People with a poor self image tend to accept a negative belief system about themselves that was somehow instilled when they were too young to challenge it.
Some positive beliefs were planted at the same time, but somehow it was the negatives that won out.
Negative beliefs then get reinforced by experience, and they can also be tempting, because they provide an excuse for taking easy options. While some seemingly positive beliefs often go with a matching set of unhelpful ones.
They are only reality- based for small children. Being told you’re soooo cute and funny is of limited use when you hit 30 and have to take a Numeracy test in order to get a new job. Complaining that “I’m useless at Maths!” just doesn’t cut it.
What Can You Do About A Poor Self Image?
You can teach yourself to challenge your reflex assumptions. Humans have two ways of thinking – the Fast Track, and the Reflective.
Different areas of the brain are involved. Relying on Fast Track thinking makes you vulnerable to damaging and self-harming behaviour.
This has an impact on your relationships, too, because your wrong assumptions in many situations affect everyone around you.
How Does This Work?
In a practical situation we all use Fast Track thinking first, because it’s a reflex that kept us alive in emergencies since the dawn of time. If your self image is poor, you ‘ll tend to imagine the worst and react accordingly. (For example “They kept me waiting on purpose! I’m being disrespected!”)
If you act on this assumption, the beliefs floating below the surface of awareness – like icebergs – are ruling you. You may overreact. If you challenge this assumption that you are being disrespected, you are bringing your Reflective Thinking brain to work. Suppose “They” just didn’t realize you were in the queue?
Ask Yourself … Is This for Real?
If you are a worrier, you probably waste the energy you need to be happy and successful on fretting. This makes you stressful to be with and work with. So your self image is more likely to be poor.
Learn to challenge your belief that every time something goes wrong it’s the end of the world. This isn’t often reality based, and if anyone tries to tell you that it is, then you’re probably being manipulated for their convenience.
This is related to a mental habit called “Terribilizing”.
How terrible would it be, honestly, if you offended a friend by saying “No” nicely? Or ended up arriving late? What could you sensibly do to stop it being so terrible?
There is a technique for challenging your negative beliefs. It’s not just Think Before You Act, good as that is. It’s Think before you RE-Act, where RE is short for REALITY. For example, if you are held back by a belief that you are useless with Maths, ask yourself :
- How come I never get into debt, or buy the wrong size clothes?
- How good do I need to be, and who will help me become good enough?
If there actually is an underlying problem you need specialized help, and if you are reading this then you’re well able to seek it out!