The stories we tell ourselves are powerful. In fact, they can entirely dictate our direction in life (and how far we go!) Have you ever thought about your self-image, and where it originated?
Self-image (and its near-neighbour, self-esteem) have shaped my life and my coaching career. Have I told you my personal story? If not, buckle up for a character arc that will probably surprise you!
I was a shy child, which was fine until a bigger boy moved next door and started to bully me. That period of time was pivotal, because it filled me with self-doubt but also stirred up some real rage inside me.
Fast-forward to my teens and I was a pretty good ice hockey player, but that poor self-image reared its ugly head again. I endured low level bullying from other players, and the occasional fist fight out on the ice (it’s pretty common in the sport). And one day, I just cracked.
False self-image as a protective mechanism
At this stage, I was physically big and knew I could look imposing. That, paired with my barely-buried anger, made for an explosive combination. Before long I was fighting on the ice, and even out on the streets. I finally had “respect” from other players, but that kept me caught in an identity I’d created for myself. Joe – the big guy, the angry guy, the guy who’s always getting into trouble.
I came within a hair’s breadth of a prison sentence, actually. But there was a small spark inside me that knew all of this wasn’t for me. I could see my life unravelling into bad behaviour, trouble with the police, and the inability to make meaningful relationships (including the relationship with myself!)
A mentor entered my life in the form of George, who was GM of the ice rink. He asked me to be his Personal Trainer. In return he would be my unofficial life coach.
And that’s where the real story starts. I was at a fork in the road, and I chose myself. It took a lot of honesty and hard “inner work”. But the things George introduced me to, the questions he asked and areas he encouraged me to explore, brought me back to myself.
Can you see where self-image pops up twice in this story?
The first – ultimately false – self-image that I created during my ice hockey career served a purpose (getting the bullies to leave me alone) but it did me no favours at all. And I always knew it wasn’t the true me.
And the second self-image that I uncovered and strengthened with the help of my mentor George.
Poor self-image breaks you down
Healthy self-image builds you up
A poor self-image is like invisible shackles around your ankles. It will always pull you back from your goals, as it is built on negative values, beliefs, and behaviours. But these examples are often hard wired into us from an early age.
That’s why it takes dedication and work to shift your self-image. But it can be done. I did it, and I’ve seen 1000s of my clients do it.
How to improve your self-image
“The brain tells us what we can do based on what has happened in the past. Changing your self-image is changing the picture of yourself, which can be done through daily practice of visualisation and imagination.” (Dr Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics)
When you align your self-image with your values, goals, and positive beliefs, you’ll have unshakable motivation. If you haven’t done any work on these areas, take a look at the following blog posts for some useful exercises: values, goals, beliefs
My 3-step process to improving self-image
Affirmation (reading your core values, positive beliefs, habits and goals)
Visualisation (see yourself having those things, create your mental movies)
Repetition (repeat the process every day)
Step 1: affirmations
Take your Values, Beliefs, Habits and Goals and put them into a self-image routine you can revisit every day. Here’s an example (swap out my words for your own).
I value health
I value my family
I value freedom
I value wealth
I am at the perfect age to lose weight, and I have evidence of this because I have plenty of time to focus on my goal now the kids have left home. I am going to put this positive statement in my daily reminders and read it when I wake up and before I go to sleep. This will help keep me focused on the positive outcome.
I ‘have a nice hot bath’ if I feel triggered by ‘a stressful day at work’ as this gives me the feeling of ‘relaxation and peace’.
It’s the 31st August and I weigh 12 stone, I am wearing my size 12 dream black dress and I feel incredible.
Step 2: visualisation
Create a self-image routine using the example below, and do this every day, ideally somewhere quiet.
- Read your Values
- Read your Positive Beliefs
- Read your Good Habits
- Read your Goals
- Choose one thing to focus on in your visualisation for the day – it could be your goal, feeling confident for a meeting or allowing your mind to think about self-confidence
- Box breathing for 10 minutes and visualise (have fun)
- Spend 3-5 minutes thinking about the things you are grateful for in life
Step 3: repetition
Stick with it! You are probably undoing decades of old conditioning, so please expect this to take practice. But it should feel fun and rewarding – and you’ll notice a change in a matter of weeks.
Do you think self-image is holding you back from mastering your goals? Drop me a line to discuss coaching. I would love to help you.
‘The number one rated Personal Trainer In Henley and Oxfordshire’