May 212013

We all have a mental image of ourselves, though we may not all be aware of it. When you picture yourself in your mind’s eye, what do you see?

How accurate would you say your vision of yourself is? How closely does it correspond with how you feel? If your image is positive and you’re happy, that’s a match and things are authentically good. However, if your image and feelings are out of synch, you will probably find it helpful to examine this picture of yourself and bring it up to date.

In my early twenties, I went a bit wild (delayed teenage rebellion) and my mental self-portrait was of someone energetic, reasonably athletic, attractive, slightly manic but the life and soul of the party. I suppose this was more or less who I was for a few years but it’s strange how long this view persisted after I had slumped into depression and ceased to be any of those things. Having a self-image that’s more positive than reality invites all sorts of trouble and I have no doubt that my depression was worsened by the fact that I was so slow on the uptake as far as my image was concerned. My fantasy was diverging further and further from actuality, without my even realising it was a fantasy. This led to a lot of disappointing and upsetting reactions and some bewildering cognitive dissonance.

Finally, my self-image caught up with reality and I developed a vision of a stout, frumpy wallflower. This is who I was for many years but it’s equally strange how long I retained this view of myself after I had made all sorts of progress on the road to autonomy, health and happiness. Again, the delay in updating my self-image was bad for me, this time impeding my recovery by endlessly reflecting back to me the incarnation of my depression. Below the level of conscious thought, I decided I couldn’t be making the progress I thought I was.

Now that I have finally succeeded in creating a mental picture that represents the happy, confident me I usually am these days, image and reality are aligned, each reinforcing the other.

If you’re not living up to your positive self-image, it’s time to have a long, hard look at the truth. You have to face up to reality before you can change it. On the other hand, if your self-image is negative, working on it can lead the way to improvements in your actual wellbeing. Continually visualising yourself as you want to be is a crucial factor in genuinely becoming the you you want to be.

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