by Dick Innes
Jim was standing in line at the supermarket check-out when, to his amazement, in charged an angry, aggressive man, with his brow-beaten wife in tow. With a 10-pound sack of flour slung over his shoulder, he pushed into line ahead of Jim and several others. Handing his wife some money he growled at her, "Here, you pay for stuff," and marched off with his bag of flour.
Unknown to him there was a hole in the flour bag. As he stormed out of the supermarket, he left behind him a trail of white flour all the way to his car. As Jim walked out of the store, he beheld, much to his amusement, a furious man who had just discovered his now half-empty sack of flour.
What makes people like this man so obnoxious? Basically, a poor self-concept. People who don't like themselves tend to either withdraw, become over-compliant or project their self-hatred on to the people around them.
At the root of most relational conflicts is a low sense of self-worth, and to some degree we are all affected. The good news is that because the self-concept is learned, a healthier one can be re-learned. The following steps will help.
Accept personal responsibility. Our self-image was shaped primarily by the significant people in our early life. They, especially our parents, were the mirrors from which we learned our self-worth. We came to see ourselves as we perceived they saw us. If they spent lots of time with us, gave us lots of positive affirmations, approval, hugs, and constantly expressed love and warmth to us, chances are we will have a healthy self-concept.
Because the self-concept is learned a healthier one can be re-learned.
If, however, our parents didn't do these things and were harsh and critical, demanded too much of us, neglected or abused us in any way, we probably have a poor self-concept.
One thing to remember is that our parents didn't have perfect parents either. They, too, were the products of their upbringing. If we want to improve our self-image, we won't blame them for our problems. Regardless of our background, for which we were not responsible, once we reach adulthood we are totally responsible for what we become and for reshaping our self-concept.
Repeat positive affirmations. One way to help build a healthy self-concept is to give ourselves positive affirmations. We do this by repeating statements like, "Thank you, God, for the gift of life," and "God loves me, so I love me." The more we repeat these with feeling the more effective they will be.
Remember, too, that our self-concept took years to form through literally thousands of verbal and other interactions. It takes time and thousands of repetitions of positive affirmations to rebuild.
Practice positive self-talk. Studies show that we talk to ourselves most of our waking hours. In fact, we do so at the rate of up to 1,300 words per minute. If we keep telling ourselves we're no good, or can't do something, we'll believe it and act accordingly which produces bad feelings and reinforces a weak self-image. But if we keep telling ourselves that we are worthwhile, and can do things well, we will believe that and also act accordingly. This produces positive feelings and reinforces a good self-image.
Control your thinking. Self-talk is closely related to thinking, which is possibly the only area of our lives over which we have total control. That's encouraging, as we can help change our self-image and our lives by changing our thoughts. Bad thought-habits can be hard to change, but they can be changed because what we think about is our choice.
It has been said that we are not what we think we are, but what we think, we are. Furthermore, what the mind dwells on the body acts on. That is, what we keep thinking about, we end up doing. Consider temptation, for example. It starts in the mind and, if we keep thinking about it, chances are we'll give into it. If we dismiss it from our thoughts, we won't.
It is not without good reason that the Bible teaches, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praise-worthy--think about such things."1
Get connected. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, "We are all sinners. Some more, some less." That is, we all have a dark side. As long as we hide our sins and dark side we will feel disconnected from God, others and from ourselves. It is this disconnection that is at the center of our damaged self-image.
What the mind dwells on the body acts on.
To overcome we need to be reconnected to God the Heavenly Father and experience his love at the core of our being. We do this by bringing our dark side into the light; that is, by confessing all our sins and faults to God and receiving his forgiveness by accepting his Son, Jesus Christ (who died on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins) as our personal Lord and Savior.
Doing this, along with realizing that no matter what we have ever done or have failed to do God loves us totally and unconditionally, is the greatest foundation upon which to rebuild a healthy self-concept.
We also need to be reconnected to ourselves and other people. We do this also by bringing our dark side into the light; that is, by confessing our sins and faults both to ourself and to a trusted friend, minister or counselor who will love and accept us regardless. As the Bible teaches, "Confess your sins and faults to each other and pray for each other so you can be healed."2
Acknowledging our dark side to ourself reconnects us to ourself. Admitting it to trusted friends reconnects us to people. Confessing it to God reconnects us to him.
Furthermore, it is imperative that we resolve all our impaired relationships with the significant people in our life. As the Bible also teaches, "If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."3
Lastly, to feel good about ourself we also need to live up to an honorable moral and ethical code. We do this with God's help and by being accountable to trusted friends.
Why not begin with God today by filling in and returning the coupon below.
1.Philippians 4:8 (NIV); 2.James 5:16; 3.I John 4:12.