Usually, we don’t believe we’re able of doing something until we have done it. Yet it’s so hard to get ourselves to do something that we don’t believe we can do. It’s ironic, to say the least.
When it comes to goal-setting, the advice that’s normally given is to write down your goals, make plans and give yourself habits and systems to follow to reach those goals. Or something along those lines. The role of self-image in all of this gets rarely talked about. But it’s a crucial one. Everything indeed starts with how you see yourself, and what you believe you’re capable of.
In this article, we’ll talk about the three main ways to change your self-image, which I suggest combining and experimenting with. Think of it as an ongoing process, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself trying to get everything right. Test out things, have fun getting to know your mind and notice the wonders it’s capable of.
With that being said, let’s move ahead.
1. Journaling & Thoughts-Downloading
Thoughts-downloading is a technique I’ve heard from Brooke Castillo (her podcast “The Life Coach School Podcast” link is life-changing, go listen to it).
It basically consists in writing down everything you’re thinking at that exact moment. It’s a bit like meditating, except you’re writing everything down. And that’s what makes it so uncomfortable. Because you might not like what you realize you’re thinking. But it’s all worth the effort, I promise.
Indeed, it’s extremely eyes-opening. You’ll get an in-depth inside look at the core issue — or issues — that are stopping you from doing what you’re trying to do.
Let’s say you want to write a novel and to reach this goal you need to dedicate 30 minutes a day to writing. Yet you find an excuse every time, and really can’t get yourself to do what you know you should do. Well, ask yourself: “why am I not writing today?” and then write down everything that comes to mind. Set a 10m timer and keep going until it rings. You’ll be surprised by the answers your mind comes up with.
You might be tempted to perform this exercise in your mind. Please don’t. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid. We want to get those thoughts out on the paper so we can analyze them in full light. The value of writing stands in the fact you’re forcing yourself to articulate the problem. And by doing so, you expose the true reasons behind your behavior.
An alternative is to journal, which is more or less the same. I guess you might say the thoughts-download is a journaling method.
Many people suggest affirmations as a main step in the process of changing your self-image.
Personally, during my experience with them, I haven’t really found any benefit. But I’ve seen them do wonder for some people, so I just feel it’s fair to mention them.
Maybe a better — and more effective — version of affirmations are neutral affirmations. Let’s briefly explain the difference with an example.
An affirmation is: “I am a great novelist and enjoy writing 1 chapter everyday” (I’m referring to the case mentioned in point #1)
A neutral affirmation is: “I am capable of sitting down everyday, even if it’s just a word” or “sometimes I can write a chapter”.
I don’t believe there are real rules to pick your affirmations. It really depends of what resonates with you and your personal situation, so most of the time you just need to experiment and see. However, my personal suggestion is to start with neutral affirmations and progress to “regular” ones after a while. I also recommend reading real stories of other people’s experiences with affirmations, to form your own opinion about them.
3. Change Perspective
When we find excuses for not doing something, that’s usually a way to shut out mind off. See, our brain is a problem-solving machine. If you give it a question, it’ll try to answer it.
But when you repeat the same phrase over and over again, it can’t do anything but start believing it. That’s how it’s built.
So whenever you’re thinking:
“this is not for me”
“I can’t do it”
“I can’t afford it”
“I’m too busy”
your brain can’t do anything but believe these affirmations. It takes them as facts, when they’re not. Instead, consider giving it something else to think about. Maybe you really do feel tired and like you can’t write an entire chapter for your novel. That’s okay. But maybe you can figure out a creative way to carry on with your habit that doesn’t involve sitting down and typing words on your keyboard. This is how I started recording myself all the time and writing waaay more articles.
Just let your brain do what it was designed for: thinking. Solving problems. Remember there are multiple ways to reach the same goal.
One Last Thought on Self-Image
I used to think exercising everyday was just not my thing.
“It’s just that I like eating too much”
“I’m too busy”
“I have to study…I’m so tired right now”
“I worked so hard today, I deserve a break”
And the list went on and on. I can’t even believe I do exercise everyday now, and I even enjoy it. Crazy, right?! And it happened quite fast, to be honest. I thought it had to be this extremely draining process of just forcing myself to do it everyday until it became second nature, or at the very least an habit. Yet everything I changed had to do with my mindset and perspective on the topic and situation. I started by telling myself I didn’t have to exercise for 30 minutes, 5 were enough, as long as I was doing it everyday. And when I just couldn’t — not even 5 minutes — I didn’t make it mean anything about myself. I just had a bad day. Slowly I started thinking of myself as someone that exercises and likes doing it. And that’s where I’m at right now.
I’m telling you because your transformation doesn’t have to take long, either, maybe that’s just another myth you should stop believing…