Self-image is how you perceive yourself. It is a number of self-impressions that have built up over time. What are your hopes and dreams? What do you think and feel? What have you done throughout your life and what did you want to do?
These self-images can be very positive, giving a person confidence in their thoughts and actions, or negative, making a person doubtful of their capabilities and ideas.
Surprisingly, your self-image can be very different from how the world sees you. Some people who outwardly seem to have it all (intelligence, looks, personal and financial success) may have a bad self-image.
Conversely, others who have had a very difficult life and multiple hardships may also have a very positive self-image. Now, what does this have to do with success or fitness?
Most people already know the ‘How-to’’ when it comes to achieving great fitness goals. However, last change is usually more complicated. There are many psychological barriers on the journey to success.
You might think of yourself, “I’m the ‘free soul,’ I can’t imagine myself measuring my daily calorie intake.”
Or it could be as simple as “I’m struggling with losing weight.” or “I’ve always had a weight problem.” In the context of fat loss, not being able to let go of these images and many other similar beliefs can lead to self-sabotage and weight regain.
The impact of self image goes much deeper than just weight loss – it can affect your complete outlook of life and quality of relationships.
An example of this principle being applied to life can be seen in the example below derived from the book ‘Psycho ‘Cybernetics’ [a highly recommended book to delve deeper into this topic].
A young girl who has an image of herself as the sort of person nobody likes will find indeed that she is avoided at the school dance. She literally invites rejection.
Her woe-begone expression, her hang-dog manner, her over-anxiousness to please, or perhaps her unconscious hostility towards those she anticipates will affront her—all act to drive away those whom she would attract.
You will “act like” the sort of person you conceive yourself to be. Not only this, but you literally cannot act otherwise, in spite of all your conscious efforts or will power.
The man who conceives himself to be a “failure-type person” will find some way to fail, in spite of all his good intentions, or his will power, even if opportunity is literally dumped in his lap.
The person who conceives himself to be a victim of injustice, one “who was meant to suffer,” will invariably find circumstances to verify his opinions.
After all, we’re creatures of habit. Change is uncomfortable and a waste of energy (at least what your brain thinks). But what can you do if you see that your old self-image is holding you back?
How can we change our identity?
First off, it’s important to be aware of the things you tell yourself and realize how much your self-image governs your life. Without the awareness part, no technique will work.
Here are two practices to change the self-image:
1 – Big Epiphany
Epiphanies can come from many places, some of the most common ways we experience epiphanies are through a build-up of emotional leverage, tragic events or very positive events.
Regardless of where it comes from, the infusion of emotion can lead us to detach from our self-image and drop the limiting beliefs we had about our success.
Epiphanies are hard to manufacture and control. Most people are living in the “just good enough”.
What I mean by that is that most people are just good enough, so there’s no emotional leverage being built and so there’s no reason to question reality or beliefs.
2 – Tiny Habits
With small habits, you can be consistently doing a smaller version of behavior that couldn’t be congruent with the current self-image.
But each repetition in that new behavior now challenges the old self-image and slowly starts shifting your identity.
Example: Your self-image is. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to exercise.” Let’s say you start doing five push-ups every day.
You don’t need much motivation, time or will-power to execute the behavior. However, by doing this behavior you’re slowly challenging your beliefs, you’re exercising consistently. Even if it’s five push-ups every day, now you’re becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.
Every time you invest into a new self-image the easier is to make that self-image your new default. Once you have established a new default it’s just as hard to change it back to the old one. Exercise has become a part of their identity, and who they are.
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About the author:
Wilfred Paul is an Exercise Physiologist, PT & Weight Loss Consultant with a passion for helping people actualize their health & fitness goals. He is also a content writer for Forbes, Medical Daily & The Independent UK.