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Creating a Positive Self Image

I recently decided to go back to counseling. It is hard to recognize that you need help processing and working through your own thoughts, but it is important. I am working on a few things that my counselor gave me. I am trying to practice self-compassion and to work on having  a postitive self image.

Self-compassion is a term created by Dr. Kristin Neff. She is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin. She has spent over ten years researching and writing about this concept. It means we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. I have been working through her online exercises and they have been very inspiring. If you are interested, you can find them here.

I also really enjoy listening to The Life Coach School podcast by Brooke Castillo. Her recent episode was about Self-Image. You can listen to it here. She defines self-image as the way you see yourself. It is how you interpret and think about yourself. It’s not the factual way you see yourself, but the opinion that you have of yourself.

We spend a lot of time trying to manage how other people see us. In fact, for most of us, this is a full-time job. Managing how other people see us. The way we dress, the way we drive our cars, the way we manage our households, the way we do anything can be really about other people without even realizing that that’s what we’re doing.- Brooke Castillo

I believe I have been doing this. I have been trying to control how other people see me and I’m tired of it. I can’t control what other people think of me, I can only control what I think of myself. I don’t like what I think of myself because it is so negative and I am trying to change it. I need a plan! Thank heavens Brooke suggests some ideas.

If you could dictate what everyone’s opinion of you would be, what would it be? What is the best-case scenario? What do you want them to think about you?

My first thought was surprisingly not about my physical appearance because I am so obsessed with telling myself how imperfect my body is. My first thought that I want people to notice or think about me is that I am kind, I am happy, and that they can find a friend in me. I want people to feel better after being around me. I want to lift people up and to be a positive light in a dark world. I want to allow myself to reach my fullest potential.

In sixth grade I was in the school musical. I was a background dancer with my friends. A high school senior came and taught us the choreography for the dance. I don’t remember the dance or even if I performed well, I only remember that I loved being in the musical because of her positive influence. She radiated joy wherever she went. If I could control what people think of me, then that would be what I would want them to see. I would want people to say, “I like being around Karen. She is fun and positive and I feel loved and accepted when I am with her.

Ask yourself what is the thing that you think you need to achieve to prove your worthiness? How would you think about yourself if you achieved it?

The two biggest things I want to accomplish in the next few years is to become healthier (physically and mentally) and to finish writing a novel.

I am tired of being overweight, but it is more than just a number on the scale. I am tired of my bad eating habits. I am tired of the way that I beat myself into making change. It never works! I need to be compassionate with myself as I change my bad habits that I have lead me down this unhealthy road. I need to be friend to myself first. I can’t be the kind of person I want to be when I am abusing myself.

I would love to finish a novel. I have four in transition but I haven’t finished them. I am very excited about the one I am working on now. It is the kind of book that I would like to read, about history, romance, and how the characters overcome their personal struggles to find themselves and to grow a beautiful, lasting relationshiop. I need to write it for myself, not for anyone else. I believe it will be a good book!

Now, once you do these two exercises, you’re going to have a long list of thoughts that you would love to think about yourself. It’s the ideal self image that you can have of you.

Brooke says the more I honor myself and take care of myself, the more I have to give. The more I love myself genuinely, the more I love other people. I would love to be like this!

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