Self Image: The view from my eyes...
Self image is precious and can be the most harmful to our psyche. Self image is collectively composed of two views, the view of self through your eyes, and the view of self through others eyes. And that's because how we see ourselves is directly positively and/or negatively impacted by how others see us.
Before I really get into the message, I wanted to share why I choose this particular photo of myself for this post.
I decided to use this photo (circa 2008) because it is from a time in my life that I was attacking my writing career with everything I had. I was about to publish another book and I was in very good shape. I was fresh out of college (Dance major) and finding my own way in the world. I was fit and carefree. The woman you see in this photo had great self-image. And honestly the version others saw of me, and the way I saw myself (at this point) I can say with certainty were the exact same. So I was filled with confidence and life was good!
However since that time I have experienced LIFE. And I often look back at this photo (and others similar) and ponder how little life experience I had and how much of a factor that played in my ability to just be sublimely happy.
Because although I learned how to fight to maintain a healthy self image every single day, I started to pay attention to the frequency that my self image was negatively impacted by the comments of others. Especially those closest to me.
I realized how often I would feel bad, for no other reason than I heard a negative comment and it was stuck in my head. Echoing like I was screaming for "help" falling down a black hole (point of no return).
But, for the sake of my sanity, I needed to learn how to actively combat those comments.
I learned that I had to work twice as hard to quiet the negativity in my head, but that in order to do that, I had to learn to place a higher value on my own opinion of myself and accept myself in the current space that I was in and move on...
With that being said, this post is targeted to help you give value to your voice and provide tools to help you maintain valuing your voice above all others, especially when fighting to maintain a positive self image.
HERE ARE 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW AND PRACTICE!
1.. ESTABLISH (RE-ESTABLISH) YOUR WORTH
We always like to use the phrase "I know my worth", but I will counter with the question, do you really?
Because if we really think about how easy it is to allow someone else's words to strike us so deep that we fall to tears, or even make a conscious effort to change to meet their approval, we'd know that we can't possibly know our worth at all. And it should be clear that you have very little value placed on your individual self image.
The key to establishing (or for many of us re-establishing) your worth, is to take a minute and WRITE DOWN the reason's why you are perfect just the way you are. Then take a look at yourself in the mirror, and I mean really really look at yourself (time not a factor) and stay there until you can walk away feeling confident that you are beautiful and that no matter what any one else says they see, you know what you see is MOST IMPORTANT.
2.. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
There is a 50% chance that many of us are our very first hater. And I say 50% chance because I understand that not all of us grow up with loving parents who tell us often that we are beautiful unconditionally, or even with a village who reinforces that. And I also know that while it's very easy to identify all the haters on the outside, if we really wanted to get rid of the haters (altogether), we should probably first start with NOT comparing ourselves to others.
In order to do this, however, you must focus on the positive. What positives you ask, well I am referring to the positives you identified as a part of establishing (re-establishing) your worth.
In my experience one of the hardest things for me was to hear someone else deem me "ugly".
I didn't develop or even focus on self image until probably middle school. I didn't care how others saw me before that, and on a very basic level I knew what I looked like and that's what it was. I didn't think to deep about it. But starting in middle school (and still today) I noticed that I was often compared to my lighter skinned sister and deemed not as "pretty".
However, in order to combat feeling bad or sad often, I told myself at a very young age (after hearing this from an adult that I now can't recall), not everyone has the same tastes with regard to attractiveness. So what one person may deem ugly, someone else may deem gorgeous.
After applying this, it became easier for me to accept criticism. I was able to acceptance opinions as that individual's feelings, but not as a collective truth. And I learned to respond to those comments/opinions with, "OK" or "That's fine" and move on from it because I knew that one view was not my view or that of many others.
So don't let one person's perception or view of you allow you to assume that is the same perception or view of every individual in the world, because quite frankly it's just not true.
If you are truly focusing on the positive, you should have no issues allowing yourself to receive criticism and compliments from others.
Remember don't hate on yourself!
3.. ALLOW YOURSELF TO ACCEPT COMPLIMENTS
When establishing my self-image I use to have the hardest time accepting compliments. From my perspective the compliments would be far and few in between, so I would always second guess them. But I learned that allowing yourself to challenge compliments is very damaging to your self image.
A compliment that I would frequently receive was that I had a beautiful smile. And it took me awhile to see my smile for what it was, but now, I smile often and I am very aware of how enticing it is.
I learned to welcome compliments now everyday and I even make an active effort to pay it forward. Because understanding the magnitude of compliments makes you want to be responsible for sharing that positive energy with others.
4.. DISPEL NEGATIVE THOUGHTS/COMMENTS
I won't lie and say that every time you look at yourself in the mirror that you will feel "pretty". You definitely should but it's just not reality. However, it is up to you whether you allow yourself to fester in negative thoughts or comments.
In order to maintain a healthy self image that reeks of confidence, you must dispel all negative thoughts and comments.
Don't allow yourself to go there. Steer clear of that black hole of negativity.
What works for me personally is redirection. What redirection looks like for me is actively focusing on a positive aspect of something that was criticized.
For example, having a wide nose is opposite of the generalized idea of "pretty". But it's mine and it's me. So I learned to combat that by first acknowledging it as truth "yes I do have a big nose" then I acknowledge a positive "but it fits my face". I try to steer clear of thinking about anything that would encourage me to fix or change it.
But redirection has to be actively practiced, and if you do it, you will notice how easily it is for negative thoughts or comments to bounce right off of you.
5.. COMPLETE ACCEPTANCE
If you made it here, you start to see the world differently and it's essentially a state of nirvana. The place where you are aware of who you are and no one's opinion has the ability to change that.
At step five you have achieved a healthy, confident self image.
And remember that using these tools only work if you make the decision to accept the person that you see in the mirror, flaws and all, no matter what anyone else says.
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