Keeping Up Appearances

Appearances, self image, how we view ourselves is paramount and affects us in everything we do. Yet our physical appearance and how others see us, can be very different from how we view ourselves – our self image.

We all hold certain beliefs about ourselves, which manifests as particular traits we believe are part of us, our personality and these form our self image. The beliefs we hold about ourselves are from past experiences, influences of others and the way we have received and perceived feedback from others.

Sometimes these beliefs are negative, unhelpful and limiting. We do not see them as conditioning from the past but as intrinsic personality we cannot change. Once we understand that personality is flexible, an amalgamation of our past experiences, conditioning, beliefs we hold and choose consciously or unconsciously to continue holding, as well as biological factors; it is easier to let go of the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves and change for the better.

In Maxwell’s Psychocybenetics (a book which profoundly influenced me) he explains that the self-image we hold, made up from of beliefs about ourselves, is the most important thing to consider for successful change and transformation. Equally, the obstacles to our problems lie within these self-beliefs we have conditioned ourselves to act accordingly to. We behave in ways to match the self-image we hold because familiarity is the easiest route and provides us with certainty. Maxwell proposes that personality is fluid and not fixed.

As an example, I will illustrate with the common trait of shyness which many people want to overcome. If your past has caused you to believe that you are a shy person, changing this self-belief or image is very difficult because you have come to accept this as who you are. You accept this as truth. Yet this thinking is not necessarily true and can be unproductive and even destructive. For someone to be able to change, they must change their underlying core beliefs that they are a shy person. They must first become aware of the belief and that it is from past conditioning. Then they must be willing to let go of the belief, accepting it for what it is – just a belief which, over time they have been conditioned to act in accordance to . After this realization they must take the action to challenge this belief, so the shy person would need to go out of their comfort zone many times for them to get used to something which was uncomfortable for them, for them to eventually become comfortable. Only then will they be able to change from being shy not not shy.

Initially change is difficult because the new behaviour and actions taken are not in line with the old, familiar self-image, and so there is conflict. That is why it is crucial to first change one’s self-image before attempting to take any action to match the new you you prefer. Once you can change the underlying self-image internally, the outer exterior that reflects the inner will follow suit and the actions you take will lead to lasting changes.

For more interesting and more detailed information about this, I would recommend reading the book Psychocybernetics by Maxwell Maltz because there is a lot I could talk about relating to self-image, from his book and many other sources.

But I ask you go away and to look within and ask what self-image do I hold? and what beliefs are holding you back from being the person you want to be?

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