“A strong positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success” – Dr. Joyce brothers
No matter how intelligent, attractive, or talented you may be — to the degree you doubt your worthiness you tend to sabotage your efforts in achieving your goals. Your sense of self-worth is related to your perception of yourself. Your self-perception depends on knowing who you are, what you are like, and what you are capable of. Self-perception goes beyond positive self-esteem, and also involves your shortcomings, problem areas and shapes your life by creating tendencies. Like for instance, If you feel worthy and deserving, you tend to make productive choices and if you feel unworthy and undeserving, you tend to make destructive or limiting choices. When you do your self-assessment with your perceived worth, you have self-perception problems because your emotions or misconceptions lead you to false choices and sometimes to wrong conclusions. Adjusting your self-perception can improve your circumstances by changing the choices you make and the actions you take.
Self-perception problems takes many forms, such as engaging in self discriminating behaviour or undermining your health, success, or lowering your self-esteem. The moment we recognise the degree to which our problems are self-imposed, we begin to solve these problems by taking responsibility for the choices and actions that caused it. One of the most important measure you can take is to become aware of how your self-perception or self-image has shaped your existence and how you can transcend it. We each have the ability to achieve greatness. But sometimes this requires reframing your self-messaging to recognise your potential.
“You must have a positive self perception in order to transcend anything.” – Steve Maraboli
What is self-perception?
Self-perception is the personal view, or mental picture that we have of ourselves. It describes the characteristics of self, including how we think and feel, based on our physical appearance, intelligence, talents and performance. These characteristics form an internal dictionary of our strengths and weaknesses. Based on these, we tend to assign labels to our personal self and form conclusions about our image like for instance, I am intelligent…therefore I am…, or I am a failure.. therefore I believe I cannot…It is through these conclusions, our self-perception becomes either positive or negative.
How is self-perception developed?
Self-perception is mostly a product of our experiences. Factors like religion,culture, environment, friends and peers have a major influence on our self-perception. Our experience with others and world around add to our perception. Relationships and family influence what we think and feel about ourselves. The perception of our self may be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Based on this view, we develop either positive or negative self-perception. We continually take into and evaluate ourselves based on our appearance, relationship, and performance.
We all begin our life with a complete, natural sense of worth, but as we grow, we serve as our own judge, or get heavily influenced by others’ opinions and start to validate or negate how we perceive ourselves. As a result, we constantly strive to live up to societal expectations and compare ourselves to others. When we fail to measure up, we give rise to doubt, pessimism thereby eventually discouraging ourselves and end up in self-sabotaging our own efforts and talents. If your self-perception depends on external factors, it results in negative self-worth.
On the other hand, if your self-perception is based on your personal perspective, and not on societal expectations, you will have a more positive self-perception.
Importance of self-perception
Self-perception is important because how we perceive ourselves affects how we feel and think about ourselves and how we interact with others and the world around us. A positive self-perception boosts our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. On the other hand, having wrong self-perception leads to low self-worth and you end up focusing more on your faults, weaknesses, failure and imperfections. This results in constant self-criticism and your imperfections blown out of proportion. With a positive perception, you recognise your strengths and full potential while being realistic about your limitations.
How can you develop an accurate perception of yourself
Self-perception is not permanent and keeps changing according to our experiences. Our perceptions of ourselves will never be that perfect. However many times, we fail to perceive ourselves accurately and as a result we fail at reaching our full potential and decreases our satisfaction and ability to function in certain areas of our life. If you don’t think you can go after your dreams, passions, or you’re worried you can’t change your negative behaviour, or simply you lack confidence, the problem might not be your situation, but just your perception of yourself. You can learn to develop a more positive and accurate view of yourself by challenging the distortions of your thinking. Here is how you can develop a more positive perception of yourself.
Rely on your self-awareness
First step in fixing your perception of yourself is to identify how you see yourself. Develop an awareness of who you are and your strengths and weaknesses. Answering certain questions like what defines your true self and how you see yourself will reveal a realistic perspective and you can get to know your strengths and also gives you an opportunity to work on your weaknesses. Acceptance of your weaknesses or flaws is an important step to work on them over time. Relying on your own awareness and not being influenced by others’ opinion not only gives you a greater sense of control over yourself but also a realistic view of your abilities.
Confront your thinking distortions
Your perception of yourself is primarily based on your personal feelings, emotions, and perspectives. To get an understanding of your thinking distortion’s, notice your critical voice, unhelpful thoughts and limiting beliefs. Notice your inner dialogue. Are your thoughts mostly critical or encouraging?Are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful when things go wrong? How do your thoughts tends to distort your reality? How do you label yourself? Are your labels helpful or unhelpful in achieving your goals? Are your thoughts rational? What assumptions do you tend to make about yourself? Working through these will help you confront your unhelpful, distorted thoughts, beliefs and incorrect assumptions. If you notice that you are overly critical of yourself and your thoughts are unhelpful and negative, then it’s important to work through these areas in order to overcome your negative self-perception.
Focus on positive attitudes
You don’t need to be perfect, in fact if you can learn from your mistakes and failures, and view them as learning experience, you can shift your perception from negative to positive. If you can stop judging your mistakes so harshly, you can stop yourself from falling into self-defeating cycles and from negatively engaging in negative behaviours. By focusing on your strengths, you can review your mistakes and embrace challenges to perceive yourself as more able and competent.
Don’t Rely on external validation
Allowing others to define you will allow others to shape your attitudes, perception and opinions. If you depend on external validation, you are always comparing and trying to live up to expectations of others. You alone can change your self-perception to positive based on your own representation of yourself and not on others definition of you. This can happen by accepting who you are and taking responsibility of your thoughts and choices. This enables you to have an optimistic outlook and more confidence in yourself and in your own ability.
The desire to be perfect creates anxiety and sometimes leads to self-criticism. When you indulge in self-criticism, your inner-critic takes over thereby creating a negative perception of yourself. However constructive criticism can be helpful providing optimism and motivation. But if your self-talk is making you feel helpless and hurting your confidence, then instead of criticising yourself, choose to give yourself a honest feedback that will provide you an opportunity to improve and will help you build a positive self-image.
Follow your passions
Finally, define your personal goals and objectives. What are your strengths? What goals are you passionate about achieving? How can you live with more meaning and purpose? Following your passions and purpose will replace the negative beliefs you carry about yourself. You can add all the positive layers to form a definite and a positive image of yourself. Take credit for your accomplishments and strengthen your worthiness despite others opinion.
By perceiving yourself valuable, you can create your own definition of who you are. A positive self-perception is all about how you see yourself without external influences and embracing your true self. Overcoming negative self-perception requires conscious effort and consistency. Follow the above mentioned suggestions to develop a positive and a more accurate view of yourself. Acknowledge your strengths and live with innate self-worth.
“What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” – Stephen Richards
There is an inner critic inside all of us who is constantly scrutinising and criticising our every action. Our inner Critic can be far more vicious than that we might hear from the outside. Our inside have intimate knowledge of us and can zero in on our weak points. This can be damaging to our self-esteem and self-image and holds us back from achieving what we want to. We end up beating ourselves up about not being and doing good enough.
Your Inner-Critic is developed by your constant self-talk. You might be told by this critic that you are not competent or intelligent enough, and the other things that you don’t like about yourself. Sometimes the guilt of what ifs caused by this critic can make it difficult to accomplish your goals and you can have tough time to let go of the never ending story of imperfections that are created by it.
Is Your Inner-Critic always damaging?
More often, your Inner-Critic is the baddest and biggest bully that keeps you from making progress and delays you from becoming the best version of yourself. But at the same time, this may not be true always. Your critical inner self can also be an effective motivator and a protector. Your Inner-Critic is judging you in order to protect you from hurt and pain. It helps you in being cautious, in perfecting something, in getting successful and intelligent.
Most of the times, It tries to fit you into a perfect ‘self’ by prescribing some rules and attacks you when you try to violate them. Even though it gets you acquainted with your imperfect self or with the things you don’t like about yourself, it need not make you less acceptable. Instead, by establishing a positive connection, you can come up with constructive self-criticism and can turn that into a taskmaster. This will get you to work hard or to be disciplined or to avoid being mediocre.
Know what your Inner-Critic is doing for you.
Your critical self is made of opinions that come from the environment you live in, parents, teachers, peers, media and from your own conclusions. It is a voice based on your so formed beliefs. To know whether your inner voice is helping you or lowering your self-worth, it is important to know which type it belongs to according to the following:
If your inner voice has high standards of behaviour and performance then it tries to get you to do things perfectly. On the downside, it might prevent you from creating anything for the fear of not being good enough and can make you work forever trying to perfect something.
This inner voice tries to point out mistakes and attacks you for some of your past action or behaviour that has been harmful to you or to others. Because of the violation of a deep-help value, it takes you on a guilt-trip.
This critic tries to control your behaviour that might not be good for you or might be risky. It tries to be harsh in certain situations where you slip up.
This kind of inner voice tries to make you feel worthless and undermines your self-confidence. It undermines your confidence of taking up to difficult tasks and keeps you away from taking risks so that you won’t fail.
This critic tries to state facts like — You are a loser, You will never amount to anything and so on and attacks on your fundamental self-worth. It shames you deeply thereby stopping you from taking action.
This critic tries to get you to fit a certain mould. It attacks you when you aren’t and praises you when you are thereby making you feel inadequate.
This gets you to work hard and to be disciplined in order to be successful. It can also lead to over-striving and workaholism.
By having a clear sense of what your Inner-Critic is, what it sounds like and how it is directing your behaviour, you can decide to either work with it or try and make necessary changes to make it into a constructive critic. You can do this by being aware of both its benefits and its consequences. Follow these steps to establish a positive connection with your Inner-Critic
Know your thought patterns
How you respond to your inner voice depends mostly on your thought patterns. Analyse your critical thoughts. Certain thought patterns may make you experience motivation and achievement. Others might be negative patterns acting as your enemies. Ask yourself the question: would you put up with a person saying negative things constantly about you? If you wouldn’t tolerate, then why put up with you own negative self. Identify the triggers and content of these negative patterns in order to break out of them.
Make a list of your self-critical statements
Writing down your self-critical statements heightens your awareness and allows you to take a closer look at their usefulness. Look at some of your statements that you wrote down and ask whether they are guilting or are they trying to protect you or improve you. Some of them can be negative beliefs you hold about yourself. How well these statements are serving their purpose? Come up with some alternatives or constructive statements to use next time when any of these pop into your head.
Challenge your Inner-Critic
Challenge your critical inner voice or statements to test their logic and authenticity. You will come to know how realistic their concerns are or if they are just unnecessary fears. Analyse how likely each of those things are true. Reframe some of these statements and get a correct perspective. Find the positive things about you — you as a person or your achievements and focus on these when your Inner-Critic tries to break you down. Next time you hear your critic, ‘turn it off’ by replacing negatives and shifting your attention to something more positive.
Work on your self-esteem
People with very low self-esteem have a more vicious and demoralising Inner-Critic. It makes them stop being challenging and since they can’t live up to their own critical voice, they lose trust in their abilities. If you base your confidence on the evaluation of your achievements and the validation or approval of others, your confidence keeps varying every day. Keep it irrespective of these factors. Seeking validation from others leads to negative and unproductive thinking. Don’t let others’ opinion take control of your thoughts. Be confident in your own abilities. Higher the levels of your self-esteem, the more productive will be your Inner-Critic and its critical analysis of you.
Sometimes when you fail to meet your standards, your Inner-Critic because of its protective nature focuses on your short comings, triggers discontentment and prompts you to become defensive and avoidant. When you try to silence your inner self-talk, you tend to intensify its judgement. Instead try to approve yourself by viewing your mistakes with understanding and patience. Express empathy towards the fears held by your Inner-Critic. This way, you are more likely to take responsibility for your part and can focus on mending the situation.
Adopt a positive attitude
Adopting a positive attitude towards your life will free you from your damaging critical and negative self. Your Inner-Critic corrupts your mind and gradually pollutes your behaviour, emotions and your attitude. By developing a positive attitude, you get freedom from your inner voice like ‘How can I achieve that?’, ‘I am incapable of doing that’, ‘No, I am not good enough for this’, ‘I am a failure’, ‘what if something goes wrong?’, and similar thoughts. Inner-Critic makes you succumb to your fears and prevents you from taking a step forward because it makes you feel incapable of doing something. By keeping a positive attitude, you need not surrender to them and you can make yourself strong enough to stand your ground. You become free and liberated and can see different possibilities.
Replace negative words with positive
What kind of words do you usually tell yourself? Are they helpful?, or do they make you feel burdened. When you say things like, ‘I cannot get anything done’, or ‘I am sure I will fail’ and so on can make your Inner-Critic more strong in making you believe that you cannot improve and are incapable of doing something. Therefore these words need to be eliminated. Replace them with positive and affirmative phrases. For instance, When you find yourself thinking ‘ I am not good enough for this job,’ you can tell yourself ‘I may not be the best at this job, but I will learn to improve.’
Stay clear of using phrases like I already know, I’m sure, as they make you burdened with the responsibility of doing something in a certain way as this leads to self-doubt and you might lose yourself to negative thinking. Don’t resign to the fact that you will never be able to do something just because your Inner-Critic is telling you so.
• Be conscious of your Inner-Critic.
• Make your Inner-Critic work for you and not against you.
• Don’t let your Inner-Critic’s ‘you-can’t’ suppress your ‘Can-do’ attitude.
• Remember that your Inner-Critic is just one part of you and not whole of you.
• Take your Inner-Critic seriously when it comes to correcting your faults and weaknesses.
• Practice positive self-talk. Cultivate a habit of using words like ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘yet’.
All of us do our best to achieve our goals. It is not always easy, there are probably times where we think we could do more. Our Inner-Critic will always beat us up about not doing enough. But if we spend more time feeling guilty about it, the less time we will spend putting positive steps in place to achieve our goals. Do not let your Inner-Critic try convincing you to give up. Instead make a positive connection and work with it in order to reach your goals.
“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” – Iyanla Vanzant
Do you ever wonder why you are unable to accomplish your full potential. May be it is due to your inner critic who is constantly scrutinising and criticising your every action. This lowers your self-esteem and self-worth both which are essential for you to achieve your goals. Without these, your talents, skills, knowledge and intelligence can go untapped.
In today’s world, increasing competitiveness has led to a lot of achievement anxiety. Many suffer from dissatisfied selves and they often fear being left hopelessly behind. We begin to torture ourselves with thoughts about our inadequacies, starting from our appearances to the work we do to the success we achieve. This leads to people practice a habit of disesteeming. So how does one unlearn the practice of lowering their self-esteem and confidence?
Unlearning disesteeming can happen with learning to develop self-appreciation.
Importance of Self-appreciation
Self-appreciation is accepting yourself without the conditions of being perfect or attaining personal summit of any sort. This is a process of understanding your own value, and accepting what is real about yourself and what you want to do and what you want to be. By learning to appreciate yourself you receive positive reinforcements which further improves your self-esteem.
All of us nearly lose touch with our innate goodness and fail to love and appreciate ourselves. We cover it up with or come under the shadow of people’s opinions and expectations out of us. So, as a result we feel only partly deserving and begin to berate ourselves. If your mind is obsessed by thoughts of insecurity and inadequacy, it is due to the fact that such things have dominated your thinking for a long period of time. Deep within you begin to mistrust your ability to grasp opportunities and to meet responsibilities.
How deserving you are mostly depends on what you believe you deserve and only to the degree that you appreciate your inner worthiness. Success involves talent, effort and creativity, but first of all it requires self-confidence. Self-appreciation is sum of your overall sense of value, worth, goodness and deservedness and so is the measure of your confidence.
You need to learn how to start appreciating yourself and learn to give credit for strengths you possess. It is very essential to reappraise your self-esteem.
Here are some toxic thoughts you can eliminate in order to grow your self-appreciation and self-esteem.
Stop criticising yourself
If we tell ourselves that we are okay, no matter what is going on, we can make changes in our lives easily. It is when we make ourselves bad that we have great difficulty. When we get in the habit of judging ourselves, we lower our self-worth and feel not good enough. We find ways to keep ourselves miserable. We create illnesses, we procrastinate things that would benefit us. We fail to recognise our uniqueness when we get critical of ourselves and obscure it.
Your self-love must not be dependent upon you being perfect. Self-criticism might lead to more negative behaviour. Stop judging your own mistakes so harshly. Do not make the opinions of others more important than your own opinion of yourself. Tell yourself you are wonderful and praise yourself quite often.
“The things you don’t like about yourself don’t make you any less acceptable. Everyone has things they don’t like about themselves. No one is perfect. Learn to work with yourself and not against yourself. Learn to work with the parts of yourself you don’t like as much.”
⁃ Akiroq Brost
Stop being unkind to yourself
You need not hate yourself for having negative thoughts. Don’t blame yourself for negative experiences. Being kind to yourself means you stop all the blame and guilt. We all come under constant pressure of being perfectionists. Difficulties and problems tend to sap energy and we tend to yield lot of self-hate.
When you love and trust yourself, you are loving and trusting the wisdom that created you. If you are unkind to yourself, you are not trusting the wisdom that created you and you begin to develop a pessimistic view of world around you. This creates an obstacle that will inhibit your sense of self-appreciation. Begin to develop an optimistic view and appreciate your abilities. It is important to recognise that your view of things around you is based on how much you are kind to yourself and respect you have for yourself.
When you think that a bad situation is going to end up far worse than it actually is, you are catastrophising. In a way, you are blowing things out of proportion expecting worst out of life and out of many situations.
Scaring yourself with frightful thoughts makes situations worse than they are. Some do this when they are ill often visualising the worst. Some do this with their job. For instance, someone makes a remark at work, they think they are going to be fired. This leads to paralysing thoughts and leads to low self-esteem. Focus on your inner talk and match them with your desires and not with your fright.
When you are tensed and frightened, we shut off our energy. Take few minutes and allow the body and the mind to let go and relax. At any moment, practice taking few deep breaths. Appreciate yourself and affirm that you don’t have to go through life tense and frightened.
Stop negative self-talk
Negative self-talk refers to having negative image of yourself. Every time you say negative things to yourself you are appraising your negative self image. If you repeatedly think negative about yourself, you hold yourself back from having what you want. Very little you can do to better your situation with continued negativity.
Many negatively self-talk themselves out of success. They do this because of some difficulties or it is because they remember somebody talking down to them from their past. Every time a negative thought appears, switch it out with positive. Affirm that you deserve success and remove self-doubt and self-judgment. Unconditionally love yourself and begin with self-acceptance and self-love. Listen to your inner dialogue. Recognise negative self-talk and choose not to engage in it. Expel all thoughts of doubt and all lack of confidence.
“Relentless, repetitive self talk is what changes our self-image.” – Denis Waitley
Stop visualising negative outcomes
If you set out to do something, keep a solid picture of the completed work you are doing. You can create a clear, positive image that enhances a positive outcome. Formulate a mental picture of yourself succeeding. Never think of yourself failing. Doubting the reality of the mental image lowers your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Whenever a negative thought appears, deliberately cancel it out with a positive. Do not build obstacles in your imagination by expecting negative outcomes. Minimise your obstacles so as to eliminate them. Always picture yourself of succeeding no matter how badly things seem to be going at the moment. Mentally visualising and affirming your positives and emphasising them lets you rise out of any difficulty and leads to positive outcome.
Finally, fill your mind with peaceful and loving thoughts. Develop a loving attitude towards yourself. Feelings of self-love, self-appreciation and confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Practice self-appreciation by making it a dominating habit. This develops confidence in your abilities regardless of what difficulties arise and you will be able to overcome them. Improved self-esteem disempowers your fears and insecurities.
To sum up—If you can be satisfied with yourself now, you can love and approve of yourself and begin to love and accept others as well.
“Whatever you fear most has no power; it is your fear that has the power.”
Fear is just a loop of thoughts that you are feeding with new energy. Fear is generated mostly because of a distorted way of understanding of ourselves and the world around us. We end up creating more and more if we continue to focus our energy on them. They do not go away by just reassuring ourselves or by changing roles that deceive no one else but us.
Fears begin as feelings, beliefs based on past experiences or as expectations. Over a period of time, when there is no more space to hold these fearful thoughts in your mind, they all manifest in your body as physical tension or as certain health issues.
Fears limit your experiences. You may not fully commit to your efforts and they hold you back from achieving your full potential. To understand better let us look at some of the fears that limit your ability to accomplish your goals.
*Fear of inadequacy or not being good enough attributes to lower self confidence.
*Fear of other people lowers your ability to express yourself.
*Fear of losing or disappointments or being out of control may stop you from trying new.
*Fear of being out of control makes you avoid those ones which you have no control.
And the list goes on.
It is healthy when fear of loss helps us take steps to protect what we have worked hard for, but it is unhealthy to continue to fear something we can do nothing about.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”Jack Canfield.
Not all of our fears are specific and can be defined. They can appear as nervousness, hesitation, self doubt,or reluctance. Many of them turn into phobias. They keep multiplying unless a conscious effort is made to move past them.
Develop an understanding attitude.
Understanding the fears helps us to manage them better. The deeper your understanding, the greater it starts to dissolve the fear. Many of our fears are because of our attachment to possessions or people around us or success. For instance, When we understand that possessions are not the source of our joy or well-being, we don’t fear losing them. You don’t fear loss of money or success when you understand how money is created and you can always create more. Try to understand reasons that are holding you back. Most of the times they are made- up beliefs that are commonly associated with future events or based on past actions. Awareness reduces fear.
Accept what is.
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
If you deny your fears, they remain and sabotage your dreams. When you accept what is and continue, you get to know them and this in a way weakens that which is holding you back. You cannot control your fears. By accepting and facing your fears, you will realise that whatever you feared most of the times wasn’t really that scary.
Use fear as a fuel to motivate you.
“What we resist will indeed persist. What we befriend, will transcend.”
Don’t treat fear like an enemy. Treat it like your best friend who can help you. Try and replace your fears with love and power. Don’t let fear take over as this leads to self sabotage. Bring in the power within to overcome that is holding you back. Fear need not be an adversary. Make it as your guide and adviser. Fearlessness can be a powerful weapon against self doubt and low self confidence.
Use action habit to cure fear.
By taking decisive action or doing what you fear makes the fear disappear. Fear makes you psychologically uncomfortable just as pain does physically.
It is very essential to know when and where you should let fear guide you to take care and when you should choose not take risks. You can push through psychological fears such as fear of other people, shame, embarrassment, or rejection and so on as they are subjective and there is no risk of physical danger. But in case of physical fears, where there is a risk of physical injury, it is better to take precautions and not to take foolish risks.
Do not feed your fears.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Fears feed on our insecurities, feelings of loss, inadequacy and attachments. Don’t feed much energy to the negative thoughts that come and go. It is easy to do if you simply refuse to recall your negative and self depreciating thoughts. The unpleasant thoughts and fears will gradually disappear as you develop competence.
Don’t let fears capitalise on your opportunities. Accept and get past them. Take action by directing your thoughts towards your goals, passion, joy, and abundance.