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).

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Maggie W.
Maggie W.4 months ago

I have done a lot of traveling in my life and with all of the languages I've had to deal with there is one that is universal when it comes to communicating your thoughts clearly, a smile.

Nimue P.
Nimue Pendragon4 months ago

Easier said than done, but it make sense :)

Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly4 months ago

Om shanti shanti.(They've warned me not to kill myself or they'll never sell the house.)
No really. Our neighbors moved in 6 months earlier than we did and when the husband died,they built a second living quarter atop the bungalow lower for the son,daughter-in-law,and 2 kids. But when our agen heard that the man died IN the house she declared it- Bad for Real Estate.But the bank is getting all the money.We only had the honor of making 16 years worth of payments (7 years applying for rate adjustment while they denied us till he had no job.) Had they changed the rates,we could have kept up with the payments,and sold the house and moved with a little profit. Have another nice vacation bankers-on us.

Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly4 months ago

Self esteem? I grew up in the 50's.I was told a girl wore skirts and dresses. She was not good at sports.She cooked and took care of babies and cleaned the house while her husband worked. Every mom I knew stayed at home, except my mom. My mom had to work because my father died when I was 16 just starting my Jr. year. So I didn't learn to drive or ride a bike. My mother couldn't drive. I married a traditional husband and my in-laws arrived 3 weeks after the wedding and stayed for 5 months.It was assumed that I would stay home and take care of them and our future children which I did till the youngest was 18 in 2010.We eschewed babysitters in all those years. We watched TV together at home.We bought our first color TV after our 2nd child was born. I became increasingly disabled after 1986 by Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto's disease plus scoliosis ,degenerative disc disease,and stenosis of the lower lumbar. I had kept myself busy refinishing all the furniture in the house, which I found in the back rooms of antique stores. I've slowed down so much that I never went back to school except when my son was a toddler .I went for 2 years at night till we moved again. But my body couldn't work 9-5.The kids called me lazy and fat.Their father allowed it. And I all but disappearred.Now I go out 6 times a year. It's funny.I was bullied by children when I was young.I'm bullied by my own now that I'm old. Yes,DC-it's hilarious. Om shanti shanti. They've warned me not to kill myself or they'll

Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly4 months ago

Throw-away women will be more and more common.We have no retirement.Our husbands paid into retirement funds for 40 years but then couldn't keep up the payments.(There must be someone besides me.) We've lost the house to foreclosure and the rest to bankruptcy and the last 15 years to a bad economy. We're not fighting for immortality or even to make a mark on history. We'd just like to know someone will find us when we die.
Right now my chances look slim.

Elisa F.
Elisa F.2 years ago

Very thought provoking...thanks Deepak.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

always smile!

heather g.
heather g.3 years ago

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)

Dot A.
Dot A.3 years ago

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

Sian R.
Sian R.3 years ago

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 ( 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.