Last night was a wasteland on TV. You know that one—a lot of reruns, most of which you had seen several times already, the usual mayhem and murder, and programs you wouldn’t watch—ever. After several times up and down the channels, we found a movie we had not seen, a movie named I Feel Pretty starring Amy Schumer. I won’t try to rate it as a movie, but from a Self-Improvement point of view, I would give it five stars.
I Feel Pretty
The message? Our minds are powerful creators of our reality. Put in another way, what we believe about ourselves determines how we show up in the world.
An online description of the movie states:
A woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis wakes from a fall believing she is suddenly the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. With this newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?
The answer is that for a time, she goes back to her old way of believing about herself. And, of course, by the end of the movie, she has it together. Spoiler alert—Happy ending.
Self-image is basically what you see in the mirror when you look at yourself and how you picture yourself in your head. These may not relate to reality or be the same as how others see you but how you think they see you. It is a component of self-esteem, which is close to the top in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The importance of Self-Image
Dan Lok in a Ted Talk says, “The strongest force in human personality is the need to remain consistent with how we see ourselves.” See the video below:
This was true in the movie and it is true in my life and your life. Think about it. In my life, there was a time that my belief was, “If there is something that needs to be done, no matter how important or how hard, ask me.” I thought I could do anything, and I usually could.
After I was married, I heard on a regular basis about all the things wrong with me. After 25 years, my self-image said I was too fat, too old, too stupid, too, too, too. It took me a while to recover after the divorce and there are still things I am working on. In the movie, Renee (Amy Schumer) thought she was ugly, too fat, and incapable. She had the confidence of a gnat. Everything changed when she saw herself as “pretty.” Confidence soared and withered again later when she realized that she was just the way she had always been—in her eyes NOT pretty, not competent, not-good-enough. Watch the movie. You should be able to find it online or on TV.
What forms our self-image?
In childhood, we learn about ourselves from those we interact with—parents, caregivers, teachers, friends, family and those we casually meet as we go about living. If you hear or perceive negative feedback about yourself, you may tend to believe it whether or not it’s true. If your great Aunt Mable thought you should look like a twig she may have said, “Oh, my, that child is chunky.” I had an aunt that gave me a girdle when I was 13 and average weight for my age. Result? I began to see myself as fat and struggled with it for the rest of my life.
How do I look?
The image we see in the mirror may not be true but a distorted view of who we really are. For example, what if someone commented about how big your nose is and said to someone but in your presence something like “wouldn’t she be pretty if she had a smaller nose? After hearing that, you probably only see a big nose when you look in the mirror. It may be a perfect size but you won’t see that. If you’re a teen and someone pointed out that you had a zit on your chin, you may then feel like one giant zit. Yikes. Run for the Clearasil. “How do I look” is a critical question in society and body image has taken on disproportionate importance in how we view ourselves.
How am I doing?
Another important question is “How am I doing?” Do I see myself as a winner or a loser? Do I know my strengths and weaknesses and have them in some kind of balance? Did you have someone in your life that said and consistently reinforced that “You are a loser?” Did a parent constantly harp on your weaknesses and never point out your strengths? Were you always picked last for the team and concluded that you were a failure?
How Important am I?
And, finally, the question, “How important am I?” Do I have friends? Do I have close and meaningful relationships? Who cares about me? If I disappeared today would anyone notice? This question often has distorted feedback from the self. When you don’t feel loved and accepted your mind takes you down a very negative road.
If the feedback from the mirror and the head is positive we will tend to recognize our own assets, strengths, and potential and act with confidence in most situations, even those that are new and challenging. But, if the feedback is negative, we will focus on our weaknesses, our faults and everything we lack and face the world with a lack of confidence and self-assurance.
You will see that in Renee.
So what do you do about it?
1. Try to drop the negative notions about yourself that you have learned in childhood from what other people said or did. This is not easy. But starting with a “clean page” is always helpful.
2. Do a realistic assessment of the way you look, your understanding of your own successes and failures, and your relationships. Get someone you trust to help you with this and believe what they say.
3. Do the exercises created by Positive Psychology at https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/self-image/
4. Be sure you are around positive minded people who affirm you rather than tear you down. I’m not saying that you need to be with those who only agree with you. I’m saying that there are people who will be objective, truthful and kind. Find them.
5. Look in the mirror and declare with belief, “I AM pretty!”