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To put it simply, our self-image is how we see ourselves, not how we think others see us, in terms of our own abilities, physical appearance, and personality. We act, feel and behave according to our self-image. But our self-image does not accurately reflect who we are but rather who we think we are. In order to control our actions, feelings and behaviour so that they express precisely who we actually are, we need to understand who we are and how our self-image was formed.

Our past conditioning and experiences together make up our self-image as it is today. Unfortunately, most of us have an inadequate self-image due largely to our subconscious mind not being discriminatory or selective and just accepts all the input regardless of whether it is of value or not for acceptance. To maintain our positive self-image and personality today, we have to be watchful for any entry of negative input, whether from within or without, into our mind.

Our self-image determines the outcome of what we do. It all depends on whether we have a positive or negative self-image. If ours is positive, we tend to be confident and optimistic. If we feel we are going to succeed or interact very well with other people, the possibilities are greatly increased that we will succeed or will interact well. If, on the other hand, our self-image is negative, negative thoughts fill our mind. If we think we are going to fail or are not sociable, chances are we will fail or are likely to be unwilling to engage readily with other people.

Our self-image either causes us to lead a happy and successful life or a miserable life, in which we believe we are inadequate, lacking in intelligence, incompetent, etc. Other people may hold us in high regard and disagree with our belief but we continue to live our lives in accordance with our negative self-image. One way to enjoy a better self-image, and thus a better life, is to change our self-image by changing our thinking. Unless we do that, our negative self-image remains unaltered, and we continue to lack confidence in our own worth and abilities.

Understand that our self-image accepts whatever is put into it. It does not differentiate good stuff from bad stuff that goes into it. Neither does it differentiate the sources of the input whether external or internal. If internally, we fill it with bad stuff, we get a negative self-image, and it is a positive self-image if we fill it with good stuff. The majority of us unwittingly create a poor self-image by placing wrong materials in it.

External sources play a part in the creation of our poor self-image. This comes from an accumulation of bad experiences or nasty remarks from other people. When we have a poor self-image, we tend to think other people are better than we are in many ways. But because we believe what we think, it makes us feel inadequate, anxious, nervous, small, etc. in the presence of other people. We may even start labeling ourselves such as, “I am a dumbbell”, “I am a nobody”, etc. If this is the way we see ourselves, we tend to act and behave accordingly. Our actions and behaviour reflect what our self-image is.

Much can be done to adversely affect our self-image by other people's attitudes towards us. Sometimes, how unfairly people treat us is beyond our control. We can only wonder why. We mean to be sincerely friendly to someone, but we get shunned by them. We kindly volunteer our help but our offer gets rudely rejected. Some people unjustly blame us when we can see it’s not our fault. But they can’t. Whatever their behaviour or reactions, we must never allow them to weaken our self-image. We can prevent this by not interpreting their behaviour or reactions in any way. Promptly forget them and move on.

People who are handicapped suffer from lasting poor self-image. They feel hopeless and helpless and experience low levels of self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem. They feel restricted in ambitions and mobility. Their lack of motivations limits their roles in many areas. Their low self-image is a direct result of endless limited thinking. To rectify this, they must introduce new conditioning to change their belief about what is possible for them in life.

As long as we maintain the same self-image, there is no possibility of us acting differently. Since childhood, our experiences, assumptions, perceptions, ideas, opinions, thoughts and beliefs have been shaping our self-image. Many, if not most, of these factors have been false, exaggerated or biased. But to us, they are all true because we accept them as true even though they may not be true, and we live our lives as though they were true.

It does our self-image no good to go around appeasing and pleasing other people. In the process, we transform ourselves into yes-men. We are likely to be mercilessly exploited. People take us for granted. The more we appease them, the more they demand. The only times they get in touch or communicate with us is when they need us to do them some favours. We usually try to appease others for some reasons, either we fear rejection if we incur their displeasure or she is pretty attractive and we fall for her. Being subservient to others can only harm our self-image.

It is very important that what we say to ourselves has to be done carefully. What unfavourable comments we pass about ourselves are treated as true by our subconscious mind even if they are untrue, so are insulting remarks from other people, which we must reject lest they are accepted by the subconscious. We must make use of self-talk to strengthen or support our self-image.

Self-talk is the way we talk to ourselves, maybe regularly or, from time to time. We use positive affirmations in our self-talk to program our subconscious mind. By using self-talk, we exercise control over how we act, feel and think.

Fortunately, our self-image is amenable to input not only in the forms of self-talk but visualization as well. We can transform our own image into visual image which we can see with our mind’s eye. This makes it easier to use visualization to change our self-image. We do it by consciously creating and seeing the desired mental images of what we want ourselves to be. For example, we can mentally picture ourselves as a sociable participant in a social gathering or a good, confident speaker on stage before the event takes place. We have to do it continuously in order for it to be effective. Make a habit of constantly visualizing the outcomes that you truly want.

There are other things that can make a positive contribution to our self-image. Practise good personal hygiene of keeping our body clean. Pay particular attention to our external appearance like always keeping ourselves perfectly groomed, and exercise wise choice of clothes. Get involved in some physical activities in order to stay healthy. Try to do, say, fifteen minutes of gentle exercise every day. Act as if we had the desired feeling and let the action make the feeling our reality.

We must keep on changing and improving our self-image. After all we are not perfect. We can only strive to be as near to perfection as we possibly can. Most people hold on to their self-image, thinking or believing that it’s a perfect one, needing no further changes, so they act and behave in the same old way. If they have the right perception of themselves, they can see the changes that are needed to correct their faults and weaknesses.