Many of us struggle with cultivating a positive self-image. Whether it’s due to bullying, a tumultuous home life, or an inherently self-critical nature, we are often our own worst critics. Unfortunately, being judgemental towards yourself isn’t motivating or helpful; on the contrary, it’s destructive and unbeneficial, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. Honestly, it’s easier to be harsh than to be kind, especially if these ways are ingrained into your being. So then, how do you create better self-talk and re-wire the way you see yourself to be kinder to yourself and love the life you live? Well, let’s explore 5 tips to cultivate a better self-image and how you can use them to fire your old self to create your new, best self and ultimately live your best life.
When we discuss positive affirmations, people often get the ‘dream big’ thought process stuck in their heads to a fault. While it’s important to have big goals, we also need to realize that they won’t happen overnight or without consistent effort and determination. For example, “I’m going to be a great success” sounds like a pretty good positive affirmation – but is it realistic? How exactly will you become a great success? And what does success look like to you? Instead of utilizing a general, over-arching affirmation like this, try to be more specific and adjust it to something like: “I am going to continue showing up for myself every day until I succeed!” Not only do you identify HOW you’ll succeed (by showing up), but it’s also more believable and achievable. If you’re struggling to identify good affirmations, start by listing your positive qualities. Maybe you’re a great friend, hard worker, or dedicated student – no matter what it is, write it down to remind yourself. Another example of shifting your perspective to utilize realistic positive affirmations is changing “I am going to be the best student in my class” to “I am going to persevere and do my best until the very end of my schooling.” In this example, you remove the competitive nature of the affirmation and contain it only to yourself; in other words, your past self is your only true competition. If you can embody this sentiment, then you are one step closer to cultivating a better self-image and molding yourself into the best version of yourself.
Similar to shifting your perspective on realistic positive affirmations, you must confront thinking distortions to truly fire your old self and cultivate a better self-image. I personally struggle with thinking distortions, but I try not to let them impede my lifestyle and goals anymore. For example, I used to not go places or see people because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. However, once I started to identify these nasty and insidious things, I was telling myself, I could begin to break the cycle and stop getting in my own way. Perpetuating these things to yourself is one of the most difficult things to eliminate, but the peace of mind you’ll receive is worth it. So, just like we made a list of positive things about yourself, you could also write down some of the worst things that you tell yourself. Once you write these things down, it’s the first step in identifying and changing the behavior. Plus, seeing these sentiments written on paper as things you are to no longer say to yourself helps you flip the script the next time you start thinking these things. It sounds simple but re-wiring your thinking distortions is extremely challenging yet critical for your personal growth on the journey to becoming your new, best self.
For people that struggle with speaking to themselves kindly, it can be extra difficult to accept compliments from others. However, you must learn to accept compliments because you deserve recognition, kindness, and love from the people in your life. In a recent article for Fire Yourself entitled “Dream Big, Grow Big, Smile Big” by Ron Weber, he speaks about his challenges with childhood bullies and shares his thoughts on approaching what others have to say about you. He says: “Listen to the words that are shared with love and kindness, not the words of ignorance and malice.” So easily do we internalize the words of ignorance and malice; in fact, they stick with us even when we don’t want them to, yet we often push away the words shared with love and kindness. It’s almost like we have created a filter, and only the negative gets through while the positive stays out. We need to re-calibrate this filter, allowing the positive to flow through and the negative to fall away. To begin this shift, next time someone compliments you, don’t say ‘thank you but’ say ‘thank you’ and allow yourself to internalize the compliment. Remember, 99.9% of the time, someone compliments you because they genuinely admire that aspect of you, and you do a disservice to yourself by trying to negate it. Once you begin to use positive affirmations and confront distorted thinking, accepting compliments becomes much easier and is a strategy to cultivate a better self-image while also loving the life you live.
Often, we are the hardest on ourselves when we think we’ve made a mistake. But mistakes are inevitable and an integral part of success. If you can think about your mistakes not as an endpoint but as a steppingstone to your goals, you can lead a more balanced, happy lifestyle. Ponder this famous example (taken from one of my favorite childhood movies, “National Treasure”) as you read this article on your smart device. “Thomas Eddison tried and failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized, cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb. And when asked about it, he said, ‘I didn’t fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb,’ but he only needed one way to make it work.” For starters, if Eddison had given up after the first, tenth, or even thousandth try, we might not have modern electricity and, therefore, technology as we do today. Furthermore, while most of us won’t be faced with failure upon failure in the same way, the sentiment holds true that regardless of the setbacks, you need to continue moving forward on your destined path. Embrace the mistakes along the way because this is where we do our best learning, and by doing this, you can flip the script, turn a negative situation into a positive motivator, and find what it means for you to live your best life.
Now that you’ve started to use realistic positive affirmations, confront distorted thinking, accept compliments, and remember that mistakes are inevitable, it’s time to compile these skills together to create a positive inner dialogue. Take it from me, having a negative internal dialogue not only makes your life more difficult but begins to take a toll on your entire being. Something else from Ron’s article that stuck with me was: “To gain confidence, we must first strengthen the foundation we stand on. We must be able to look in the mirror and be proud of what is looking back at us but also love what we see.” In other words, it starts with yourself. You must show yourself unconditional love and kindness if you expect to receive it back from the world. But how can we start being more kind to ourselves? Besides the strategies discussed above, another great tool is “The High 5 Habit,” developed by Mel Robbins. I would strongly recommend reading her book, but, in essence, the idea is that every morning you get in front of your mirror and give yourself a high 5. This is also the perfect opportunity to say some of the realistic positive affirmations we’ve previously identified while also taking a few moments to just sit with yourself and your reflection. Over time you will begin to look forward to this moment and hopefully start to believe all the great things about yourself full-heartedly. Strengthening the foundation and relationship with yourself is a critical final step to becoming your best self so that you can love the life you live.
Nobody wants to go through their life with a negative mindset that continually holds them back from the opportunities that are meant for them. The work to change this begins today, right now. Start with writing down realistic positive affirmations about yourself and implementing them. Next, work to confront and uproot your distorted thinking patterns and learn to accept compliments from others without adding a rebuttal. Furthermore, always remember that mistakes are a part of your journey, and they help shape the determined, resilient person you are meant to become. Finally, utilize all these strategies to create a positive inner dialogue so that your own mind can be your safe space, not a war zone. Ultimately, integrating these 5 tips to cultivate a better self-image is critical so that you may fire your old self to make way for your new, best self while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!