Enhancing Your Self-Image
Success is an inside job. Even if your body and mind are ready, willing, and able to learn and do whatever is necessary to get the job done, a negative self-image may stop you.
Although we create many outward images of ourselves-so we can interact with or impress others and sell our ideas or services-we only have one self-image. The way we view ourselves determines the level of success we attain in anything. To achieve more success, some parts of our sense of self will have to change.
Your inward impression of yourself controls much of what you create in your life. When someone says, "Good morning, how are you?" you probably answer, "Fine," regardless of any troubles you may be having. The image you project is often very different from your true sense of self.
Because your level of success and happiness is controlled by your interior self-image, you must try to ensure that your exterior image and your interior image are in sync. If you can't match your self-worth with your exterior image, your ability to achieve at the highest levels will be restricted.
Try this exercise. Put the palms of your hands together with the fingers aligned as if in prayer. These hands pressing gently together represent you. Now twist your wrists, keeping your hands together, until the back of your right hand is facing away from your face. The right hand with its back facing out is the side of you that you want and allow the world to see. In fact, you present it to the world all the time. You put your best foot forward. It is the side of you that is happy, fine, capable, reliable, strong, honest, trustworthy, caring, sensitive, and thoughtful. This is your positive side.
Your left hand is the one only you can see. It's the side of you that isn't so good. This is the side of you that's not strong, that is lonely or hurting, that has faults, is afraid, unhappy, easily angered, and not confident. This is your not-so-positive side.
Which side is the real you-the positive side or the not-so- positive side? The truth is, you are both. One side does not negate the other. Just because you have faults, failures, or insecurities doesn't negate the fact that you have strengths, wonderful attributes, and abilities to get things done. Yet most people tend to let their not-so- positive side reduce the strengths on the positive side. They focus on the not-so-good side of themselves, saying, "I know I'm a good person, but . . . ."
If the image you have of yourself consists of only undistinguished and unexceptional qualities-or all the things you are not-then your self-image is discrediting your positive attributes. You can be-and in fact are-both at the same time. For example, if you get a pimple on your nose, isn't that all you see when you look in the mirror? Even though the rest of your face is just fine, you worry about the one blemish. But your pimple does not negate the wonderfulness of all your other features.
You can choose to put the not-so-positive side into proper perspective by no longer making it your focus. Once you have the right perspective, you are free to see all the good things about yourself. You can see that you have a profusion of strengths and abilities.
When people operate from the not-sa-positive side, they give themselves negative labels, saying, "I don't really have what it takes," or 'Tm not cut out for this." Often these labels are not true, but if they are your truth, a negative self-image results and affects your confidence, performance, and happiness.
To better understand how both sides are valuable to you, try another exercise. Put your hands in front of your chest, as if praying. Press them together as hard as you can, having someone hold your wrists at the same time. Now have them quickly pull your hands apart, moving one hand toward yourself and the other toward your partner. No matter how strong you are, or how hard you try, you will not be able to keep your hands together. Just as you are weak in trying to hold your hands together, you will be weakened if you consider your inner and outer selves as two separate beings.
Try this exercise again, this time interlocking your fingers. In this position, your hands cannot be pulled apart-you are strong now. As you can see, our weaknesses can actually make us stronger. Weaknesses tend to make us more humble and teachable. If you can believe that a weakness is truly a gift from God, then you must also believe that God will show you your weakness and make it your strength.
As a child, my weakness was my cowardice. That weakness prompted me to excel at karate. My lack of self-esteem as a young boy living on the Navajo reservation was one reason I decided to become a professional speaker and help others-so I could feel better about myself. My weaknesses have made me stronger.
If you are prone to take charge of a job and do it well, you are most likely driven by a weakness. This weakness could be a feeling of inferiority that makes you go out of your way to do well. Your feelings of inadequacy may cause you to be a top performer. In order to control the outcome, you have to take charge. Perhaps you have a need to be noticed, praised, or acknowledged that causes you to excel.
I know many people who appear to be very strong-they look and act like confident, make-it-happen, take-charge people. They get the job done, reach out to others, and are there to help whenever they can. Many are known for their caring hearts. But if they stop helping others, they feel empty and much of their joy goes away. On the surface, they seem fine, but inside they just aren't happy. For these people, helping others is like getting an emotional fix. They must help others to feel okay inside.
When I ask, "Who takes care of you?" I frequently hear, "No one." Such people feel lonely and are either unaware of their need to be taken care of or try to ignore it and meet their needs by helping others. Often the reason they reach out to others is because they know how bad it feels not to be taken care of. Because of our weaknesses-or needs-we feel powerful or compassionate, but we can still be left searching for our own happiness. When we are just givers, our own emotional resources quickly become drained.
By Jack M. Zufelt
"Mentor To Millions