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Letting Go of Self-Images


(I first wrote this on 6/10/03)

The basis of any human relationship is very closely related to one’s self-image. A negative self-image sets up all sorts of defenses that may in fact create a negative image of you in another person. This is called a self-fulfilling prophesy.

It is not going to help you to believe that your upbringing, your relationship with your own parents is the cause of your negative self-image.

You need to take control of your own self-image and change it by mental practice.

— Jurriaan Plesman

I can see how self-image causes self-fulfilling prophesies. I've also seen how other-image causes self-fulfilling prophesies.

Whenever you apply a label to yourself or to somebody else, you then use that label as a guidepost. For example, if you think you are "stupid", then you might avoid challenging tasks that would build your intellect. If you think somebody else is stupid, then you avoid giving him challenging tasks that would build his intellect.

If you think you are a "failure" then you make a big deal out of every mistake you make, because it "proves" you are a failure, and then you stop trying at all because you are sure you'll fail.

Some people think that the antidote for a negative self-image is a positive self-image. But I think the antidote is to stop relying on self-image. Self-image is just a bunch of labels and selective memories chosen to support those labels.

Everybody can learn new behaviors. Everybody can try new activities. Everybody can walk down a street they've never seen before.

I suppose fear of the unknown is what keeps people from walking away from their self-applied-labels. Or maybe they tried once, and failed, so they figure they'll fail again. Don't most of us fall down several times before we learn to walk? If my one-year-old nephew stopped trying to walk because he fell once and hurt his head ...

Which labels would I like to discard? Hmmmm. All of them? There are certain roles that give stability to my life: my job, my sexual preference, my family & friend relationships, my spiritual seeking. There are certain roles that keep my body and mind highly tuned: my running, walking, biking, lifting, meditating, eating, and sleeping patterns.

But I don't want my roles to become so stiff that I disregard new opportunities that pass within sight. I don't want to cling to my current form so tightly that I suffer from the strain. It is by allowing myself to try new activities (sometimes with new people) that I learn and grow.


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