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Stop Defending Your Self-Image

Stop Defending Your Self-Image

Over the years you have built an idealized self-image that you defend as “me.” In this image are packed all the things you want to see as true about yourself; banished from it are all the shameful, guilty, and fear-provoking aspects that would threaten your self-confidence.

But the very aspects you try to push away return as the most insistent, demanding voices in your head. The act of banishment creates the chaos of your internal dialogue, and thus your ideal erodes even while you are doing everything to look good and feel good about yourself.

To really feel good about yourself, renounce your self-image. Immediately you will find yourself being more open, undefended, and relaxed.

Much time is spent in self-help trying to turn a bad self-image into a good one. As reasonable as that sounds, all self-images have the same pitfall: They keep reminding you of who you were, not who you are. The whole idea of I, me, and mine was erected on memories, and these memories are not really you. If you release yourself from your self-image, you will be free to choose as if for the first time.

Self-image keeps reality away, particularly at the emotional level. Many people don’t want to admit what they are actually feeling. Their self-image dictates that being angry, for example, or showing anxiety is not permissible. Such feelings don’t accord with the “kind of person I want to be.”

Certain emotions feel too dangerous to be part of your ideal image of yourself, so you adopt a disguise that excludes those feelings. Deep-seated rage and fear belong in this category, but sadly so does immense joy, ecstasy, or freewheeling spontaneity.

You stop being ruled by self-image when: You feel what you feel, you are no longer offended by things, you stop appraising how a situation makes you look, you don’t exclude people you feel superior or inferior to, you quit worrying about what others think about you, you no longer obsess over money, status, and possessions, and you no longer feel the urge to defend your opinions.

Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).

Read more: Deepak Chopra's Tips, Spirit,

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Deepak Chopra

Acknowledged as one of the world's greatest leaders in the field of mind body medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D. continues to transform our understanding of the meaning of health. Chopra is known as a prolific author of over 49 books with 12 best sellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than 35 languages with more than 20 million copies in print.

144 comments

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1:41AM PDT on Jun 2, 2013

Very thought provoking...thanks Deepak.

9:21AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

always smile!

2:41AM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

A thought-provoking piece.
I'm in the company of seniors a few times a week. One or two of them often say hurtful things to others - I believe because they are unhappy within themselves.
But, not reacting to angry outbursts doesn't mean I'm raging inside. I'm staying calm and observing the situation. Because I know the different characters and their natures, I often think : "That's all about them - not the other person."
Oh no, according to Deepak I might be "defending myself" ... actually simply explaining my non-reactive behaviour. (Better stop there, or I'll dig a hole for myself, Deepak)

12:50PM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

You cannot currently send a star to Sian because you have done so within the last week.
- fabulous comment! -

3:38AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

People here seem so concerned with their literal self-image. I'm 65 and looking forward to being 80+. Old people have such interesting faces and I hope to have one too.

On a bus in Xinjiang province, China, I was struck by the faces of some of the oldest people on earth. These people live in an area which has harsh winters and even harsher (i.e.hot) summers. They've lived through China's Cultural Revolution. They've been - and are still being - oppressed. But their faces are lined with rays of sunshine. They look positively amazing.

On buses back home I look at people's faces too. Often I see what appears to be an ugly face. So I smile at them. When they smile back their whole faces are transformed and they suddenly look beautiful.

Try smiling a bit more. It pays dividends - not just on your face, either.

7:43PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

If you haven't fulfilled yourself before that time it's over. That's why those signs of mortality are so unnerving. From that point it's all about never more. It's more nerve wracking for people who have no sense of their permanent undying essence. Mortality and everything that goes with it is the price everyone here pays for being here. It's up to everyone to decide how and why they came to be but there's no bargaining with the end of time. So self image and the traumas experienced with what it may mean are a universal human experience.

4:55PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

DC: stop appraising how a situation makes you look, you don’t exclude people you feel superior or inferior to, you quit worrying about what others think about you, you no longer obsess over money, status, and possessions, and you no longer feel the urge to defend your opinions

- that also goes for how we see others -

1:45PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

I don't know about such promises. At a certain point, I don't know when, I realized it just doesn't come with the plumbing, Kids seem to expect it but I don't know why. There was a point a few years ago when I just felt very sad and I couldn't shake it. It permeated everything all the time. Doubling my anti-depressant only stopped the acute falling into the black hole effect but the sadness wasn't touched. Just like that ad with the blue bathrobe on TV. Then one Sunday in spring I was out working in my garden and listening to a holistic radio (you know the multiple approach kind) health show and the speaker talked about when she was experiencing the same thing; what that had helped her out of the funk was just listening to the sadness, to what it wanted to tell her. Well you might know that that was certainly not what I wanted to do. I feared being shamed, there's so much that's hard about vulnerability , the helplessness it tells that I , for one, want only to ignore , to bury. and never acknowledge. Being exhausted with the blue sadness I just followed the advice. The idea is that no response or solution is wanted, just to pay attention to it's expression. What it told me was it's sadness about the "never mores" Never more ever the sexual attractiveness, it is biological you know and the male physical response is to fertility. Crones past the time of blood don't give off the same pheromones, that's why the eternal male quest for the younger model, it's pure biology and t

7:22PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

A bit of good self image seems reasonable.

7:06PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

I know that but I'm not the only one. The majority of women are thrown away. Newt Gingrich is the role model for America. What about John Edwards? Every Catholic woman I know who is my age has been thrown away. This isn't about me personally, it's about our whole society.

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