What Do You See In Your Mind When You Think About Yourself?
A mirror is nothing more than a tool to reflect your outward appearance, but how we truly see ourselves is a product of our self-conscious mind, and that mind, for most of us, is a brute. An irrational pessimist.
I know this because so many of us seek self improvement. We want to learn more, gain perspective or enlightenment, and become a better version of ourselves. But why and to what end? The only person who can fix you, is you, and you are the one telling yourself there is a problem. How do we get out of that one?
My wife and I argue about this one all the time. To me she is a wonder. Equal parts dazzling beauty, stubborn pragmatism, and youthful joy. Try as I may though, I cannot get her to see herself the way I see her. Or for that matter, the way the world sees her. She has a set self image that will not budge. The sword in the stone, I cannot pry it free.
Regardless of the manifestation, why do we have this problem at all? It seems every facet of American society is geared towards improving ourselves, because somehow we are not good enough. Our bodies are not the right shape (compared to strangers), our education is too low (compared to strangers), we need more money (more than the next guy). We don’t like our hair, our clothes, our cars, the size of our nose or the shape of our feet! It would seem we have a terrible self image.
So, what is your mental picture?
Our self image is a tricky notion because “we” are not defined by an image and an image could never articulate who we are. Just as the word water does not begin to describe water. If I ask you what water is, how could you teach me? You can’t just use the word water, that is just a set of letters we have given some meaning to. That word describes our “mental picture” of water, not water itself. If you wanted to teach me about water you would have to dunk me in.
So in this way the word “you” does not describe you, but your name doesn’t do the job either. These are just words meant to create a picture in your mind. They are an idea. Jim and Sarah are just words, but when I say Sarah then you get a picture in your mind of who I am talking about.
You also get a whole series of emotions, impressions, and interactions that are brought to mind surrounding Sarah. Along with all of this there will be a definite “mental picture” of Sarah in your mind. But Sarah does not get to choose this picture, she is at the mercy of your definition of her, and she will most certainly have a different mental picture of herself.
So obviously, we could go on and speak about how our words and actions help to define someone else’s mental picture of us, but what I am more interested in is the mental picture we have in our minds of ourselves.
It could be anything and really if we get down to it you can choose any picture you would like. You control how you feel about yourself.
Close your eyes, what is your mental picture? Could you put that picture on a billboard for the world to see and be proud of it?
Does The World Choose For You?
Most don’t choose something they are proud of. We give up the choice of our mental picture far too often. We could choose any wonderful image to be our inner icon but instead we let those around us choose for us. We give others the permission to plant an image of what we are into our own heads. We let the outer world pick our picture for us, define us, to us! We give up the most important power we have. No wonder so many people feel out of place in this world.
Your inner picture of yourself should be strong and powerful, amazing and full of joy, because that is your true self. It is a sheer miracle that you are even here, that you exist at all. The fact that you have freewill, emotions, ideas, dreams and love makes you incredible. Don’t you feel this?
If a lady is a size 12, we tell her she is too heavy. Every advertisement she reads, every article, television show, book, and hit pop song tell her she should be thinner.
The judgement is rooted deeply into our culture. But what happens if she loses the weight and becomes a 2? Then we hate her again. She is too thin. No wonder she is confused and has self image issues.
This makes absolutely no sense. We listen to everyone in our lives and their beliefs about who we are and what we are. We have our own control but give it up, then feel terrible about what we are given in its place. We combine that with what society tells us we should be (and our culture is just mean, cruel even, and there is no getting around that) followed by a dash of primal instinct, and for good measure we mix that with a good dose of plain old fear. Heat on high for our entire lives and we have a baked in, hard-as-a-rock self image.
How do you improve your self image?
How do you improve your self image when the only person that can improve it is you? Well, we could give up and say that self improvement is unattainable, but that just isn’t our style now is it?
We will be positive about it and say that no matter the obstacle in front of us, we can overcome it. What choice do we have? We must be able to define ourselves.
We have to do it together. Yes, we are the only ones who can change our own self image, BUT together we can start by changing the factors that influence us. We must say “even though I am far too hard on myself, I refuse to make anyone else feel this way,” and that, in the process, will help us redefine ourselves.
The way we speak to and about each other needs to change. We must start respecting each other and work to build each other up. We need to end the days of tearing people down for sport.
I won’t press you. If you can say from your heart that your mental picture of yourself is exactly what you want it to be, then you are free. Your responsibility then is to help everyone around you. Help them to see themselves through your eyes. It won’t do any good, they won’t listen, but you must try. You must try because you have the one thing they do not – inner peace – and you owe a karmic debt.
Now if you are not at that point. If you see fat, if you see ugly, if you see dumb, or any other picture in your mind screaming a negative at you, then here is your prescription:
Print out a picture of what you would most want to see. Your own internal best image as a symbol. It does not even have to be of a person. Perhaps you have always wanted to feel and act more free and you print a picture of the most beautiful eagle in flight. You have always wanted to be braver and so your best mental picture would be that of a lion – print that.
Walk into your bathroom and tape the ideal picture on your mirror. Right in front of your face.
Every morning when you wake, look at the picture. Every evening before bed stare at it again. Do not touch it until you are so fed up with looking at it that you are finally willing to change. Finally willing to accept yourself. You can achieve anything you want in this world and you can change how you feel about yourself.
Take a long look at the beautiful you, your ideal self. Now go make that happen. Stop accepting the world’s definition of you and replace that mental picture with the real you, your ideal self, the one you have really been all along but could not see.