by Elizabeth Connors-Keith, CHt
Your self-image is your mental picture of yourself, created from your beliefs about yourself that have been unconsciously formed from past experiences (particularly successes and failures) and others’ reactions to you, especially in early childhood. Does it really matter how you see yourself? As it turns out, it’s an extremely important factor in whether or not you succeed in reaching your goals because it defines what you can and can’t do. We don’t usually question the validity of our self-image, and all of our feelings and behaviors are always consistent with this self-image. This can work for us or against us.
In “Psycho-Cybernetics” Maxwell Maltz says, “Your brain and nervous system constitute a goal-striving mechanism which operates automatically to achieve a certain goal, very much as a self-aiming torpedo or missile seeks out its target and steers its way to it.” Like these “servo-mechanisms”, your brain has been programmed to reach certain goals, and will steer you toward those goals, and will remember what moved you toward your goals and what didn’t, always self-correcting. This is highly beneficial for you when the programming is positive and healthy. When the programming is negative or unhealthy, then this machine-like mechanism works to your detriment. Instead of becoming a success mechanism it becomes a failure mechanism.
If you want to succeed at being a failure your brain will help you achieve that. If, for example, your image of yourself is that you are ugly or deformed, you may unconsciously want to keep people away, believing people won’t like you due to your looks. Or maybe because you’ve been hurt many times in the past you believe you are a victim and will be victimized by people again. These can be seen as goals that your brain’s goal-seeking mechanism will help you achieve just as surely as helping you to achieve lofty goals. You will act like the person in your self-image, influencing people to treat you in ways that reinforce that image of yourself. Your brain always works to make you successful, according to your self-image. If you conceive of yourself as a failure at something, you will act in such a way as to ensure that you fail at that. Being a failure then will seem to you to be the truth of who you are, whereas it is actually that image of yourself that is creating the unconscious goal to fail, which causes you to set up the circumstances to fail.
When you change your self-image you change your results in life. Many years ago Prescott Leckey, a pioneer in self-image psychology who was also a schoolteacher, helped his poorly performing school children change their self-images. As a result, they dramatically improved their academic performances, excelling in areas where they had been failing. This also happens in the state of hypnosis: with a change in self-image people are able to do things they thought impossible before the hypnotherapy because their cognitive limitations have been released.
Positive affirmations will not make you more successful as long as your self-image is not in alignment with them. Your self-image can be changed, but not by willing it. You must experience yourself differently in order to form a new self-image. But you don’t need to have real experiences. Your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between reality and something vividly imagined. If you repeatedly vividly imagine yourself the way you would like to see yourself, using as many of your senses as possible and feeling the emotions you would have if you were that way, it will feel as though you have really experienced this and your beliefs about yourself (your self-image) will naturally change. You can also accomplish a change in self-image more quickly when experienced in the state of hypnosis.
So, what do want to succeed at? Does your self-image support what you want consciously? Is your goal-striving brain serving goals that are in your best interest? If not, change your self-image.