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).