How Your Self-talk Forms Your Self-image
Your self-image is your subconscious opinion of you based upon the countless beliefs and attitudes you’ve recorded in your “data bank.” It’s your inner “picture” of who you are and what you expect of yourself. “I’m outgoing,” “I’m shy,” ”I’m a fast learner,” ”I don’t like books,” “I have rhythm,” “I can’t dance,” “I’m popular,” “I’m a loner.” Your “picture” is a composite of everything you’ve learned.
You build your own self-image by what you sanction of what is said about you. A self-image is the standard by which you self-regulate. You build this standard with your every thought, and you self regulate around it. Every time you perceive yourself beneath it, you correct up. If you perceive yourself above it, you correct back.
The key to releasing your wonderful potential and achieving your goals is how you talk to yourself and to the people around you.
When we “belittle” another person, we ask them to be little. When we devalue another person, we ask them to be less than they are. I belittle others more when my self-esteem, my feeling of worth, is down. I then use biting words to make people littler than I am; in effect, I say, “Be littler than I am, so that I can look bigger.”
Rather than tell ourselves and others “Be little,” we ought to say, “Be big big in esteem, big in value, big in worth.” And yet we use words to belittle, to make our associates, children, spouses, parents, feel smaller than we are not in physical stature but in attitude, confidence, courage.
Belittling means, “I want you to be of less significance so that I am of more significance.” Instead of going about it the right way making myself more significant by improving my character attributes, knowledge, and skills I try to make people around me less significant by devaluing them.
What does devalue mean? How do you make a person of less value? You say, “Oh, she’s not so hot; I know this about her. I don’t know why you think he’s so powerful. I will show you that he has less power than you think.”
How tragic it is to belittle ourselves and others when we could be building feelings of esteem, worth and value. Children, and other so called “little people” in your life, especially need you to build their esteem.
How might you build a good self-image in a child? Suppose a three year-old boy is learning how to draw. He colors a picture, thinks he has done something well, and so he seeks the approval of an authority, a five-year-old sister who has her art displayed on the refrigerator. So, he runs up to his sister and says, “Look, look what I did.”
The sister says, “What is it? Stupid, you didn’t even color inside the lines.”
Now the boy gives sanction to her appraisal. “Sister says I’m dumb and stupid and can’t draw.” As this self-talk goes on in his mind, he puts a great big, negative weight on his attitudinal balance scale, which causes him to lean in a negative direction with the belief “I can’t draw because sister says so.”
He draws another picture, and this time he shows it to an older brother and says, “Look what I did.”
Now brother doesn’t want to be bothered, and so he says, “Get out of here, stupid. You can’t draw.”
If the boy gives sanction to his brother’s appraisal, his thoughts accumulate to build the belief: “I’m stupid and can’t draw.”
Suppose that now he spends all day painting the best picture of his life. He shows it to his mom and says, “Look what I did.”
She wrinkles her nose and says, “My goodness. What have you done? That’s awful.”
Now, what is that kid thinking? “Boy, I can’t draw. And that’s the truth.”
Now, when he goes to kindergarten, the teacher says, “All right, class, we’ve got a wonderful surprise today. We’re going to pass out the crayons, and we’re all going to draw.”
That boy thinks, “No, I’m not. The last time I drew, I got my feelings hurt. I can’t draw.”
You act, not in accordance with your potential, but in accordance with the truth as you see it. When you treat people negatively, when you devalue and belittle them, you damage their self-image of reality if they sanction it. And they will sanction it if you have credibility with them as a leader, parent, spouse, or sibling.
You have beliefs and expectations about every aspect of your life what kind of person you are morally, socially, spiritually, intellectually. So, in a sense, you don’t have just one self-image, you have thousands.
For example, you have a belief about what kind of leader you are and within that belief, you may have self-images. You may think, “I’m a leader on my softball team and as a teacher at school, but I’m not a leader in my community or church.” You also have an opinion about what kind of athlete you are. You may say, “I’m great at tennis, golf, and bowling, but I’m a lousy swimmer.” You’ve recorded a self-image for every skill or experience, real or imagined. Each one is built with a belief, and these beliefs control your life.
We think and act not in accordance with the real truth, but the truth as we believe it. If you build your self-image on negative beliefs, those beliefs are recorded in your mind as “Just like me,” and that’s how you behave. If you don’t change your beliefs, you can’t change your self-image and you will continue to act as you believe yourself to be.
At some point, you may wonder, “How did I get these beliefs?” You acquired them through your own self-talk the conversations you have with yourself in your own mind. Thoughts make up those silent conversations, and thoughts accumulate to build beliefs. We think in words, which trigger pictures, which bring about emotions. Your thoughts and emotions are recorded in your brain as “the truth.” Then you start reinforcing “the truth” with your “Just like me” behavior. So your self-talk is the foundation of your self-image.