will indirectly influence our inner world. As our inner world changes we will begin bridging the gap between where we are today and our ideal self.
Improve Your Lifestyle Choices
Try this little exercise. Close your eyes and see Your Ideal Self. What do you look like?
When it comes to your lifestyle, you need to start making some choices that will help move you toward your ideal self.
What kind of life does my ideal self live?
How often does my ideal self exercise?
What kind of food does my ideal self eat?
What kind of environment does my ideal self spend the majority of time in?
What does my ideal self spend time on?
How does my ideal self tend to work? Where? On what?
What kind of lifestyle choices does my ideal self make?
How can I begin bridging the lifestyle gap between where I am today and my ideal self of tomorrow?
As we go through these questions, we will get a strong sense of the changes we might need to make to bridge the gap between where we are today and our ideal self.
Above all else, keep reminding yourself that it is all about reaching a state of congruence where your current self (self-image) matches your future self (self-ideal) on as many levels as possible.
Strengthen Your Self-Confidence
When we have an unhealthy self-concept, we will typically struggle with our self-confidence.
If we struggle with self-confidence, we are often very susceptible to falling prey to rejection, to criticism, to judgment, and to the influence of others.
To strengthen our self-confidence, we need to explore self-love. Before we can feel confident in the external world, we must first find confidence in ourself and that comes through self-love.
Self-love means fully accepting ourself despite your flaws, despite our weaknesses, and despite our inadequacies. It means feeling comfortable in our own skin no matter what we look like or how we feel. To find our self-love, spend time with yourself. However, do not just spend time watching mindless television, actually, spend time pampering ourself. Get a massage, enjoy a hot sauna, go for a nature walk, etc.
First and foremost, the key is to reconnect with yourself. It is only when we have found that connection with yourself that you will tap into your true sense of confidence.
Gain Relevant Knowledge and Skills
Your ideal self-has certain skills, knowledge, and abilities. Identify what these things are and then go to work acquiring the relevant knowledge and skills you need to help bridge the gap between your self-image and your self-ideal.
You will often find the information you need in books, by taking courses, by volunteering your time to a cause, or by connecting with people who already have the knowledge and skill you desire.
You could, get a mentor or life coach. Find someone who could guide you along your journey toward your self-ideal.
Build Your Support Network
As we work on developing our knowledge and skills, we will most certainly need support along our journey. We will need people to help us through the tough times and struggles. We will need people that can be relied upon for emotional support and we will need people who will accept us unconditionally without strings attached. 😉
These people must, be positive, inspiring, creative, passionate, and caring. They must be giving and generous, joyful, and happy souls. These are the kinds of people that should comprise your support network.
Our support network might, be made up of friends, colleagues, family members, life coaches and/or mentors. These people will be there to prop you up when you are facing difficulties. They will be there to help keep you motivated, focused, and inspired as you make progress toward our ideal self. Your support network will be your voice of reason, and your sanity check and most of all these are the people who will hold you accountable.
Use your support network for guidance and direction. However, don’t give up control of your own life by putting your destiny in other people’s hands. This will never work out well in the long-run. You must be in charge of your own choices and decisions. To be in charge means not concerning yourself with what others think. It means not worrying about criticism or rejection and it means not comparing ourself with others.
We are all on our own unique path. Our support network is there to support us, but ultimately we make the final decision that determines the direction we will take.
Set Inspiring Goals
Having inspiring goals means that our life has purpose and meaning. This keeps us motivated and active. However, we don’t just want to set random goals. We actually want to set goals that match our self-ideal.
So ask ourself:
What goals is my ideal self working towards?
What purpose is my ideal self striving for?
What inspires and motivates my ideal self?
Once you have your answers to these questions, set some inspiring goals and lay down a plan of action that will help you bridge the gap between where you are today and where you ideally would like to be in the future.
Building a healthy and robust self-concept no doubt takes some work and consistent effort. In fact, it takes time. This is not something that we can build or transform overnight. Likewise, it is not something that we work through once and then forget about for the rest of our life.
Transforming our self-concept is something that we need to work on consistently over time. It is something that must continuously change and evolve as we reach new milestones along our life’s journey.
This journey certainly does not need to be difficult. There is no need to complete this process in one go, or even set timeframes to it. Take your time. Set small daily objectives, and over many weeks, months and years you will make considerable progress as you sculpt who you are and whom you desire to become.
Was this article helpful? – What skills or techniques have you used to transform your concept? Leave a comment I would love to hear from you.