- Self-image is the mental picture you have of yourself (and not necessarily who/what you are). This encompasses how you see your physical appearance, personality, abilities, and values.
- How you see yourself ends up influencing how you feel and act which consequently influences your life.
- Despite how critical this is, most people don’t pay attention to it. They often allow how they see themselves to be swayed by superstitions, fantasies, influencers, media, and ads.
- The problem is; when we buy an inaccurate idea, and irrationally desire it to be our reality, things go horribly wrong (first, inside our heads, then outwardly).
- Holding up an unrealistic expectation – sooner or later makes you feel unworthy, incompetent, unaccepted, unloved, and worthless.
- The solution is to
- Take a pause, and examine your beliefs. Figure out which is making you miserable.
- Question and challenge those beliefs with critical thinking and evidence (to see if they are useful or even true).
- Seek feedback from multiple reliable sources.
- Practice self-compassion and self-care.
- Seek professional help.
My Self-image Internal Conflict Story:
As a child, I used to watch a superhero called Toofan. His coming was always preceded by the wind. I can’t recall what his superpowers were – or if he even had one – but I know I often fantasized about being him. However, deep down I knew I wasn’t Toofan. I didn’t try to be like Toofan (just like no sane kid really tries to be like Spiderman, or else we would have hospitals filled with children with multiple fractured bones). The point is, there was a clear distinction between fantasy and reality.
But, as I got a bit older, I got to learn about Jesus Christ. But, unlike Toofan, everyone around me assured me He was REAL. When I read the Bible, Jesus himself even promised that I could do all the things he did, and even more (John 14:12-14). Everyone also said it was TRUE!
We are talking about the guy that (according to the Bible);
- Turned water into wine
- Healed the sick by merely touching or talking to them
- Restored the sight of the blind
- Fed 5 thousand people (not counting women and children) with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and even had 12 leftover baskets full of broken pieces of the food
- Walked on water
- Died and rose from the dead,
- Levitated into the skies
And so on…
But, most importantly, a man who was
- Loved greatly (by his followers).
He wasn’t a menace and could solve the worst problems by simply shutting his eyes, kneeling, and praying. Not even cancer, poverty, a tsunami, or an earthquake could perturb this guy. In fact, if we had just 1 person exactly like him today, we could all go to bed knowing that even if a thermonuclear war was started, he would pray it away.
There was obviously no other person worth emulating other than Jesus (especially considering he was REAL!)
At first, this was good for me because I started to exhibit more restraint and self-control. I found it harder to lie, fight, curse, or do anything that I thought Jesus wouldn’t do. I took the Christianity thing so seriously that my entire body would tremble violently and uncontrollably if I were attempting to do anything which I felt was a sin (for example, seeing the picture of a naked lady). I even thought the tremor was the Holy Spirit trying to stop me, but would later discover that it is a normal phenomenon called “Physiologic Tremor” – caused by my anxiety and emotional turbulence.
The more I studied the Bible (from cover to cover) and preached the words which I had read with conviction, the more that self-image of being like Jesus got cemented in my psyche. I was proud to be called a Christian. I even went on to fast, pray for people, and do so many other born-again Christian stuff.
Anyway, I was born a Logician, so my brain just couldn’t help but keep pointing out some issues with my belief and self-image.
It kept bringing up questions. Some were about;
- The creation issues (e.g. Where did God come from? What about evolution and the Big Bang?)
- The timeline issues (e.g. When do we go to heaven or hell? How old is the world?)
- The Moral issues (e.g. Why did God endorse genocide over and over again? Why are women seldom regarded? or Why does God even have a people in the first place?)
- The evidence issues (e.g. Why isn’t there still any hard evidence to prove the validity of this whole God thing? Why is it all still in the debate? Why isn’t it as evident as gravity?)
- The human issues (e.g. Why is there hardly anyone living up to the ideals of Jesus? And, why the hell are there so many interpretations of one single book?).
That last one plagued me day and night for years. I was angry, sad, and disheartened about the matter. I wanted to be like Jesus but I couldn’t. I sinned over and over again (at least, according to my interpretation). And I loathed myself. I hated myself. I even got a bit depressed.
The more I read the letter of the Apostles to the churches and self-development books that discussed human nature, the more I realized there was no difference whatsoever between the Christians and other people (save their values). Christians were still perpetually horny, pooping, smelly, and fearful creatures like the rest of humanity.
It would seem, the whole trying to be like Jesus thing was another unrealistic expectation.
Soon, it all shattered. I stopped being religious. I stopped putting myself under pressure. I stopped trying to reach unrealistic standards of super-human. I made peace with my human nature. I stopped hating myself for having raging sexual urges. All my tremors vanished.
And, when I was of age, I didn’t feel bad about drinking alcohol responsibly. And, I even went on to have sex without feeling guilty or ashamed. I was basically freer and happier.
Furthermore, having accepted my basal nature, I become more intentional in cultivating my self-control and discipline without relying on or passing blames to spirits. I became accountable. And from then on, I have only seen myself becoming a better human.
Of course, I am not saying you are better off abandoning Christianity or any other religion. Someone can aspire to inculcate the positive attributes of Jesus’s character without expecting to be exactly like him. In fact, I’ve written an article before about How To Be a Good Person According To Jesus.
So, the story has very little to do with Christianity or religion but rather with how people internalize ideas about themselves. It is about how you see yourself – your self-image.
Someone else’s story might be about feeling bad because;
- they don’t look like Instagram models
- can’t sing like the celebrity musicians
- can’t f*ck as the p*rnstars do
- or something else.
But this too does not mean you cannot learn a thing or two from the models, celebrities, or p*rnstarts.
The point is, an unhealthy self-image – i.e. holding up an unrealistic expectation – sooner or later backfires (because it makes you feel unworthy, incompetent, unaccepted, unloved, and worthless).
This is why you have to understand the concept of self-image and how to resolve any self-image internal conflicts you might be experiencing.
What Is Self-Image?
“Your self-image is the lens through which you view yourself and the world. Make sure it’s clear and positive, so you can see the best in yourself and in others.”
As explained above, self-image is the mental picture you have of yourself (and not necessarily who/what you are). This encompasses how you see your physical appearance, personality, abilities, and values.
In my story, I saw myself as a creature molded by God, given a new life/personality as a Christian, and the ability to wrought signs and wonders. I had the value of love and holiness (waiting for the trumpet to sound so that I will be caught up in the skies with Jesus and the other saints).
But there are other self-images: There are people who may see themselves as beautiful, intelligent, quick learners, kind-hearted, and loving. Whilst there are others who may see themselves as ugly, dumb, slow learners, and heartless.
Recommended Content: 10 Steps To Build a Healthy Self-image
The point is, if an individual (i.e. you) notices these discrepancies between what they believe and what they observe to be the case, it often leads to an internal conflict known as the self-image internal conflict.
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Self-Image Internal Conflict:
The battle for a positive self-image is fought in the mind.
Self-image internal conflict refers to the struggle or contradiction between an individual’s perception of themselves and the reality of their abilities, personality, or physical appearance. This could be felt as an incessant feeling of insecurity, anxiety, and self-doubt.
For example, if someone believes they are a New Creature (that “old things are past away” and “all things have become new”) but still finds themselves going back to their lusts and addictions, they may begin to question themselves. Another example is, when someone thinks they are smarter than everyone else but ends up scoring the least on a test, it will cause immense shame, self-doubt, or confusion.
These conflicting beliefs and experiences can lead to negative emotions which can negatively impact self-esteem and overall sense of well-being. It can be devastating to say the least – especially if you have a mind that just won’t shut up about it.
How To Resolve Self-image Internal Conflict
If you are like me and wish to find the truth, and genuine happiness you can start uncovering and resolving these conflicts within yourself by taking the following steps.
Reflect on your beliefs:
Take time to reflect on your thoughts and beliefs about yourself.
Be honest with yourself, and make sure to look into all areas where you have conflicting beliefs. You can get a pen and paper to take note of all these.
Also, take extra time to try to understand where they come from and why you believe them.
- What are my underlying beliefs about myself as a [insert your title – e.g. student, spouse, professional, believer, etc.]?
- How have these beliefs shaped my actions and decisions?
- What evidence supports these beliefs, and what evidence contradicts them?
This exercise should reveal a lot of beliefs that are mostly based on superstition, emotions, falsehood, or biases.
Think: “Why am I expecting this of myself?”, or “why am I not expecting this of myself?”
Until you highlight what it is that is holding you back or deterring you from moving forward, you may not be able to see much progress or improvement.
Challenge false and unhelpful beliefs:
Once you’ve spotted the problematic beliefs, you must start gathering evidence that contradicts them (in order to break them).
If you are going to see serious results, you will have to ask uncomfortable questions, explore taboos, and entertain scary ideas and prospects.
- How do these beliefs influence my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?
- What would happen if I let go of these false beliefs?
- What new beliefs can I adopt to replace the false/unhelpful ones?
At this stage, reading books, and listening to experts can prove to be very helpful in breaking free from an unhelpful, unrealistic, or harmful self-image.
“The things you can’t question control you, and the things you can question you have power over”– Naval Ravikant.
Sometimes it might be best to ask trusted friends, family, or professionals for feedback.
Be open to hearing views that may seem contrary to what you believe. In fact, the more of such contradictory views you hear, the better. It means it is working – they are unearthing the conflict for you.
Also, be careful not to internalize the feedback as they come. Some may just be the other person’s biases or perception speaking and not the reality.
Keep in mind, you are hoping for them to help you spot patterns in your behavior that you are oblivious to you. So, if someone points out that you are greedy, you should ask why they think so. If they can’t bring up a “track record” (aka pattern) of you being greedy to other people then it is most likely an assumption (as it is okay to say no to some requests once in a while).
The aim of this is for you to gather feedback and see what areas you can improve on or resolve.
You can start by asking
- Who in my personal or professional life can provide me with objective feedback about myself or my situation?
- What specific aspects of my life would I like each person to give me feedback on? (because no single person is qualified to judge all aspects of your life)
- How can I approach this person or group?
Tip: You can consult books and courses that have addressed your issue in detail. For example, if you have relationship issues, you might read a self-help book on dating that might expose the internal conflict that is plaguing you. This is true for all other aspects of your life.
Practice self-compassion and self-care:
Take the time to remind yourself that you are a human being with imperfections, and that’s fine.
Remind yourself that you deserve love and respect, especially when you are aiming upward and trying your best. You will never be perfect and that is okay. Just keep going.
Also, engage in activities that promote your overall well-being. This could be exercising regularly, having sufficient sleep, meditating, or exploring your hobbies and interests.
The more you love yourself for who you are, the less likely you will put up with a self-image that harms you. In other words, an improvement in one aspect of your life often leads to improvement in other aspects of your life.
Seek professional help:
If the conflict is persistent and affects your daily life and overall happiness, consider seeking help from a coach, therapist, or counselor. They can help you identify and overcome self-image issues and provide useful tools for self-improvement.
Remember, changing negative self-image or resolving self-image internal conflict takes time and effort. So be patient with yourself. And, don’t expect a single book or conversation to change your life. Consider it a metamorphosis – give yourself time.
“Grow, level, step up”– Pawns;
Recommended Content: Finding Harmony Within Chaos: 3 Steps to Resolve Your Internal Conflict.
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