We’ve seen how the self image is a mental blueprint for your subconscious mind. Now, once you understand the role of the self image, you’re in a position to change it, and thereby change the way you act. This is so much more successful than simply deciding to act in a different way. If you suddenly decide to act more daringly, or more decisively, or if, for example, you decide that from now on you will get up early every morning and do fifteen minutes vigorous exercise before breakfast, then you have a challenge on your hands.
The challenge is that you will be going against your poor self image. Unless you already see yourself as daring and decisive, or so keen on exercising that a morning workout doesn’t seem daunting to you, then you will be fighting a losing battle. The chances are that your efforts will be in vain, and you will probably abandon them after a short while. And during that short period you will find the whole thing uncomfortable and unpleasant.
A far better strategy is to try to change your self image. What you will be doing, in effect, is redrafting your mental blueprint of yourself and, in the process, creating a new self image. You will be unrolling the plans and making startling changes to them. It won’t be such a surprise, therefore, if, some time later, you find yourself acting more decisively and, perhaps, jumping up out of bed early in the morning and actually looking forward to an early workout. You will simply be acting in accordance with your self image, which is what we all do, all the time. Only now you will be acting in accordance with your fresh, new, improved, more positive self image.
Let’s look at a real world example. Imagine you were bullied at school and didn’t do well at your studies, or at sports, and this has impacted negatively on you all your life. And the effects of negative self image can definitely affect your life very seriously, make no mistake, because they affect everything you do.
How to improve your self image
In an effort to improve your self image, why not imagine yourself better at sports? Or more popular. Or academically more successful. This isn’t being untruthful, or twisting the facts to deceive anybody. This is improving on your memories of school in an effort to make yourself feel better about yourself, which is something truly worthwhile.
It won’t happen by magic, though. Just saying to yourself, “I was really bright at all the science subjects (not at all dull and confused!), and I was one of the most popular kids in the whole school (and not mostly ignored, and sometimes even bullied)”, won’t do much for your self confidence or self image. You have to imagine those scenes as though they really happened, and imagine yourself right there, in the middle of them, and do it repeatedly, so that they become like real memories.
See yourself doing well at sports, and enjoying your studies, and doing well at them. Actually ‘hear’ the words of your teachers and parents as they congratulate you on your achievements. Your brain, amazing though it is, will not be able to distinguish those new ‘memories’ from the old, unflattering ones, if they’re repeated often enough. It simply cannot tell them apart, when it comes to making a determination of what’s genuine.
Ditch the negative self-talk
An important aspect of this is that you really have to ditch all the negative self-talk. Adding little bits on the end of thoughts or sentences (such as “not at all dull and confused!”) only serves to undermine your true purpose. It’s like trying to perform a magic trick in front of an audience, while repeatedly drawing their attention to what you’re really doing, instead of diverting their attention away from it. One of the most important aspects of performing magic is diversion. You can get away with a lot simply by drawing your subject’s attention away from what you’re actually doing. The last thing you want to do is get them to focus on your left hand, if that’s the one that’s busy palming the coin!
In fact, if you watch a magician performing a stage act where he acts as a pickpocket, you can clearly see him slipping off the subject’s tie, and his watch, and removing the man’s wallet, while the subject is completely oblivious to it all, taken in by the magician’s clever use of diversionary tactics.
Allow yourself the same respect. You want this whole new self image that you’re designing to be accepted by your subconscious, so do yourself a favour and stop drawing attention to the negative things still hanging around in your mind from the old memories. When you see these new scenes in your mind, see them in great detail, and feel them happening (remember, put yourself at the centre of the action), and with no remnants of the negative memory clinging to them.
Set aside a few minutes a day for your thoughts on success and the self image so that you can retreat into your inner world and work on reconstructing old, defective memories and images. What you have to realise is that memory isn’t really fixed at all. A memory, any memory, is a complicated construct of several disparate parts. When you recollect a memory, you’re literally doing just that – re-collecting the parts and reconstructing the memory. You’re gathering together all the individual aspects of the memory – the sounds, the images, the smells, the feelings, your impressions of your surroundings at the time, the emotions involved, etc, etc, – and your brain, astonishingly, reconstructs the memory from all these individual parts.
Redesign your memories!
It’s in your power to redesign any memories that don’t fit your criteria for success, if you know how to improve self image. If you see yourself as weak, or indecisive, or manipulative, or lacking certain skills, then you can make a conscious decision to see yourself in a better light. Why not see yourself as a strong, determined, decisive person? Why not imagine yourself as generous, caring, skilful, and successful? The choice is yours!
If you’re going to change your self image,
why not imagine yourself having an improved memory?
Clearer … more retentive … more dependable … mmm, why not?
But just making the decision isn’t enough in itself – you have to go within, and recondition your self image. The process of creating a new self image isn’t the work of a single day – it’s an ongoing process that will start to show results only after regular and determined effort.
A few minutes a day spent doing this can bring about startling results. The human brain is amazing … it’s breathtaking in its abilities. But one thing it cannot do is distinguish between real events and vividly imagined ones. The mechanism it uses for perceiving both these things is the same. This isn’t just wishful thinking on my part; I’m not just saying this is so because it serves my purpose. Research is showing that the brain literally cannot see any difference between reality and virtual reality.
This gives us amazing power! We can literally forge our future by imagining it! It won’t happen overnight – I’m not saying you will see huge changes in a few days or a week. But if you spend just a few minutes a day working on re-engineering your inner world, and reconstructing your self image, you will, sooner or later, see the effects you visualise reflected in the ‘real’ world. Your subconscious mind is geared to making you act in line with your own internal image of yourself. Build a stronger, more successful self image and you will literally see yourself gradually being re-invented. Better, more successful, and more in line with the way you want to be.
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