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What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

Are you ready to change your story and create new possibilities in your life?

We all have painful chapters in our lives. However, if we allow these chapters to define who we are, we risk becoming a victim of our life circumstances.

In this blog, I share a framework that will help free you from emotional pain and suffering so that you can become the creator of your life story.

You don’t have to remain stuck in a story that disempowers you. At this moment, you can start writing a new narrative, with you as the hero of your life.

If you’re ready to change your story and take back control of your life, read this!

Watch the video below:

(Podcast Coming Soon)

Are you ready to change your story and start mastering every area of your life? CLICK HERE to join my monthly Life Mastery Accelerator mentoring program!

What is your life story?

Your thoughts become your beliefs, and your beliefs create stories about who you are and what you are capable of.

Thus, how you live your life is determined by the stories that you tell yourself. If this story is disempowering, your life will be the same. The great news is that you can rewrite your life story so that you become the victor of your life.

I’ve been studying psychology for 15 years now. I have always been curious about how the mind works and why people think the way that they do.

I have studied many different schools of psychotherapy. Time and time again, I have found one commonality that exists amongst them.

Regardless of the therapeutic approach used, when someone shifts the meaning that they ascribe to their life circumstances, their entire life changes.

We create meanings from our life experiences. The meaning that you give to any event, interaction, or outcome will determine the emotional tone of your experience and the feelings you bring about throughout your life.

Thus, if you can reframe your experiences, you will change your story. The framework that I’m going to share with you today will help you better understand your mind so that you feel empowered to change your story. Let’s dive in!

Event vs. Story

When an event happens to us, we create a story about the event. The story is what we think or feel about the event, which gives meaning to it. When we merge the event with the story, it becomes one.

The story is where all of the pain and suffering lies. Nothing has meaning until we give it meaning. You create freedom in your life when you can separate an event from a story. This speaks to the power of reframing.

When you reframe your life experiences in a more positive light, you change the story that you tell yourself and reshape your reality. Let me give you an example of how reframing works.

Let’s say that you failed a Math test when you were in elementary school. That event resulted in you creating a story that you’re stupid. On top of that, maybe your parents got mad at you for failing the test, which made you feel even worse about yourself.

These comments further affirmed that you aren’t a smart person. You carry this story into adulthood and sabotage every opportunity that comes your way because you have the limiting belief that you’re not worthy of success.

As long as you allow your past to dictate your future, your future will continue looking like the past. Your life will not change until you change your story.

Before you can change your story, you need to know what it is that you need to change.

What is your story and how is this story holding you back in life? Take a moment to reflect upon the events of your life that led you to create your life story. What are the meanings and core beliefs about yourself that came out of these events?

Whatever you believe about yourself, others or the world will continue to manifest itself, otherwise known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. By simply expecting something to happen, you’ll inadvertently cause it to happen.

You are the creator of your life story. Thus, you have the power to rewrite narratives that no longer serve you. You don’t have to carry around any more emotional pain if you don’t want to.

Changing your story can change your life.

Your story of who you are and what you are capable of is just a story. At any given moment, you can rewrite the narrative.

Never forget that you are not limited by your past, so start creating the empowering story that your future self will thank you for.

Are you ready to change your story and start mastering every area of your life? CLICK HERE to join my monthly Life Mastery Accelerator mentoring program!

Your self-image affects who you are, what you do and the life that you create for yourself. Is your self-image helping you or hurting you? If you feel it’s holding you back, with practice and awareness, you can use your own mind power to change your self-image and change your life.

What is your self-image?

Self-image is how you think of yourself. It includes everything from your appearance to the type of person you believe yourself to be.

It’s based on your experiences, beliefs and the ideas of yourself and others.

If you have a positive self-image, it’s easier to create positive things and experiences in your life. If you have a negative self-image, it can place limits on what you do and who you believe you are.

You create and change your self-image each and every moment that you are alive.

It’s Your Choice

You choose who you are and what you are capable of.

Thinking that this is just the way I am – I’m a failure, not good enough or unlucky are just labels. They are not a pronouncement of who you truly are.

They are just how you are feeling or reacting at this present moment. They are patterns of behavior.

If you experience a stressor and react to that stressor in a particular way, you have completed a loop of behavior. If you continue to choose the same reaction to stressors and react in the same way repeatedly, then they become a habit.

Most people are ruled by their habits to such an extent that they never realize the power that they do have. To change, or try to do something differently or react in a different way is uncomfortable or feels strange and out of character.

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

Who Are You, Really?

Your true character is who you choose to be in each moment. But you have to be aware of your reactions and actions in order to recognize them and change them.

It’s a matter of choice. When you are awake enough to choose your reactions to any given situation, you are then free to choose the reactions that will benefit you and help you to get what you want in life.

As long as your habits and old ingrained patterns are ruling your life, you are not free. You are merely running on autopilot.

These patterns are not just easy to recognize habits such as smoking or biting your fingernails.

How Do You See Yourself?

These patterns are also in the way you view the world and yourself.

I’m a failure. I can’t do anything right. They are better than me, more talented, luckier.

These kinds of thoughts are just opinions. They are not facts.

When you allow these opinions to determine who you believe you are and what you believe you can do, you become both the prisoner and the jailer of your own belief system.

Change Your Perspective

However, to change your self-image requires a change in perspective and a leap of faith.

Notice the endless chatter in your mind. Don’t fight it because that just makes it fight back. Instead just notice it.

Are these thoughts supporting you in creating the life you want or are they preventing it?

Remember, these thoughts are not you. They are not who you are. They are just thoughts.

According to some researchers, we may have up to 50,000 thoughts a day. Most of these thoughts are the same thoughts that we had the day before. They are old habits.

Unfortunately, these old habits are creating not only your self-image but also creating the life you currently have. In order to change your self-image and your life, you have to change your thoughts.

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

Ditch The Labels

You are more than a label. If you choose to label yourself, then choose a label that supports the life you desire.

When you notice yourself thinking thoughts that don’t support you, look at the thought.

For example, if you notice yourself thinking I can’t do anything right, ask yourself does that thought help you? No, it doesn’t.

Then think of a thought that would help you, such as I’ve does lots of things right in the past. Sometimes I make mistakes but then I learn from them and move on.

Change It Up To Change Your Self-Image

Make a new habit. Make a habit of noticing your thoughts and changing your old thought patterns to new ones that support you.

It may seem like a lot of work at first but think of it as a game. Give yourself mental points for each thought you recognize and transform into gold.

By becoming aware in the present moment, you are not only changing your thoughts. You are changing your self-image and yourself.

You gain the power to choose what you think, how you think, what you do and who you are.

Because in each moment, with each new choice, you change your self-image and determine who you are now and who you choose to be in the future.

What is self-image?

Self-image is the personal view, or mental picture, that we have of ourselves. Self-image is an “internal dictionary” that describes the characteristics of the self, including such things as intelligent, beautiful, ugly, talented, selfish, and kind. These characteristics form a collective representation of our assets (strengths) and liabilities (weaknesses) as we see them.

How is self-image developed?

Self-image is a product of learning. Early childhood influences, such as parents and caregivers, have a major influence on our self-image. They are mirrors reflecting back to us an image of ourselves. Our experiences with others such as teachers, friends, and family add to the image in the mirror. Relationships reinforce what we think and feel about ourselves.

The image we see in the mirror may be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Based on this view, we develop either a positive or a negative self-image. The strengths and weaknesses we have adopted affect how we act today. We continually take in information and evaluate ourselves in several areas, such as physical appearance (How do I look?), performance (How am I doing?), and relationships (How important am I?).

With a positive self-image, we recognize and own our assets and potentials while being realistic about our liabilities and limitations. With a negative self-image, we focus on our faults and weaknesses, distorting failure and imperfections.

Self-image is important because how we think about ourselves affects how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with others and the world around us. A positive self-image can boost our physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. On the other hand, a negative self-image can decrease our satisfaction and ability to function in these areas.

How can we create a positive self-image?

Self-image is not permanently fixed. Part of our self-image is dynamic and changing. We can learn to develop a healthier and more accurate view of ourselves, thus challenging the distortions in the mirror. Self-image change occurs over a lifetime. A healthy self-image starts with learning to accept and love ourselves. It also means being accepted and loved by others.

Specific steps to develop a positive self-image

  • Take a self-image inventory.
  • Make a list of your positive qualities.
  • Ask significant others to describe your positive qualities.
  • Define personal goals and objectives that are reasonable and measurable.
  • Confront thinking distortions.
  • Identify and explore the impact of childhood labels.
  • Refrain from comparing yourself to others.
  • Develop your strengths.
  • Learn to love yourself.
  • Give positive affirmations.
  • Remember that you are unique.
  • Remember how far you have come.

What is body image?

Body image is part of self-image. Our body image includes more than what we look like or how others see us. It also refers to how we think, feel, and react to our own perception of our physical attributes.

Body image development is affected by cultural images and the influence of family, peers, and others. A positive body image contributes to enhanced psychological adjustment (less depression, positive self-worth, life satisfaction, less interpersonal anxiety, fewer eating disorders). Distortions in our thinking contribute to a negative body image.

How can we enhance our body image?

Body image is not fixed. Our body experiences change as we grow older, and each stage in our life is associated with body image markers. Maintaining a positive body image is a lifelong process.

Changing negative body image means more than changing our body. It means changing how we think, feel, and react to our body. Weight management and surgery are two ways to alter the body. Learning to have a positive relationship with an imperfect body increases the ability to lose weight. Surgery can be a means for changing how we see ourselves. Extensive outside remodeling, however, also requires extensive inside changes in body image.

Specific steps to enhance body image:

  • Explore your personal body image with its strengths and limitations.
  • Confront thinking distortions related to your body.
  • Challenge misleading assumptions about body appearance.
  • Accept and love who you are.
  • Be comfortable with your body.
  • Have positive experiences with your body.
  • Be a friend to your body with positive affirmations.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/24/2020.

References

  • National Eating Disorders Association. 10 Steps to Positive Body Image Accessed 12/15/2020.
  • Farrar S, Stopa L, Turner H. Self-imagery in individuals with high body dissatisfaction: the effect of positive and negative self-imagery on aspects of the self-concept. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;46:8-13. Accessed 12/15/2020.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. Eating Disorders: About More Than Food. Accessed 12/15/2020.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. Why Self-Esteem is Important for Mental Health. Accessed 12/15/2020.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

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Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Here’s how having a positive self-image helps you live better & how to start improving your self-image

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

Our self-image is the main factor which determines – how we feel about ourselves. Improving your self-image will bring peace in your mind and can help you avoid many life problems, feel more confident about yourself and live a life in your terms.

In this post, you will know about – benefits of a positive self-image and how it can help you live a better life.

Everyday day we meet many people.

If you notice then you’ll see that – people who mainly focuses on their strengths and have positive thoughts have better self-confidence and they are happy with their career & life.

Developing a positive self-image can help you to understand and value your own unique qualities and feel complete the way you are.

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

Then let’s get started.

What is Self-image?

Self-image is how you think and feel about yourself. Basically, when you think about yourself… the images and feeling that comes in your mind is your self-image.

  • Self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about themself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others.”

Many people get confused and think – self-esteem and self-image is the same thing. But it’s not.

Difference Between self-esteem & self-image

  • Your self-esteem is mainly driven by how you are feeling emotionally during a particular point in time in your life.
  • Where self-image is how you perceive yourself.
  • Positive feedback fuels self-esteem and right or ethical work fuels self-image.

Positive feedback from many people boosts your self-esteem. But your self-image can be poor… if you use some not so good tactics to get the results that others don’t know… but deep down inside you know it’s not fair.

In that case, your self-esteem can be high but your self-image will be lower.

Benefits of a Positive Self-image

5 Ways a positive self-image helps you to live a better life

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

1. A positive self-image gives you better emotional stability

What people say about someone affects them emotionally.

But most of the time they do not say what’s right. And sometimes they try to say things that will upset you, intentionally.

Anyone can get influenced by that. But when you have a positive self-image, you know the weight of their words. You know instantly; if they are saying the truth or lie.

Also, you can easily understand that they have no clear idea about yourself … they are just guessing and telling you – what ‘they think’ and not the actual thing.

When you start improving your self-image

  1. You know that most of your doings are right or ethical. And you are not hurting anyone or interfering with other’s right.
  2. You become much more aware of who you are and what’s your real value.

2. Many life problems fade away

Your self-awareness remains at its peak when you have a positive self -image.

It enables you to understand better about your potential and limits.

Your plans and goals become practical and you don’t look for arbitrary goals.

It keeps you away from being Mr. perfectionist or Ms. perfectionist. Cause everything becomes hard when you constantly strive for perfections.

3. You become a better partner

In many relationships after some time, one partner projects him superior. They become more demanding and needy. In some cases, they also take all those efforts from the other partner as – ‘granted’.

It’s totally bad for any good relationship. That other person will only accept it according to their tolerance. But there remains a high chance that – the relationship can’t strive for long.

A better self-image helps you understand about others needs and you focus more on nourishing the relationship.

4. Life becomes happier

This comes as a by-product of above three.

When you have better emotional stability, fewer problems in life and a healthy relationship with your partner…guess what happens?

You become happier in life.

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

5. More accomplishments in life

It makes sense that if someone have:

  • Good self-awareness
  • practical plans and goals in life and not strives for perfection
  • In a good relationship with someone
  • And Happier.

Also, get more accomplishments in their life.

Maybe it’s not always right… that if someone good in these four, will get more accomplishments in life. But there remains a high chance.

Takeaway – start with some realistic plans

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

If you want to have a positive self-image from now on then you need to start with some realistic plans.

  • Note down those fields in life where you think you can improve yourself… and it will have a positive impact on how you live. Generally, most of the peoples are aware of their problems and what they are doing wrong. Many also know the solutions.

They just need to stop doing that thing in order to have a positive self-image or to make their lives better. Improving your will-power & self-discipline can help.

If you are someone who does things that you know harmful for yourself… accept the truth and stop doing it. Immediately. Because you know if you don’t stop now in future it will become even harder to change.

Also, when you already started some good changes in life and stopping your bad habits you need to remember this… Change what you can and let go of what you can’t. Just don’t get stuck by giving yourself the excuse of doing everything perfectly and being a perfectionist.

You can always solve a critical problem later when you already improved yourself in other fields in life.

Self image is the underlying decision maker and creator in your life. If you want to change things in your life you must change your self image. Your self image is not the image reflected back to you in the mirror but how you see yourself in your mind. How do others treat you and how do you treat yourself? What do you expect from yourself and from your life? The answers to these questions will give you an idea of who (you think) you are. But really you are more than that, because self image can change. If you have been attempting to achieve something in your life but are being continually held back, there is a strong chance that it is your self image which is sabotaging your results and keeping you in the place where you always seem to be. Take a look at this video of Bob Proctors which explains the role self image plays in many areas of your life:

So how can we change our self image?

Affirmations

One way to start the shift of your self perception is through affirmations and mantras. Check out this article on the subject of affirmations, mantras and positive intention.

Associations

You will often base your ideas of yourself through those who are close to you and so if you want to change your self image it is a good idea to seek out people who exhibit the kind of characteristics you would like to embody. If you are trying to give up smoking for example, and your circle of friends are all smokers, they are unlikely to support you, even if they may do outwardly, they might in fact secretly hope you will fail just so they keep their smoking buddy! The same can be said of many areas including monetary problems and weight loss, to name just a couple of areas which you may want to change. Birds of a feather, flock together. If you want to change your life, you need to hang around with other people who also want, and are achievingchange your self image similar results.

Habits

Our self image gives us an idea about who we are and what we want. We create our habits according to what we believe and what we think we are capable of. If you believe you are something, you act accordingly. To make change you must change your actions. Building new habits is one way to begin to change your self image. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by slowly altering your daily habits, in the direction of your larger goal, you can alter your perception of yourself. When your habits become automatic, you generate momentum and then your self image begins to change accordingly. For example, if you consider yourself a lazy person, and pride yourself on being lazy, you probably won’t do regular exercise and therefore won’t consider yourself very physically fit. Once you start doing regular exercise, your attitude will change and you will consider yourself to be a more active and fit (and less lazy) person. Of course if your self image doesn’t change along with your habit, it will be harder to continue, and you will fall back into old, well trodden habits.

Goals

Setting goals gives us a reason to change. We often must change in order to reach our goals, or some old pattern of behavior will stop us from achieving it. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measured, Achievable, Results-focused and time-bound. An example of a bad goal is : I will lose weight. An example of a SMART goal is: By October the 1st 2015 I will weigh 12 stone exactly. You must know when you have achieved it. The first goal is vague and ambiguous. How much weight? By when? SMART goals give you a time frame to work to and should be set whereby they can be achieved with work but are difficult enough to motivate you to want to achieve. They must be believable or else you won’t be motivated to achieve them.

The Cybernetic Transposition Method

In Bob Proctor’s video above he talks about cybernetics in relation to self image. Your self image is powerful and will keep you in a ‘bubble’ of consistent behavior in order to maintain its consistent view of itself. Stuart Lichtman is an expert at training people to change their self image through what he calls the cybernetic transposition method. Being as the self image is so powerful, in order to change any aspect of your life, this is the best place to start. It gets right to the heart of the matter and will make more permanent, lasting changes than by external means alone. Check out his book “How to get lots of money for anything fast“.

by Kathleen Cameron · 21 Sep 2020 · 5 min read

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Study Notes

In this study note we explain the three related ideas of self-concept, self-image and self-esteem and how emotional development changes through the life stages.

Self-Concept

Self-concept is how someone sees themselves and the perception that they hold about their abilities. There are various factors that can affect self-concept, these include: age, sexual orientation, gender and religion. The self-concept is also made up of a combination of self-esteem and self-image.

Self-esteem refers to a person’s feelings of self-worth or the value that they place on themselves.

There are a number of characteristics of high and low self-esteem.

Characteristics of high self-esteem

  • Willing to try new things in their life
  • Can cope well under pressure
  • Emotionally stable and confident
  • Happy to share their ideas and experiences

Characteristics of low self-esteem

  • Feels worthless
  • Reluctant to try new things
  • Struggles in new or challenging circumstances
  • Do not value their own opinions and sensitive to the opinions of others

Factors affecting self esteem

  • Parents/carers teaching problem solving skills from a young age (so that a child feels a sense of achievement) can lead to a positive self-esteem.
  • Learning difficulties at school can lead to a child struggling to complete work or maintain friendships, which can lead to negative self-esteem.

Self-Image

Self-image refers to the way an individual sees themselves, both physically and mentally. An individual’s self-image is developed over time and influenced by the experiences they have encountered.

There are a number of characteristics of a positive and negative self-image.

Characteristics of a positive self-image

  • Feels confident
  • Compares themselves positively with peers
  • Content with how they look and has belief in their own ability
  • Positive feedback received from friends and family on looks and abilities

Characteristics of a negative self-image

  • Doubts own ability
  • Compares themselves negatively with peers and images on social media/TV/magazines
  • Received negative comments from friends and family on physical appearance or mental ability

Factors affecting self-image

  • Early childhood experiences and social interactions eg parents who pass positive comments to a child can help contribute to a positive self-image.
  • Life events or roles eg a child who is captain of the rugby team is more likely to have a positive self-image that a child who is bullied at school

Emotional Development through the life stages

Infancy

During this stage, infants develop a sense of self and positive self-esteem through secure attachments with their caregivers. This starts with their basic needs being met as a baby.

Early Childhood

By the age of four, the child’s self-esteem develops further through the support they receive outside of the family. Being able to solve problems through puzzles will enhance self-esteem, as will involving the children in scenarios where their opinion is sought. Children who do not receive these experiences may develop low self-esteem.

Adolescence

Several factors affect self-esteem during adolescence. These can include stress within the home, or at school, or a combination of the two. Coupled with the changes that occur during puberty, these can all have an impact on self-image too.

Being bullied or not being accepted by your peers can have detrimental effects on a young person’s self-esteem and can feed into way they feel about themselves. This can lead to anxiety and depression and a sense of not belonging, all characteristics of having low self-worth. This can be intensified by peer pressure, the use of images in the media, social media and the increase in cyberbullying.

Adulthood

Self-esteem continues to develop through adulthood and an individual’s self-esteem may increase through the achievements they have made which, in turn, increases self-worth. During adulthood a person develops a real understanding of who they are and how to deal with situations more effectively and with more confidence.

Professor of Philosophy, University of Antwerp

There is a phrase you are as likely to find in a serious philosophy text as you are in the wackiest self-help book: “Know thyself!” The phrase has serious philosophical pedigree: by Socrates’ time, it was more or less received wisdom (apparently chiseled into the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi) though a form of the phrase reaches back to Ancient Egypt. And ever since, the majority of philosophers have had something to say about it.

But ‘Know thyself!’ also has self-help appeal. Is your aim to accept yourself? Well, you need to know thyself for that first. Or is it to make good decisions – decisions that are right for you? Again, this would be difficult unless you knew thyself. The problem is that none of this is based on a realistic picture of the self and of how we make decisions. This whole “knowing thyself” business is not as simple as it seems. In fact, it might be a serious philosophical muddle – not to say bad advice.

Let’s take an everyday example. You go to the local cafe and order an espresso. Why? Just a momentary whim? Trying something new? Maybe you know that the owner is Italian and she would judge you if you ordered a cappuccino after 11am? Or are you just an espresso kind of person?

I suspect that the last of these options best reflects your choices. You do much of what you do because you think it meshes with the kind of person you think you are. You order eggs Benedict because you’re an eggs Benedict kind of person. It’s part of who you are. And this goes for many of our daily choices. You go to the philosophy section of the bookshop and the fair-trade section at the grocer’s shop because you are a philosopher who cares about global justice, and that’s what philosophers who care about global justice do.

We all have fairly stable ideas about what kind of people we are. And that’s all for the best – we don’t have to think too hard when ordering coffee every morning. These ideas about what kind of people we are might also be accompanied by ideas about what kind of people we are not – I’m not going to shop at Costco, I’m not that kind of person. (This way of thinking about yourself could easily slide into moralizing your preferences, but let’s not open that can of worms here.)

There is, however, a deep problem with this mental set-up: people change. There are tumultuous periods when we change drastically – in times of romantic love, say, or divorce, or having children. Often we are aware of these changes. After you’ve had kids, you probably notice that you’ve suddenly become a morning person.

But most changes happen gradually and under the radar. A few mechanisms of these changes are well understood, such as the “mere exposure effect“: the more you are exposed to something, the more you tend to like it. Another, more troubling one, is that the more your desire for something is frustrated, the more you tend to dislike it. These changes happen gradually, often without us noticing anything.

The problem is this: if we change while our self-image remains the same, then there will be a deep abyss between who we are and who we think we are. And this leads to conflict.

To make things worse, we are exceptionally good at dismissing even the possibility that we might change. Psychologists have given this phenomenon a fancy name: “The End of History Illusion.” We all think that who we are now is the finished product: we will be the same in five, 10, 20 years. But, as these psychologists found, this is completely delusional – our preferences and values will be very different already in the not-so-distant future.

Why is this such a big issue? It might be okay when it comes to ordering the espresso. Maybe you now slightly prefer cappuccino, but you think of yourself as an espresso kind of person, so you keep ordering espresso. So you’re enjoying your morning drink a little bit less – not such a big deal.

But what is true of espresso is true of other preferences and values in life. Maybe you used to genuinely enjoy doing philosophy, but you no longer do. But as being a philosopher is such a stable feature of your self-image, you keep doing it. There is a huge difference between what you like and what you do. What you do is dictated not by what you like, but by what kind of person you think you are.

The real harm of this situation is not only that you spend much of your time doing something that you don’t particularly like (and often positively dislike). Instead, it is that the human mind does not like blatant contradictions of this kind. It does its best to hide this contradiction: a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance.

Hiding a gaping contradiction between what we like and what we do takes significant mental effort and this leaves little energy to do anything else. And if you have little mental energy left, it is so much more difficult to switch off the TV or to resist spending half an hour looking at Facebook or Instagram.

“Know thyself!”, right? If we take the importance of change in our lives seriously, this just isn’t an option. You might be able to know what you think of yourself in this moment. But what you think of yourself is very different from who you are and what you actually like. And in a couple of days or weeks, all of this might change anyway.

What is self-image (and how to change it for a happier life)

Last update: 08 November, 2015

How would you define yourself? As a person with wings? Or maybe as someone with roots? Often times, it’s not easy to decide between one or another, between stability and change. Life isn’t black and white. Our existence is painted in gray scales. It’s filled with tiny circumstances that lead us from one path to another.

Sometimes, we feel the indefinable wish to extend our wings and escape from the life we lead now. Escape from what currently surrounds us. We can’t always do it, because we all have roots — some deeper than others — that keep us from leaving our lives all together. That kind of change demands a lot of determination, and that’s not an easy thing to find.

What’s better then? Stability or change?

The truth is, there is no right answer to that question. The truth is the only thing that’s real is “circumstances.” Vital moments in which we must choose whether to drop anchor or set off to new lands. Decisive moments where we need to draw our courage.

A life of change or stability

Some people can’t stand staying still. They are always looking over their shoulder at the wide open horizon. They feel that they have to go further on their search for new purposes, for new dreams to fulfill in order to fill their hungry hearts. Their hearts are rarely satisfied.

These people simply don’t fit into routines. They rebel and advance on their own journeys leaving people, memories, joys and also sadness behind. A life with wings doesn’t always offer true happiness. But it does produce plenty of opportunities to search for your true essence.

And what about people with roots? Sometimes they are described as conformists. As the type of personality that seeks stability, because it’s synonymous with security and belonging. A place without changes, where you don’t have to face unexpected or new things. A place of serene calmness where you can build a life by your own values.

So, who would be happier? He who always takes flight? Or he who feels the need to dig his roots even deeper? Taken to extremes, neither is ideal. It’s precisely in the balance of these two dimensions that life’s true meaning lies. People who only seek change and movement may never find peace. Their existence will always be filled with questions that rarely find answers.

On the other hand, people who feel the need for stability and security may settle for a life of suffering simply because they fear change. They might fall into the trap of thinking it’s better to be quiet and not ask questions in order to not discover that there are other possibilities. Other options that could maybe make them happier.

Finding the balance

As they say: “It’s hard to fall in love with someone with wings. But, it’s also hard to rip out someone’s roots.”

What’s really worthwhile in life is letting yourself feel and experience things with wisdom and maturity. Understanding that life involves a series of continuous changes. We need to be capable of facing all of the restless tides of life. Sometimes they’ll bring good things, and sometimes not so much.

The important thing is to allow yourself to feel each experience. When you feel happiness, plant your roots so it will last as long as possible and wont escape your grasp. Be brave and accept the challenge of stability and belonging.

However, if later on you find that happiness is being tarnished by suffering, accept that reality with courage and take flight with maturity and integrity.

Your happiness is always the essential thing in life. And a healthy life needs both wings and roots. The key is in the balance, in this simple wisdom.

Last update: 08 November, 2015