Self-images are just images, ideas, but they can have a powerful impact on our lives and on our happiness. They can limit us by limiting what we are open to. If some activity doesn’t fit our self-image, we don’t do it. If we can’t see ourselves doing something, we don’t do it. This is fine in many cases, but there are times when doing something that doesn’t fit our self-image is exactly what we need to do to be happy or to learn something new or to grow. Because we are creatures of habit and don’t easily take on new self-images, we often choose to be true to our self-image rather than stretch ourselves and experience something new.
Part of the difficulty is we don’t even see we have a self-image. We have many self-images, really. Different ones show up depending on what we are doing and who we are with: Around our kids, the image of the parent we think we are shows up; around our spouse, the image of the spouse we think we are shows up; around our employer, the image of the employee we think we are shows up. Around one person, we pull out one self-image; and around another, we pull out a different one. We like to be around people who bring out a self-image we like, and we don’t like being around people who bring out a self-image we don’t like.
The truth is we have so many self-images we can’t even keep track of them. They show up and disappear as quickly as a thought. So, as important as our self-image is to our happiness, it’s really nothing more than a thought that is constantly changing and often inconsistent from one moment to the next: One moment we are the good parent and the next moment we are the terrible parent.
Most of our self-images aren’t useful because they are narrow and limiting and because they aren’t true. They are caricatures of ourselves that leave out what is most important: our true nature. A true self-image would be true from one moment to the next. It would be good for all occasions, for every moment. The only self-image that can live up to that is one that resembles your true self, one that exemplifies the qualities of Essence.
A self-image that reflects the qualities of Essence would certainly be a positive self-image. What would be better than having an image of yourself as loving, lovable, kind, generous, patient, wise, compassionate, accepting, and every other good quality you could name? What would that be like if that were your self-image? If you are going to have any self-image, then let it be that one. All others are useless. This is a self-image that can really serve you. It will evoke the qualities of your divine nature and help you live them. You naturally express these qualities when you drop into Essence. Expressing these qualities is the purpose of all of our lifetimes and of spiritual evolution.
It is actually possible to be all of these qualities because that is our natural state. What a wonderful discovery! You have actually always been lovable, loving, good, kind, compassionate, wise, and accepting. The only thing that has ever interfered with realizing and expressing those qualities is the ego. Once the ego and all its negative and limiting self-images are set aside, what is left is a very positive, and true, self-image. It couldn’t be truer that you are every good quality you can imagine. Healing the negativity and your negative self-image is really only a matter of seeing who you really are and expressing those qualities.
Exercise: Becoming Your Truest Self
If you have difficulty imagining you are all of the good qualities of Essence, then just pretend. Try on this very positive self-image for size. If you hold this positive image long enough in your mind, your behavior will begin to reflect those qualities. Pretend you believe you are lovable, loving, kind, and accepting, and soon you will start behaving that way. If you don’t believe it, try out the opposite: See yourself as mean, angry, unfriendly, critical, and you will soon start behaving that way.
Energy follows thought. You become what you believe about yourself. For example, if you believe yourself to be capable, you will naturally prove it; and if you believe yourself to be incapable, you will be discouraged before you even try.
Self-images are powerful shapers of behavior, but many other things shape our behavior and our life as well. Someone can have a negative self-image and still be very successful as a result of certain talents and opportunities. Someone can also have a very positive self-image and still have many difficulties in life, such as broken relationships, illness, and failure. As important as a self-image is, it isn’t the only thing shaping your life. Your life is, more importantly, shaped by your life plan, which is orchestrated as much as possible by beings of light whose job it is to do that. Your free will, which is influenced in part by your self-image, and other people’s free will also shape your life. Life is complex; it’s much too simplistic to think you create your reality with just your thoughts. Your thoughts affect your life, but your thoughts aren’t responsible for everything you encounter in life.
Some self-images are more functional than others. The more positive a self-image is (i.e., the closer to the truth of who you really are it is), the more functional it is. A positive self-image is always more functional and therefore preferable to a negative self-image. Does it matter if your self-image matches reality? Not really. We live up to whatever self-image we have: If it’s positive, you’ll live up to that; if it’s negative, you’ll live up to that. There’s no reason not to have a positive self-image and to ignore all negative ones. We cling to our negative self-images because we think they are realistic, and we don’t want to be seen as unrealistic or foolish. But it’s never unrealistic or foolish to see yourself as good, kind, loving, accepting, and wise. This is a positive self-image that will never let you down.
The ego offers many other positive self-images that may not be realistic. It imagines itself to be powerful, successful, and able to have everything it wants. It puffs itself up with fantasies of being special and having an amazing life. This is an inflated self-image, not a positive one. An inflated self-image isn’t positive because it isn’t true. A positive self-image is dysfunctional when there’s little reality to it.
Most of the positive self-images the ego offers are images of ourselves in the future. These are guesses at what will befantasy images. Fantasy images aren’t useful self-images because they lack reality. They aren’t true now, and they may never be true, unlike the image of our true self, which is always true. Investing ourselves in an image that isn’t true only takes us farther from what is true and real. If Essence intends that particular fantasy to become real, it will bring it about, not through fantasizing, but by other means. On the other hand, if that fantasy isn’t part of your life plan, fantasizing about it will only bring you disappointment and pain.
Self-images of ourselves in the future aren’t useful not only because they aren’t real, but also because they take us away from what is real and true now. What is true now and always is that your true nature is goodness and that you have everything you need to be happy right now. What is also true is that you don’t know what will happen and you aren’t in control of that to a large extent. You don’t create your reality with your thoughts. Essence co-creates it along with your free will. The more closely aligned your free will is with Essence’s, the happier and more fulfilled you’ll be. However, if you use your free will and energy to create and uphold the ego’s self-images, you’ll have little left over to devote to Essence’s intentions for you. To fulfill Essence’s plan, the only self-image that is necessary is the image of your true self.
So there are two types of self-images generated by the ego that can be detrimental to our freedom: 1) limiting self-images that are based on conditioning, and 2) fantasies, which are based on desires. These images intervene between us and life. They mediate between us and others. Without our self-images, we would interact more purely, more spontaneously, and more lovingly with the world. With them, every action is checked first for compliance with the image before acting. Self-images keep us tied to the ego because they are thoughts, and when we’re identified with our self-images, we’re identified with the false self, not the true self.
Often we are not even conscious of having a self-image, so the first step in freeing ourselves from our self-images is to become aware of them. Here are some suggestions for doing that:
1. When you see yourself in the mirror, what do you think to yourself? What do you conclude about yourself based on your appearance (e.g., “I’m over the hill.” “I’m a goddess.” “I’m not living up to my potential.” “I’m fit and healthy”)? Answering this question will show you how your ideas about your physical appearance affect your self-image. If you like what you see, you probably have a positive self-image that coincides with that; if not, you probably have a negative self-image, at least some of the time. If a negative physical self-image is undercutting your ability to feel positive, stop giving that negative self-image the power to do that and start giving yourself the love and acceptance you deserve. Talk to yourself as Essence would. Love yourself as Essence does. Or better yet, see Essence in your eyes and know your own true beauty. Gaze at your eyes in the mirror and fall in love with That. Focus on the beauty of the Divine as it lives through you, and you will feel beautiful.
2. When you see yourself in your mind’s eye, what do you look like? Do you look cross, smiley, juvenile, old, irresponsible, playful, mischievous, cool, sexy, fearful, stiff, bored, responsible, serious, relaxed, free, prissy, dorky, haggard, mousy, gorgeous? However you see yourself is probably being conveyed to others. How do they see you? How would they describe you?
3. When you are talking with others, what do you tell them about yourself? What words come after “I am”? Is yours a story of “Woe is me” or “I am fantastic” or something else? What you tell others about yourself can be either how you actually see yourself or how you want others to see you. Either way, your conversations with others reveal the self-images you hold dear. Notice how hollow and empty these stories about yourself feel, because they represent only one aspect of yourself, and a false one at that.
4. Make a list of your self-images. Think of all the various ways you see yourself, give them names, and write them down. Some possibilities are: The Princess, The Jock, The Loser, Mr. Aloof, Miss Picky, The Angel, Poor Me, The Bitch, The Sweetie Pie, The Playboy, The Glutton, The Pretty Girl, The Femme Fatale, The Handsome Devil, The Sophisticate, The Elite, The Clown, The Dreamer, The Artist, The Snob, The Law Breaker, The Intellectual, The Lover, The Spiritual One, The Wimp, The Caretaker, The Mommy, The Responsible One, The Recluse, The Warrior, The King, The Baby, The Philosopher, The Authority, The Judge, The Rule Enforcer, The Lazy Boy, The Rebel, The Complainer, The Drama Queen, The Health Nut, The Trouble Maker, The Scared Child, The Lonely One. The possibilities are endless. Some self-images are more problematic than others, but all of them are just ideas about yourself, and none represent who you really are. The self-images that have negative emotions attached to them probably need to be investigated and the underlying false beliefs uncovered. Giving your self-images names makes it easier to see them as images and not identify with them. Your humanity is made up of one self-image showing up after another, but your divinity remains the same. Amidst this parade of images, your divinity looks on, unchanged.
Even when you have seen through the self-images that represent your astrology and your psychological makeup, you are left with self-images that are so deep-seated that you may not even consider them self-images. These are the images of yourself as a man or a woman and as a human being. These, along with the mental image of your physical self, are the most fundamental images. Once all the self-images that represent your conditioning, psychology, and astrology have been seen for what they are, there remains the need to see that you are also not your gender or your body, and you are not human.
What does it mean if you aren’t human? You aren’t a physical being after all, but a part of the Oneness manifesting as a human being. You aren’t human. Let that sink in, and see how much the image of yourself as a human being keeps you from seeing and living as that which you truly are. You can be alive on this earth and function perfectly well without identifying with the belief that you are a human being or a man or a woman. Start realizing that these, too, are just images. You are beyond all images, even these. You are divine!
You don’t have to change anything about your self-images; you only have to recognize them for what they are and then drop into the truest self-image. When you catch yourself involved in a self-image, you can learn to see yourself from the perspective of Essence. When you look with Essence’s eyes on the character you are playing, you are immediately outside this character. From this perspective, there is only beauty, and all self-images dissolve.
Copyright © 2007 Gina Lake. All rights reserved.
From Getting Free: How to Move Beyond Conditioning and Be Happy by Gina Lake.