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Published on August 5, 2020

How to Change Your Self-Perception and Untap Your Hidden Potential

How to Change Your Self-Perception and Untap Your Hidden Potential

If your current self-perception is not serving you in ways that allow you to be your best self and achieve the goals you’re aiming for, it’s time to transform it into a force for good.

Those harsh evaluations from your inner critic speaking sourly of unworthiness have had enough airplay. You no longer want to allow features of imposter syndrome immobilize you nor deflate any balloon of excitement and hope you had toward achieving your goals:

“Who are you to think you can do this? Who are you to think you even deserve this?”

Your self-perception is about the relationship you have with yourself. The great news is that because you hold this self-perception, you are the best and most powerful agent capable of transforming it.

Here are 7 tips on how to change your self-perception and unleash your potential.

1. Learn to Detach From Others’ Projections

Simply cutting ties with anyone who drops negative criticisms that leave you feeling you are a lesser human being would lead to an incredibly lonely existence. What can better serve you is recognizing when someone might actually be projecting their self-image upon you.

Projections are often an unconscious way we defend ourselves to feel better emotionally and mentally about those aspects of ourselves we consider to be flawed.[1] We attribute the things we don’t like about ourselves to someone else because the pain and discomfort of confessing our own inadequacies are just too great.

Think of the friend at dinner who dominates the conversation and commonly speaks over others yet tells you you’re rude when you interrupt them. Think of the associate who claims to be a perfectionist and always struggles to meet deadlines but says your work will never be as good because you prioritize meeting targets over doing better quality work.

When you are on the receiving end of sharp, unsavory criticism, there’s a high chance that another person may be projecting. They are unwittingly showing you how they see the world and the flaws they see.

However, this does not mean their assertions are true or valid. If anything, it’s simply a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to that.

2. Recognize How Others Have Shaped Your Self-Perception

During her earlier research, Carol Dweck discovered children’s motivation and performance was highly influenced by how parents and authority figures encouraged them.

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Her research offers guidance that could also influence a child’s esteem, self-efficacy, and self-perception as they grew through adolescence and into adulthood.[2]

  • Teach children how their effort can influence outcomes and their performance as opposed to labeling them according to the results they might achieve (i.e. a good artist, a genius, gifted).
  • As opposed to telling children they were good or bad, loved or not loved depending upon their behavior and results of performance, praise their efforts despite the results
  • Make space for children’s positive and negative emotions as opposed to only being loving, affectionate, and supportive when they are well-behaved or performing to a certain level.

Dweck’s research has shone a light on likely sources of many imprisoning self-perceptions we develop as adults. As adults, we can see how and why we came to think about ourselves in the ways we do.

Now, this is not a green light to unleash all blame on your parents and teachers but rather to recognize that you might be carrying the full weight of unhelpful self-perceptions you aren’t fully accounted for. You can also recognize and choose to do something about those self-perceptions that don’t benefit you.

Ask yourself:

“Does how I see myself make me feel better or worse about myself?”

“Does how I see myself create obstacles between where I am, what I am feeling, where I want to be, and how I want to feel?”

Continue to practice your awareness of how you see yourself in the present, consider how this impacts you, and start exploring how to put yourself in the greatest position of power to change this.

3. Learn How Even Negative Self-Perceptions Serve a Purpose

World-renowned psychotherapist Richard Schwartz coined an incredible therapeutic framework called Internal Family Systems through hearing how clients would talk about inner ‘parts’ of themselves.[3]

Similar to how different members of our families have different roles by birthright, different personality traits, and characteristics, Schwartz proposes that we all have an internal system consisting of sub-personas or ‘parts’ within our psyche.

Have you ever thought that you should decide one way but another voice inside you says to do the opposite? An inner critic? If so, this framework can help you not only tame the unhelpful voices and self-perceptions but also discover others that can help you untap your hidden potential.

Schwartz coined three main types of sub-personas:

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  • Exiles are those who often hold the emotional pain from abandonment, rejection, being exploited, and negatively judged by other individuals or other parts within our internal system.
  • Managers are those who are directive and controlling to help us avoid situations and interactions which might further hurt the exile part/s. These parts of us are often highly intellectual and good at problem-solving but push emotions away. In women, the manager-like parts often believe ‘she’ must be perfect and please everyone, otherwise she will be abandoned and hurt. In men, manager parts often possess competitive and entitled features, encouraging him to get or do whatever he wants regardless of who gets hurt
  • Firefighters are those parts of us that spring into action in emergencies when we’re caught off guard. When the exile parts of us have been triggered, these firefighting parts can jump into soothing and placate their emotional expression. Emotional eating or splurging our savings on clothes to make ourselves feel better are examples of ways we look to put out the emotional fire that is blazing.

Regardless of the different characteristics of these parts we have within us, they all serve a primary purpose but in different ways: to protect us and keep us safe.

When we learn to see how they do and why they do this, we dissolve our need to fight our self-perceptions.

We no longer have to fight against the negative voices in our heads. We can now guide and use them to our advantage to help us get to where we now want to go.

4. Reframe Your Language to Practice Healthy Detachment

You don’t need to undergo intensive therapy to benefit from some simple language re-framing techniques. When you change a few words in your self-labeling narrative, you can drastically change the impact that narrative can have on you.

When you look at the following four sentences, you have a sense of which one feels the most self-deprecating and which one feels the least:

  • “No one loves me. I’m simply not attractive.”
  • “I feel that no one loves me. I don’t feel attractive.”
  • “I often feel that no one loves me. At times I don’t feel attractive.”
  • “Right now, I feel that no one loves me. At the moment, I don’t feel attractive.”

Which statement feels the heaviest? Did you notice the changes in the sentences?

Self-perceptions we make tend to be purely black and white. We also tend to inaccurately and blanketly apply them to cover all contexts and situations, particularly when our emotions are the most intense.

Reframing your self-narrative is easier than trying to eliminate it in one fell swoop. Recognize that your self-perception is but a reflection of transient feelings you are feeling at particular moments in time and you’ll become better at preserving your self-worth.

5. Forget Positive Affirmations and Practice Truthful Self-Perceptions

As a coach and a consultant, I have often had clients come to me wanting to instantly silence any negative self-talk they express toward themselves. It is true our subconscious develops healthier inner dialogue over time with the regular and frequent practice of feeding it better mental nutrition. However, no amount of positive self-talk can transform negative self-perceptions if we don’t believe they could be true.

If you have a poor body image, you can tell yourself until you’re blue in the face that you have nothing to be concerned about when you look in the mirror. You’re still going to be free from the mental and emotional shackles that such self-perception holds.

You’ll be pleased to know the answer isn’t in endless journaling nor writing out positive affirmations hundreds of times a day. There’s a faster and more effective way!

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Develop phrases which you actually believe that guide you to look in the direction of how you want to see yourself:

I’m working towards improving how I see and/or feel about myself.”

“I’m learning and practicing how to adjust this aspect of myself so it better serves me.”

Notice how there is no mention of looking to improve or delete an aspect of your personality in either of these statements?

Also, notice the absence of the word ‘improve’. Using that word ‘improve’ might imply that you’ve bought into accepting there is something wrong with you, to begin with.

You’re changing your self-perception of you. You’re not needing to change you.

Your subconscious will be more on board with you using the phraseology above because you’re emotionally more receptive to it. It feels safe. It feels honest. It feels true.

Practice more language and phrases like these above and you will grow incredible self-perception that will take you beyond what you originally felt you were worthy of aiming for.

6. Combine a Growth Mindset and Imagery to Untap Your Potential

The use of imagery is an incredibly powerful mental tool to help you develop more helpful self-perceptions that will serve you moving toward your initial goals. Combine this with simple growth mindset questions and you’ll be well on your way to unleashing your potential.

Using an example, let’s say you don’t feel you don’t have what it takes to apply for a certain job or pass a particularly difficult exam.

The first part of the exercise is to playfully develop the growth and expansive mindset questions and entertain the answers to them:

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  1. What if I did have enough skill, expertise, knowledge, and confidence?
  2. How would I approach applying for the job? How would I go about preparing for the exam?
  3. How would I be feeling as I applied for the job? How would I feel as I sat the exam?
  4. How would I feel upon submitting my application? What if I got an interview?
  5. What if I took the exam and passed?

The second part now is to bring those potential answers to life. Breathe life into a mini-movie scene of these possibilities you create in your imagination. Imagine the environment you surround yourself in as you prepare your job application.

Can you imagine feeling calm, centered, focused, and ready as you start your exam? Practice being in allowance of feeling excited.

When you engage your five physical senses during imagery, you can ignite physical and emotional responses that signal to your brain what you are focusing on is important. The more you practice the imagery in which you paint a healthier and helpful self-perception, the more your reticular activating system will look for opportunities for this to come to fruition in reality.

7. Deliberately Practice Healthier Self-Perceptions

Our hidden potential remains untapped when we aren’t moving toward clearly defined goals.

From recognizing our unhelpful self-perceptions, we can start to shape those which aren’t just healthier for us but also strategically helpful for us in moving toward what we want to experience, do, and have.

When you next look at a particular goal, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What qualities do I already have that could and would help to meet that goal?
  2. What do I already know that could help me meet this goal?
  3. How can I position myself to gain the skills and knowledge that would help me achieve this goal?
  4. What choice/s along the way would give me opportunities to experience satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment in ways that matter to me?
  5. Even if I don’t meet this goal, will I still feel good about myself throughout the efforts I make to do so?

These questions are not only strengths-based. They also guide you to make choices and create opportunities that help you feel higher and healthier levels of fulfillment which matter to you.

Meeting the goal may or may not happen. Regardless, your self-perception is sure to undergo powerful, positive transformations on many levels.

Final Thoughts

These 7 tips will help you realize your potential and change your self-perception positively.

Through learning how to practice acceptance and compassion toward yourself and how to have a better relationship with yourself, you can develop self-concepts that help you untap your hidden potential.

You’ll be radiating a healthy glow that’s almost palpable and the envy of others with a powerful sense of self that will take you wherever you want to go!

More Tips on Improving Your Self-Perception

Featured photo credit: Vince Fleming via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Malachi Thompson

Leadership & Performance Edge Strategist

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Published on September 25, 2020

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, I think we can all agree that it’s present. When it does show up, it takes over the show. It then becomes difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion. This is probably when self-care finally comes to our mind.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response. According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

Why is this important? While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios. Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as dire, and essentially locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

On a mental and emotional scale, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior.” Everything is interconnected. When our physical body takes a toll due to stress, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

How to Combat Stress?

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

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1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being. Stress is just brewing!

One exercise to get this under control is called a Brain Dump, and it’s exactly how it sounds. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up. Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph. Don’t think too much of how it looks. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are — they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It Out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body! If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,[3]

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“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why having a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

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Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice).

4. Interrupt Your Day

This may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also de-stress your day.

As I said in the earlier tip, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing.

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5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture. As I said in a previous tip, moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional. In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment. It’s a beautiful way to self-care!

Final Thoughts

Stress is unfortunately a common part of our life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state. This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed, but they will help you manage it better.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress

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