4 Steps to spot and stop a negative Self-Perception from running the show of your life.
“I will become great when I grow up one day!”
As a little girl I was convinced with no doubt in my heart that when I grow up I will become someone who will make a difference in this world. I wanted to have a truly brave heart and go against conformism just like Robin Hood did.
Years passed and I’d like to think that in many ways, driven by this self-perception and expectations I had, the little girl proved she has the capability, potential and even bravery to one day blossom and become everything she ever dreamt of. But the ‘grow up day’ was somehow always ahead…and she continued to wait. I guess the narrative in her head could have been something like:“you have it all you just need to wait to grow up and then the world would see”.
Because of her belief everything that this girl did seemed a bit like an experiment and a preparation for something which was ever coming.
More approaching my 30s than being in the 20s I realized that I still believed I am somehow that little girl that’s testing the water instead of actually swimming. Funnily enough the reality of my life was giving me no reasons to think that. I was living the life of a grown up in every single aspect of it … except that I didn’t fully believe this is it and it’s happening now. The house, the career or business, the relationships, the responsibility, the independence or even achievements were insufficient to convince me. Bizarre!
What’s more I am an individual somewhat aware of their own self-talk, beliefs and values. After all it is part of my job too. Yet this quiet and subconscious self-vision stayed under-cover even when I was seemingly alert.
It had a negative effect on most aspects of my life – from family and romantic relationships to achieving my true goals despite determination.
I was often getting very close to my dreams but last minute I was pulling back because the “grow up day” hasn’t come yet. It all felt like a demo.
My sentences were full of “apologies” and “thank you’s” as well because that's what little girls do. I wore a gentle smile in cases where I had good reasons to be harsher or a lot more demanding.
I was succeeding but somehow never quite getting where I truly, deeply and madly wanted to be.
I was vaguely aware of the existence of this problem and my logical reaction was to fight against the manifestations of my belief by trying to fix the outside, not the inside. I was acting in opposite ways to a little girl in order to demonstrate to myself and others that I am not one. However, the torturing feelings were on the inside and my efforts were fruitless.
For example, in relationships I was struggling to let people spoil me or take care of me because if they did I perceived it as confirmation that others could see the little girl too and hence I am being treated that way. With time and with the clash between logic and sub-consciousness my deep belief made me unable to enjoy connection like that. It genuinely annoyed me when I was being taken care of, god forbid openly being told that I am not the strongest human being in the world. It even got to the point where close to taking the decision of spending the rest of my life with someone I ended the relationship because I felt I am not a grown up yet for such a step. At the time I had no idea that this is one of the main reasons. I had a big arsenal of other explanations as to why the moment is not right, nor the person.
This self-perception was also creating tensions with family members who love me dearly. When they made comments about how sweet or emotionally sensitive I am, with no ill intend behind it, I would snap and overreacted unable to express what was bothering me.
A weird mixture of fighting against something that you actually believe in. A deeply rooted self-perception of this sort is causing self-sabotage and it needs to be changed.
You might be wondering how I finally clearly pin-pointed the problem after so many years of it being in front of my eyes...
I looked at myself on a video tape. I hated it with passion and I tore myself apart.
In preparation for a material I was to send my clients I talked for 4hrs in front of a camera. When the editing part was due, I watched it and I was petrified. My voice, face and talking… the little girl was all over it…according to me.
On a logical level and as a confident professional who is not doing these sorts of presentations for the first time, I was taking notes, planning for improvements and having a timeline by when I would release the video knowing that my clients would in fact like it.
However, the subconscious self-perception was working in such subtle way that I was gradually getting upset without being able to determine what was really happening.
I wasn’t satisfied with this situation and the feelings I was experiencing hence I started searching for an answer. Below are the 4 steps I took to find and change the self-perception that was holding me back.
1. Find out what is the self-perception that holds you back? - How?
Look no further than the results you are getting in your life!
It might sound harsh but the results you are getting are a reflection of your self-image. If you are not getting what you want find the reason within you! My video was a reflection of what I believed. It doesn’t mean it was bad, it doesn’t mean my clients wouldn’t like it, but I didn’t like it. I wasn’t OK with the result due to perception through which I was looking at it.
What is it that you are not happy about in your life? What beliefs in regards to who you are are getting you those results? - List them. Take your time and do this with the full intention of owning the process and being responsible for your life.
The knowledge you will gain from this exercise is in itself a tremendously important factor in successfully dealing with your negative self-perception. In my case, only by recognising the problem I was able to see in which situations it was holding me back and start taking decisions different to what my sub-conscious mind would previously lead me to.
2. Experience what it is like to be who you actually want to be.
Close your eyes. See in front of you an image of yourself sitting down. It’s a big colour image on a huge movie screen. See yourself sitting there with excitement, rubbing your hands, listening, seeing, and taking it all in.
Now imagine someone really intelligent, someone you admire, who has the answers you are after. See that person stepping into you. You are watching someone else stepping into you on that vast screen. It could be Einstein, it could be the president of United States or it could be a Wizard from a book. See the new you. You can only see yourself but inside it’s this great person. Now you listen and see through their eyes and ears.
Imagine on that screen that you see your new self in the future. You got a profound understanding of what you need to do and you’ve done it. You can see your face, your expression, your satisfaction of the outcomes. Enjoy the sensations. Hear the sounds around you, your breathing. Make the colours a bit brighter and the image a bit bigger. You are tremendously happy and everything is just the way you knew you could make it. You and the incredible person within you are one. Take your time to fully process and enjoy the picture.
Now go back to the first image where you were sitting. Stand up from the place you were sitting and physically make a step forward into the second image of your new self. Celebrate it again! You have made the transition and you are no longer waiting for things to come to you. Feel how good you are.
Everything happens in our imagination including our self-perceptions. Remember that.
3. Substitute the old self-image with a new one.
For example, I perceived myself as a little girl who is not taken seriously (it takes a lot of guts to write it and share it with people) My new self –perception is that I’ve always been a strong, gorgeous woman who is taken seriously for who she is.
4. Film yourself after you’ve been through point one to three.
Use your phone or camera and talk for 5min about yourself. Before watching the video get ready to see it through the eyes of your new self-perception. I am watching mine through the eyes of a strong, gorgeous woman who is taken seriously for who she is. Write down what you loved about the image?
“You differ from a great man in only one respect: the great man was once a very little man, but he developed one important quality: he recognized the smallness and narrowness of his thoughts and actions. Under the pressure of some task that meant a great deal to him, he learned to see how his smallness, his pettiness endangered his happiness. In other words, a great man knows when and in what way he is a little man. A little man does not know he is little and is afraid to know. He hides his pettiness and narrowness behind illusions of strength and greatness, someone else's strength and greatness. He's proud of his great generals but not of himself. He admires an idea he has not had, not one he has had. The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it. And the better he understands an idea, the less he believes in it.”― Wilhelm Reich, Listen, Little Man!
Our self-perceptions are created at a very early age. Then most of us continue to live the rest of our lives with the beliefs of a child. You are in control of growing up and not letting what's no longer applicable to run the show.
Enjoy the new and real you! Be proud of it!