What is the self image?

and how does it affect your life?

A poor self image can ruin your self esteem

Be aware of your self image. And be aware you can change it!

The self image is the concept of yourself that you have in your mind. It is created, bit by bit, by situations that you find yourself in, and by how you react to them. In fact, it is created, to be more exact, by your perception of how you react to situations. In other words, as situations occur in your life, you constantly make judgements about your conduct, and update your performance accordingly.

Your subconscious self image, then, is your internal model of yourself, and its purpose is to provide a blueprint as to how you should act in future situations. When you are faced with a situation and you’re not entirely sure how to deal with it, your subconscious refers to its blueprint, the self image, to determine your actions. That blueprint is the deciding factor – you cannot act except in line with it. If your blueprint is that of a timid person, or an indecisive one, then you will act timidly and indecisively. You simply cannot act any other way.

Dr Maxwell Maltz, and Psycho Cybernetics

bookmarkThe modern concept of the self image owes a tremendous amount to the work of Dr. Maxwell Maltz, who popularized the re-engineering of the self image in his book, Psycho Cybernetics, in the 1960s. This revelatory book has been such an outstanding success that it has never been out of print since it first went on sale, and has sold well over 30 million copies (some estimates put the figure at closer to 50 million!). People who have read Psycho Cybernetics realise the importance of the self image, and realise the harmful effects of negative self image.

psycho-cybernetics - teaches the self imageAs Dr. Maltz observed in the book, if your self image is largely based on images and scenes of yourself in various situations, then perhaps you can alter a poor self image simply by replacing those images or scenes with more positive ones! The result, of course, is that your re-engineered, more positive self image means that in future you will act more successfully. This won’t entail a great deal of extra effort on your part, since your subconscious mind acts within the limits of the self image – now that you have a more positive self image, that of a more successful person, you simply cannot act other than more successfully.

You’re going on a mission …
to improve your mental blueprint!

Imagine a character in a spy film. We’ve all seen this situation, many times. He needs to go on an undercover mission and he needs an alias. In fact, his alter-ego needs to be ingrained so much that he can’t be tripped up even with surprise questions. So he learns his material meticulously. Where he was born, and when, where he went to school, what subjects he excelled in, what sports, what teams he captained, what hobbies he pursued, the names of his friends, etc, etc. He has to learn it all, in great detail.

Your self image is your secret identity. You can choose the details of that identity and make them conform to just the way you want to be.

Your self image is your secret identity. You can choose the details of that identity and make them conform to just the way you want to be.

What he is learning, in effect, is a false self image. But you have it in your power to do the same. You can change your poor self image into a more positive self image, so that it is more successful, and more closely fits in with the kind of person you really want to be. Don’t confuse this with the kind of fantasising that Billy Liar used to indulge in in the Keith Waterhouse novel. He used to escape into a fantasy world in which he was someone else, someone dashing and successful and able to exact revenge on those who saw him as a no-hoper and a waster.

This is different. Rather than indulging in fantasies, improving your self image literally changes the way your own subconscious mind sees you. It alters the blueprint that you carry round with you in your head. And because of that, it actually results in real world changes in the way you think and act. Improving your self image is an effective strategy for improving your life.

A poor self image can be updated

Be aware of your self talk. Make it positive!If you have a poor self image, it’s not just difficult to perform at your optimal level, it’s impossible! How can you be expected to give a speech competently and confidently, for example, if your self image is of a shy, retiring, quiet person, too timid to raise his hand to speak in an audience, let alone make a speech to an audience? How can you come to terms with meeting people and giving them a sales pitch if you see yourself as that same shy person? You have to change your idea of yourself first, and create a positive self image, before you can be comfortable with the changes you want to see. A negative self image can affect almost every area of your life. If you’re painfully shy and you don’t do anything to change that, you’re handicapped in the business world, in personal relationships, and even in casual social situations. Self esteem and self image are very closely linked. A negative self image will almost certainly leave you with low self esteem, and no wonder – you’re literally seeing yourself (in your mind) as less than effective in many situations.

On the other hand, if you take the time to improve your self image you will find that you are more at ease generally, and without making any special efforts. Your subconscious mind will simply be referring to an updated blueprint, and it will direct you to do things in a more effective and successful way.


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