20 Jul A Surprising Truth About Developing A Positive Self-Image
If you’re looking for a handy list of rules on how to develop a positive self-image, this isn’t it. But there are plenty available online that tackle that widespread inquiry at a surface level. I find such talk doesn’t dive deep enough to really get to the core of self-image. After all, what does it even mean to have a positive self-image? Should we feel good about ourselves all the time? Is it realistic or even warranted?
Who Am I?
Everyone says, just be yourself. Easy, right? Well, who the heck am I because I swear some days I am 73 different people in one body?! I am all my desires, ambitions, hang-ups, insecurities, joys, successes, and failures. I am everything I think and want and love. I’m everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I want to go. I am the clothes on my body and the shoes on my feet and the handbag I carry. I am my job, my partner, my kids. I am all my moralistic ideals and goals.
Or am I?
While “just being yourself” should be the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, most of us struggle with this. It seems to be a choice we must constantly negotiate, doesn’t it? And while we see all our flaws through our own critical eyes, we’re frequently adapting, to some degree, to the likes of others and wondering what they think of us.
Our Core Vulnerability
We have an innate human need to be seen, appreciated, desired, included, and loved, and it’s the core of our vulnerability. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there are effective and ineffective ways to feed that need.
Deep down, we all want to be accepted and liked. Why else would things like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok––you name it––exist, and much more, thrive, as they do? It’s somewhat easier to get false or superficial positives from others than it is to cultivate honest and robust ones for ourselves.
As much as external validation gives us momentary fulfillment, it doesn’t last, but funny how those judgments do, isn’t it? Much like an addiction, it fills an emptiness for a short time until we need another hit of social validation smack. And those criticisms? They often become scars.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a wholesome, lasting way to be who we are, without apology but with perfect grace? Imagine what the world would be like if we could all just know ourselves better and like ourselves a little more?
You Aren’t Who You Think You Are
There’s far more to just deciding to be who we are and accept ourselves wholeheartedly. We’re all a work in progress.
As much as we could all stand to develop a more positive self-image, we also need to be realistic about the kind of person we want to be and the behaviours associated with that image. We have to constantly balance striving toward a higher version of ourselves with accepting who we are right now, warts and all. If that seems antithetical or downright backasswards, it sort of is. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain of sand: two steps forward, one slide back. Life is full of generous lessons in humility!
We also have to recognize that who we are is not defined wholeheartedly by what we do, who we hang out with, or probably most problematic for many of us, what we think about ourselves. But it feels that way much of the time. It seems we’re regularly seduced by our conditioned notions about who we are and adapting to our constantly changing needs, desires, and standards.
So how do we shift away from what Buddhists refer to as an overly-identified concept of self to someone who can just be with herself and feel secure amid a world that serves us interminable reasons to be insecure?
Indeed, such a recognition requires a mind-heart shift toward a more positive self-image, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Nothing worth achieving has an easy road in. Indeed, it may be the very nature of the struggle and striving that makes the reward that much more succulent. But let it be said––that doesn’t mean we have to suffer! A struggle only becomes suffering when we can’t lean into life and accept the challenges it presents.
And that starts by recognizing, as Ram Dass put it, “nothing is too much for who you are; it’s too much for who you think you are.” Key takeaway? Stop thinking about it! (A little comic relief on such a topic is necessary!). But in all seriousness, one can drown in self-concern, particularly these days when the entire wellness industry is rooting for superficial approaches to self-image boosting like retail therapy, eyelash extensions, and Tarot card readings. Materialism satiates the ego and deprives the soul.
The Role Of Grace & Self-Compassion
The way to cultivate a positive self-image is by becoming clear about how you want to feel and making choices based on that. It’s also about navigating through inevitable challenges, disappointments, and insecurities with grace and self-compassion.
So too are grace and self-compassion the rewards. They feed and water a reverent relationship with yourself, which is the foundation of a positive self-image. So, rather than focusing on developing a positive self-image, begin with your relationship with yourself. Treat it much like you’d manage a relationship with a person you love. Listen, support, give even when you don’t feel like it, be honest and committed and wholesome in your intentions, clear in your communication.
David Whyte, a master in contemplative poetry, nails it when he refers to a “robust vulnerability.” We must be willing to go forth in life not in spite of all our sensitivities, but wholeheartedly with them.
My journey down this road toward a more positive self-image has been long, challenging, but ultimately, rewarding. Body and energy work have helped because they’ve cultivated a clearer and more honest connection between my heart, mind, and body. If you’re in Bowmanville, Clarington, Durham Region, or a surrounding area and you’d like to learn more about how modalities like Reiki and Emotional Essence Healing can help you, give me a call today to schedule an appointment.