The keystone of many challenging emotional and behavioral difficulties is the very human habit of rating ourselves up and down by our behaviors and traits. Often folks label themselves as failures or rejects because they didn't perform so well on some task or got rejected.
In inferiority and self-downing we encounter the problem of equating ourselves with our actions and traits. Our actions and traits are important, yet if we own poor behaviors or traits such as smoking or being unemployed these describe only two of our behaviors and traits. Anytime we choose to rate our "self" by a single or even a few traits or behaviors, we will be grossly overgeneralizing about our "self". To rate ourselves by our actions and traits is both arbitrary and self-defeating. You may behave foolishly in some area of your life, but that will not make you a "fool".
We are multi-faceted persons with many, many positive, neutral, and some negative qualities. As multi-faceted persons we are so complicated that any form of self-rating is nonsense. Each of us possesses millions of traits and behaviors (some ongoing and some in the past). How many points do we get for each trait and behavior? How many points for eye color? Big ears? Fallen arches? A good memory? Is this point process arbitrary?
Self-rating doesn't appear objective. We could hardly view ourselves objectively if we describe ourselves with a one-dimensional label. Example: "I'm an idiot." Further self-rating appears to lead to intense and enduring emotions. Self-rating can be found in anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame. In anger we find self-rating in the form of other-rating. Example: "That goof!"
A negative self-label can be very unmotivatiing. Generally we act in accordance with how we perceive ourselves. If we see ourselves as failures, no good, or fools we will tend to act that way. Better we view ourselves as multi-faceted persons for that's who we appear to be.
Self-rating and self-labeling can hinder our goals. If we believe we could become losers, failures, or some other negative label as the result of losing or failing, we can become anxious about doing the task. This can defocus us from our activity. And if we fail at a task, we will face the feelings we create when we negatively label ourselves "failures".
Self-rating creates problems when we predict the future. If we negatively rate ourselves "I'm inadequate", we'll tend to envision a negative future. Seeing this negative outcome is highly unmotivating.
Self-rating sets up magical goals. We may attempt to be "superior" to others. We are not super-human or subhuman, yet a strong case can be presented for us being fallible humans who make errors from time to time. Truly we are multi-faceted persons with many positive, neutral, and negative qualities.
We can rate our behaviors and traits, yet problems arrive when we started rating ourselves up and down by our not so hot behaviors and traits. Better to note that we sometimes act foolishly, than to say we're fools.
We can accept ourselves by refusing to rate and label ourselves or by viewing ourselves as multi-faceted persons. We can find instant grace by simply choosing to drop self-labeling and self-downing or by recognizing our multi-faceted self. Self-acceptance is unconditionally accepting the self. You refuse to be critical of the self or negatively label it. You criticize behavior and traits, but you stay away from knocking the self because of your behavior.
Self-esteem is built upon rating yourself up or down by what you do, are, or have. Self-esteem can be painful and unmotivating if you don’t achieve your standards for doing, being, or having. You are then under the whip of standards, and if your standards are perfectionistic it can be even more painful.
Negative self-labels offer us excuses not to change behaviors and traits. We act in harmony with our label. If we believe we are "no good", we might be more tempted to not change our behavior.
By refusing to label ourselves and rate ourselves or by accepting ourselves as fallible, yet multi-faceted persons, we will be less subject to intense and enduring emotions and will be more willing to take risks
"What are some strategies for overcoming bad self-images? Do you experience that a bad self-image can be overcome?"
Yes a poor self-image can be overcome. I've seen that happen many, many times. It can be brought about in a number of ways:
(1) Process those Personality Clusters. (2) Accept ourselves or love ourselves regardless of whether we do positive or negative things. We always have that choice not to knock ourselves when we invariably make errors. (3) Take actions in our lives that create positive experiences of success, yet don’t rate our selves by them. Focus on the vital and absorbing activity of doing. Soak up enjoyment.
Self-images are entrancing beliefs. Bad self-images fall into this category because they twist our perceptions in a way that distort how we see ourselves. They show us only a negative picture and engender negative feelings and pictures of negative possibilities. Bad self-images are grist for the processing mill. They are illusions like even positive self-images, but the negative self-images make life feel lousy and our possibilities appear poor. Bad self-images run anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame. These are those distorted images that make us appear bad, worthless, foolish, dumb etc. They predict and help create poor outcomes and block motivation.
I promote the way of unconditional self-acceptance and self-love and am foursquare against most self-esteem systems with their destructive self-rating system.
In unconditional self-acceptance and self-love we can always choose to accept ourselves, love our selves, and treat ourselves in a loving and compassionate manner. No matter how great, average, or how crummy our performances are.
It is a waste of time to put ourselves down for our human fallibility. We can choose not to do so.
We can motivate ourselves with the positive experience of being absorbed in the moment and not by fearing a negative self-rating. The negative-self rating will create a negative trance, a narrowing or fixating of attention, that will self-perpetuate itself. If you believe you're bad--how do you think you will act? How will the present, past, and future appear to you?
Any form of self-rating will help spawn and reinforce Personality Clusters.
We can change our negative fixation and learn to accept and love ourselves no matter what. There is no universal law that says we can't. We make the choices unless we are run by some fixations that mitigate this experience.
All self-attacks are based on distortion (See Changing Distorted Thinking. When we label ourselves a fool or worthless we are seeing only one of our qualities and traits. We have literally millions if not billions of traits and behaviors. It is arbitrary and self-defeating to knock ourselves by our mistakes. But a personality cluster or negative fixation will make it appear to our highly constricted view that we are this one trait or behavior and that is all we are. Absurd! We have many, many positive, neutral, and negative traits and behaviors. Why would we choose just one or a few to view ourselves by?
We do have a choice: To accept and to love or to up and down ourselves by some completely arbitrary standard.
I have signed a pact with myself to accept, love, and treat myself compassionately no matter what. It's easier. I enjoy the vital absorption of the moment--the flow. I don't bother with upping myself or downing myself. Many times my smaller self is not even present when I am pulled into the heart of the moment. Personality Clusters will pull us out of the moment with their dire needs to stay on the up and down stairway of self-esteem and its silly call for proving a self (a belief) and either patting it on the head or kicking it in the shins. There is a better way. I subscribe to the gospel of unconditional self-acceptance and self-love. Available at any moment. Free. Automatic grace. Goes with the turf of being free of negative self-images.
There are three Personality Clusters to be processed: Failure, Inferiority/Shame and Undesirable. The beliefs below and their attendant feelings can be targets for processing.
Inferiority/Shame: This cluster leaves us feeling defective, inferior, no good, and undesirable. With this cluster we are sensitive to criticism and rejection and are shamed by our appearance and flaws. Beliefs are:
Who would love me or like me if they noticed my flaws?
I've got lots wrong with me.
How could anyone love or like me?
They would leave if they knew the real me.
I'm unsuitable and unlovable.
Nothing I can do will help me gain important others’ love and respect.
It's my fault that others don't accept or love me.
I must prove my worth.
I don't want anyone to see the real me.
No matter what I do, I still feel unacceptable and unloved.
I'm drawn to others who are critical of me or reject me.
I feel inadequate and lacking.
I've got to hide myself from people who get close to me.
I'm afraid for others to get close to me and see the real me.
I feel like a fake when others seem to like me.
My appearance, intelligence, income, opinions, and sexuality are shameful.
Failure: This cluster provides us with a sense that we will fail at everything we try because we are dull, inept, unskilled, or untalented. Beliefs are:
I can't perform as well as others.
I'm a failure.
Methods may work for others, but they'll never work for me.
I'm no good at anything, so why even bother.
Whatever I do is doomed.
Others are more capable than I am.
If I failed once I will always fail.
I’ve got nothing but bad luck.
Trying only leads to more humiliation.
My past life karma is here to collect.
I lack the talent and skills that other people have.
My failures haunt me--why would I want to go through failure again?.
I'm born under a bad sign.
Others are so much more successful than I.
Even if I succeed, I'm an imposter because I am really a failure.
Undesirable: This cluster points to being unwanted due to physical appearance or lack of social skills. Beliefs are:
I’m unacceptable or unlovable.
My conversation is dull.
People won't hang out with me because of my race, poor income, low status, education or lack of social skills.
I can't seem to say the right things--I feel so out of it.
Others don't want me in their circles.
I feel extremely self-conscious around others.
I start talking and people just walk away.
Others naturally judge me and turn off.
I lack what it takes to be desirable.
When I open my mouth people tune out.
I can sense people backing off.
People tend to create these crummy and self-defeating images in the following contexts:
Take care, Steve