In this first of a series of posts, I want to talk about an often-overlooked reality all of us face as we pursue a different result or outcome in any area of our life like marriage, relationships, parenting, finances, health and so on. It’s the reality (and challenge) of how your self-image determines your quality of life. Perhaps even more than most other things.
Some of you are familiar with this concept, but if you’re not, I’d like to introduce you to an idea that might 1) explain a lot of things in your life and 2) help you overcome certain challenges that have been hindering you for quite some time, while also 3) create new breakthroughs in the area of your life in which you needed most.
It’s the idea that your self-image or self-concept determines your quality of life.
Now, as this series of posts continues, I will unpack this idea a lot more but for now, I need you to start getting your head around the fact that you will ALWAYS behave like the sort of person you conceive yourself to be.
Even in spite of all your conscious decisions, efforts, goal setting, or willpower.
Your self-image is literally the key that determines just how much of your potential you can unlock.
This idea was popularised quite some time ago by the best-selling book, Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.
And today’s field of psychology considers this book to be one of the most important ever written because it’s a refreshing look at self-image and how you can change your life by re-programming the mechanism in your brain that controls your behaviour and thoughts.
A quote from his book that really captures this idea well is:
The self-image then controls what you can and cannot accomplish, what is difficult or easy for you, even how others respond to you just as certainly and scientifically as the thermostat controls the temperature in your home.
Maltz’s theory is that there is a vivid distinction between the brain and the mind.
The brain is the ‘machine’ that causes you to function while the mind is a life force that compels you to use your brain and body to achieve goals and rise to success.
His concept of “cybernetic” (as in the title of the book) is taken from the Greek word for ‘steersman’ which today is the term that is usually used to refer to how machines and animals control and communicate.
For example, a computer is a sophisticated machine that organizes itself to perform a function.
But Maltz argued that you can’t reduce yourself to a machine because you have the ability to know yourselves (self-awareness) and what makes you tick.
Now, I need you to think of the implications of this for a moment.
If your self-image truly determines all your actions, feelings, behaviour, abilities, and even how other people respond to you – what do your current results or situation “say” about the self-image you’re harbouring right now?
Also, since we have the ability to know ourselves (because we are more than machines), and that would imply the ability to be aware of our self-image – what is my role in creating my self-image?
And by extension, if I do play a role in determining my self-image (perhaps even choosing it), what does that say about the reality of my current situation and what I’m experiencing on a day-to-day basis?
Am I perhaps the creator of my own reality?
And if that’s the case, do I also have the power to change it?
Again, I’m asking you to take any area of your life and run with this theory for a moment.
Let’s take your marriage, for example.
I’ve worked with many couples so far, and it’s always interesting is that when couples reach a certain point of frustration, and happiness, and feeling unfulfilled, they shift their focus mainly primarily to the shortcomings and flaws of their partner.
But if Maltz’ theory is correct, then it’s more complicated than this.
Or perhaps simpler – depending on your perspective.
Maybe the current quality of my marriage (staying with the example) is really a 1) reflection of and 2) creation of my self-image.
Now, that’s a profound and pretty bold statement with severe implications.
Because if that’s the case then it means that any change I want to create within my marriage, not only starts with me doing a few things differently but the very essence of the person I conceive myself to be, needs to change.
To put it simply, if I want my situation to reflect a higher reality (be a better version than the old), I need to become a higher version of myself (compared to the old).
I think the ancient Jewish Rabbi Jesus said it well when he said that “old wineskins cannot contain new wine.”
The wineskin has got to change.
The self-image has to transform.
We know that it’s a fact that those with low self-esteem rarely rise to the top rungs of success.
But what is self-esteem but an outflow of self-image?
If you walk around with low self-esteem, you most likely at the core conceive yourself in a lowly way.
And so, unless you recognize when you’re being overly critical with your thinking process, the low self-image will keep plaguing you throughout your life and keep you from any success in your life.
Now, this brings us to an interesting question – is it possible to have different “self-images” in different areas of my life?
Say, for example, I truly see myself as a “good mum” but a “bad wife” – will that influence things by determining my actions, feelings, thoughts, and even how my kids versus my husband respond to me?
But that’s perhaps something to look at a different time.
For now, however, it’s important that you start to understand the power of your self-image on your life.
You also need to figure out how your current self-image developed.
Especially if your current self-image is influencing the quality of your life negatively.
Doing this will help you know how to rid yourself of the blueprint that makes up your current self-image, in order to replace it with a more helpful one.
Combating a lifetime of self-criticism isn’t easy, but with blogs like this, books such as Psycho-Cybernetics and other help available online and counselling today, you can start to develop a self-image conducive to success and happiness.
Understand that negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities are habits that are self-defeating and need to be separated from who you really are.
Habits are only that, habits.
They don’t define you.
You are more than your behaviour.
You are more than a machine.
You can learn to replace the thoughts, behaviours, and feelings that are heading your life right now, by adopting a better and more uplifting self-image.
And like I said, there are many methods that can help you with your quest to improve your self-image.
I will try and share a few in my upcoming posts.
Just know that it won’t happen overnight (sometimes it does though).
Like any bad habit, self-defeating thoughts must be dealt with every moment of every day until the bad habit is replaced with a good one – and one that will improve your self-image.
In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out my book for couples “Happy Again,” go and do so here now (or click the image below).
You can start improving your relationship to become happy, healthy, and intimate as a couple again, for a very tiny investment.
Like less than lunch.