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Improving Your Self Image

Improving your self-image, like improving any skill, takes time and practice. Developing good
self-esteem involves encouraging a positive (but realistic) attitude toward yourself and the world
around you and appreciating your worth, while at the same time behaving responsibly towards
others. Self-esteem isn't self-absorption; it's self-respect.

By working from the inside out (focusing on changing your own way of thinking before
changing the circumstances around you), you can build your self-esteem. The goal of this
positive thinking is to give yourself a more positive self-concept, while seeing yourself honestly
and accepting yourself, and removing the internal barriers that can keep you from doing your
best.

Positive Thinking

There are many ways a person can change negative thoughts and self-criticism to more realistic
and positive thoughts. Focusing on all of them at once may be overwhelming, but focusing on a
few at a time and reminding yourself of these positive approaches regularly can change your
self-esteem.

Read the positive thought strategies below and choose several that would help you most. Write
them down and remind yourself to pause and change your way of thinking each time you are
being critical of yourself. As you become more comfortable with each new way of thinking (for
example, learning not to apologize or accept blame for other's anger) try adding a new positive
thought strategy to your list.

Positive Thought Strategies

Avoid exaggerations.
Correct your internal voice when it exaggerates, especially when it exaggerates the
negative. Try to avoid thinking in extreme terms ("I always make that mistake" or "I'll
never get that promotion.")

Nip negative thoughts in the bud.


Sometimes putting a stop on negative thinking is as easy as that. The next time you start
giving yourself an internal browbeating, tell yourself to "stop it!" If you saw a person
yelling insults at another person, you would probably tell them to stop. Why do you
accept that behavior from yourself?

Accentuate the positive.


Instead of focusing on what you think are your negative qualities, accentuate your
strengths and assets. Maybe you didn't ace the test you were studying for, but maybe your
hard work and perseverance led to a better grade than you would have had. Maybe you
felt nervous and self-conscious when giving a presentation at work, but maybe your boss
and coworkers respected you for getting up and trying.
Accept flaws and being human.
Maybe you did get nervous and blow that presentation at work - so what? Talk to your
boss about what went wrong, try to address the error in the future, and move on. All
people have flaws and make mistakes. Your boss, coworkers, friends, family, postman,
congressman, and favorite movie star have all made mistakes. They've forgiven
themselves; so can you.

Accept imperfections.
Perfection is a high goal to aim for -- you don't need to start there or even end there.
Make doing your best your ideal -- what more can you realistically do? Focus on what
you've gained from the process and how you can use it in the future. Avoid focusing on
what wasn't done or 'should have' been done differently. Allow yourself to make mistakes
and then forgive yourself. Try laughing instead of criticizing.

Don't bully yourself!


"Should have, could have, would have ... " Try not to constantly second guess yourself,
criticize yourself for what you "should" have done better, or expect too much from
yourself. Don't put standards on yourself that you wouldn't expect from others. It's great
to want to do well, but expecting yourself to be perfect (which is impossible) and then
punishing yourself when you fail is a vicious cycle. Using expressions like "I should
have" is just a way of punishing yourself after the fact.

Replace criticism with encouragement.


Instead of nagging or focusing on the negative (in yourself and others), replace your
criticism with encouragement. Give constructive criticism instead of being critical
("maybe if I tried to do ____ next time, it would be even better" instead of "I didn't do
that right.") Compliment yourself and those around you on what you have achieved
("well, we may not have done it all, but we did a pretty great job with what we did".)

Don't feel guilty about things beyond your control.


You are not to blame every time something goes wrong or someone has a problem.
Apologizing for things and accepting blame can be a positive quality, if you are in the
wrong and if you learn and move on. But you shouldn't feel responsible for all problems
or assume you are to blame whenever someone is upset.

Don't feel responsible for everything.


Just as everything is not your fault, not everything is your responsibility. It's okay to be
helpful, but don't feel the need to be all things (and do all things) for all people. This is
taking too much of a burden on yourself AND limiting those around you. Let others be
responsible for themselves and their actions -- you shouldn't feel responsible for their
happiness.

Do feel responsible for your feelings.


Just as you can't "make" other people happy, don't expect others to "make" you feel
happy or good about yourself. In the same way, they shouldn't make you feel guilty or
bad about yourself. You create your own feelings and make your own decisions. People
and events may have an affect on your emotions, but they can't dictate them.

Treat yourself kindly.


People often feel more comfortable treating themselves in ways they wouldn't consider
treating others. Do you criticize yourself with terms like "stupid" "ugly" or "loser"?
Would you use those terms to describe a friend? Remind yourself that you deserve to be
treated as well as you treat others. Do something nice for yourself sometimes -- either in
thought (give yourself a compliment) or action (treat yourself to a nice dinner or new
book.)

Give yourself a break.


You don't need to be all things to all people or please everyone. Give yourself permission
to decide you're doing the best you can. Remind yourself when you're doing things well
-- don't wait to hear it from someone else.

Choose the brighter side of things.


You can choose how to interpret comments and events, so try for the more positive
interpretations. If someone says, "You look good today," don't ask yourself "What was
wrong with the way I looked yesterday?" Accept compliments graciously (don't ask
yourself why you haven't been complemented on something else or why you haven't
complemented you before.) Look at temporary setbacks as opportunities for growth.

Forgive and forget.


Try not to hang on to painful memories and bad feelings - this is a surefire way to
encourage negative thoughts and bad moods. Your past can control you if you don't
control it. If you can, forgive past wrongs and move on. (Don't forget that forgiving
yourself is an important part of this process, too!) If you have a hard time forgiving or
forgetting, consider talking through your emotions with a good friend or counselor, but
try not to dwell. It's important to work through things, but you can't let the past determine
your future.

Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can't.


Avoid "can't" thinking or other negative language. If you say something often enough,
you may start to believe it, so keep your statements positive, not negative. Don't be afraid
to seek help in accomplishing things, but remind yourself that you don't need approval
from others to recognize your accomplishments. Focus on what you're able to do. Remind
yourself of all your capabilities and positive qualities.

Using just one or two of the above strategies on a regular basis can greatly increase your positive
self-image and self-esteem. Making these internal changes will increase your confidence in
yourself and your willingness and ability to make external changes and improve your life.
T h e p r a g m a t i s t l o o k s f o r m e a n i n g s i n t h e i r p r a c t i c a l b e a r i n g s a n d believes
that the function of thought is to guide action. He believes that e x p e r i e n c e i s c o m p o s e d
o f c i r c u m s t a n c e s , e v e n t s , i d e a s , p e o p l e , environment, and that the interaction
among all these things is the basis of reality. The pragmatist is concerned with change,
for experience is never static. An individuals right to his personal philosophy must be
respected, and what he does if taken in the light of that philosophy, becomes more
understandable. If one can do this, his ability to get along with people and consequently, his
chances of improving his own personality will be greater. A persons values is based on his
philosophy the things he considers to be of worth and importance. Other factors that influence
a persons choice of values is his cultural tradition into which he was born, the values of the
society in which he moves. One may value money; another, power; another, creative expression;
and others a combination of all of these. In our nation today, the factors in determining
and individuals pattern of value is confusing to young people. Until you know what you
hold fast to, you are quite likely to be confused and bewildered by the conflicting sets
of values you observe around you.
Attitude Your Most Priceless Possession
Attitude is the way you communicate your mood to others. When you are happy, you
transmit a happy attitude and people usually respond favorably. When you are pessimistic or
have a negative attitude, people tend to avoid you. Inside your head is where it all
starts, attitude is a mindset. It is the way you look at things mentally. E m p h a s i z i n g
t h e p o s i t i v e a n d e l i m i n a t i n g t h e n e g a t i v e i s l i k e u s i n g a magnifying
glass. You can place the glass over good news and you can feel better or you can magnify bad
news and make yourself miserable. I n t h e w o r k e n v i r o n m e n t , a s i n y o u r p e r s o n a l
life, it is your attitude that makes the difference. Building and
maintaining healthy relationships among superior s and co-workers is the
k e y t o s u c c e s s i n a n y o r g a n i z a t i o n . N o t h i n g contributes more to this process than a
positive attitude. A positive attitude will expand your network. When positive, you
transmit friendly signals. Customers, co-workers, and superiors are more open to you. Your
attitude is expressed before you say a word. It shows in the way you look, stand, walk, and
talk. If you are cheerful and upbeat, your attitude acts like a magnet. You not only
attract others, but they are friendlier toward you because they sense in advance that you already
like them. Some individuals downgrade the importance of building and maintaining
good human relations. They place so much emphasis on technical skills that they ignore the
human issues. As a result, they have difficulty understanding why others often lack enthusiasm
for their work. Along with good work skills, career success depends on the quality of working
relationships. An important first step is the development of good attitude. If you donot look for
the best in your fellow workers you are less apt to find it. As a result, y o u w i l l n o t
b e c o m e t h e t e a m p l a y e r m a n a g e m e n t e x p e c t s . You r p e r s o n a l
productivity may remain high but you will not be contributing as much as you could to the
productivity of your organization.

The saying the no man is an island, is true. We all need other people. This is especially true in
the workplace. Those who build a strong network of supporters create their own attitude
reinforcement program. It is difficult to remain positive w i t h o u t d a i l y p e o p l e
c o n t a c t . C o - w o r k e r s , l i k e p e r s o n a l f r i e n d s a n d f a m i l y members, can
give your attitude the perspective, focus, and motivations to remain positive. Attitudes truly are
infectious.
Look Better to Yourself
Through advertising we are told to improve our image. Self-improvement of any kind should
be applauded; but the overriding reason for a new image is not to look better for others,
rather it should be because you want to look better for yourself. When you improve
your appearance, you give your positive attitude a boost. The term inferiority complex
is when you look better to others than you do t o y o u r s e l f . I n o t h e r w o r d s , w h e n y o u
h a v e a n e g a t i v e s e l f - i m a g e , y o u m a k e yourself psychologically inferior. T h e t r u t h
is that you often look better to others than you do to yourself. T h e r e m a y
be periods when you feel unfashionable, unattractive, or poorly
groomed. This does not necessarily mean you look that way to your friends, but you
end up communicating a negative attitude because you dont look good to yourself.
When you look good to yourself, the world seems brighter. You are more in focus.
Adjusting Your Positive Attitude Through Image Improvement
Below are five general physical and psychological activities people engage into improve or
maintain their self-image.
1. War d r o b e i m p r o v e m e n t . Pay more attention (and money, if necessary) to
what you wear, how you coordinate various fashion items, colors, etc. make
the best fashion statement possible.
2. H a i r s t y l e , c o s m e t i c s . Spend more time with your hairstyle, facial appearance, etc.
3. L o o k i n g h e a l t h y . D e v o t e t i m e t o a n e x e r c i s e p r o g r a m . An y t h i n g
t h a t w i l l c r e a t e a healthier appearance. Include posture, dental care, weight control,
and diet.
4. B e i n g y o u r s e l f . Refuse to be over-influenced by other and the media. Stay with
your own idea of what your image should be. Be different in the way you want to be
different.
5. I m a g e - a t t i t u d e c o n n e c t i o n . Accept the premise that your attitude will
suffer if you dont keep a good self-image. Even if you dont care about how other
think you look, care about how you look to yourself because it is important to your own
attitude.
Assertive Behavior
Many people think that being assertive is pushing for his or her own way, r e f u s i n g
to give an inch. Others think of someone who is stubborn on certain
i s s u e s . T h i s i s n o t s o . As s e r t i v e b e h a v i o r i s d e f i n e d a s a n a t u r a l s t y l e t h a t
i s nothing more than being direct, honest, and respectful while interacting with others.
A s s e r t i v e n e s s i s a m o s t d e s i r a b l e b e h a v i o r. I t i s n e e d e d f o r h o n e s t ,
h e a l t h y relationships. It is the behavior required for win-win outcomes in
negotiations, conflict resolution, family life, and normal business dealings. Nonassertive
behavior is passive and indirect. It communicates a message of inferiority. By being nonassertive
we allow the wants, needs, and rights of others to be more important than our own.
Nonassertive behavior helps create win-lose situations. A person behaving non-assertively
will lose while allowing others to win. Following this road leads to being a victim, not a winner.
Aggressive behavior is more complex. It can be either active or passive.
Aggression can be direct or indirect, honest or dishonest
b u t i t a l w a y s communicates an impression of superiority and disrespect. By being
aggressive we put our wants, needs, and rights above those of others. We attempt to get our way
b y n o t a l l o w i n g o t h e r s a c h o i c e . Ag g r e s s i v e b e h a v i o r i s u s u a l l y
i n a p p r o p r i a t e because it violates the rights of others. People behaving aggressively may
win by making sure others lose but doing so set themselves up for retaliation. No one likes
a bully. A s s e r t i v e b e h a v i o r i s a c t i v e , d i r e c t , a n d h o n e s t . I t
c o m m u n i c a t e s a n impression of self-respect and respect for others. By being assertive, we
view our wants, needs, and rights as equal with those of others. We work toward a win-win
outcome. An assertive person wins by influencing, listening and negotiating so that o t h e r s
c h o o s e t o c o o p e r a t e w i l l i n g l y. T h i s b e h a v i o r l e a d s t o s u c c e s s w i t h o u t
r etaliation and encourages honest, open relationships. What an assertive person
can do:
1. Deliver a direct, open honest communication
2. Use feeling talk express what you feel to other s
3. Express things about yourself (self-disclosing)
4. Accept and give honest compliments
5. Accept and give constructive criticism and feedback
6. Disagree without making the other person wrong
7. Speak up and be counted
8. Ask for and receive clarifi cation
9. Negotiate toward a workable compromise
10. Be able to listen to the environment