Have you ever wondered what your avatar would look like in a Matrix world? If you could create the avatar, and had to make it look like you as much as possible, would you model it exactly as you are right now? Would you wear the clothes you're currently wearing? Would you make yourself look a little younger? A little older? Would it really look like you?

The avatar you'd create would be based on your residual self-image, a term that psychologists use to describe how people imagine their physical appearance. Residual self-image is an aspect of self-image, which is a powerful psychological concept that holds the key to creating positive and sustainable changes in your life. In this article, we will discuss what self-image is and how you can build a positive self-image.  

What is Self-Image?

Self-image includes both your objective physical features (hair, weight, height, eye color) and how you think about yourself. It incorporates your personal experiences as well as other people's ideas about you that you have internalized.

Your self-image can be positive, negative, or anywhere in between. A poor self-image is deeply tied with poor self-esteem (which is your opinion of yourself) and can lead to low confidence and, in some cases, depression. Examples of thoughts that reflect a poor self-image include:

  • I am ugly
  • I am a failure
  • I'll always be terrible at math
  • My brain isn't wired for programming
  • I'm bad at talking to people because I'm naturally shy

Thankfully, your self-image is not a fixed concept. It can and will change drastically over the course of your lifetime. A positive self-image will lead to sustainable changes that can drastically improve the quality of your life.

How to Build a Positive Self-Image

The below nine tips are taken from the Second Law of John Maxwell's excellent book 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (one of the best self-help books out there).

Guard your self-talk: It's impossible to constantly monitor everything you're thinking. But sometimes we all get stuck in a downwards spiral of negative thoughts. It's important to become aware of that spiral and cut it short before it gets too bad. Be careful how you think of yourself. Don't live in a mental environment that criticizes you for everything you do.

Stop comparing yourself to others: The problem with comparisons is that there will always be someone who has more and probably does it better too. You could be a billionaire and still feel tiny in comparison to the centibillionaires of the world. So stop comparing. If you have to compare, compare yourself with who you were in the past and not with anyone else.

Move beyond your limiting beliefs: If you think your brain is just not wired for something or that you don't have the right genes for it, you have a fixed mindset. You believe you are a certain way and cannot change. You are who you are and that's the end of the story. Well, it's false. Both young and old humans are incredibly malleable. We can do much more than we think we can. But first, we have to believe we can. So change the idea that you cannot change yourself.

Add value to others: Your self-image is influenced by what other people think of you. If you are a valuable member of society, people will think positively of you, and you will be nudged to think positively of yourself as well. That's one of the reasons why it's worthwhile to help other people. You are indirectly helping yourself.

Do the right thing, even if it's the hard thing: Your self-image is influenced by your values too. Doing what you believe is the right thing, even if it's an unpopular, hard, or painful choice, is good for your self-image because you're acting according to your values. You are a sincere person, because you believe in something but also act on that belief.

Practice a small discipline daily in a specific area of your life: Discipline is a virtue and an important aspect of success in life. Repeat a small thing every day so that even your worst days will have the one thing you did right, the one chain you don't break. This could be journaling, working out, writing, or any other habit that's good for you.

Celebrate small victories: When we achieve something in our lives, the achievement is often so small we pass it off as inevitable or too small to celebrate. But major victories are rare, and we all need a bit more celebration in our lives. So congratulate yourself on doing something well. The road to victory is paved with small achievements. Celebrate them.

Embrace a positive vision for your life: How you think about your future self greatly determines your current self-image. If you think your future will be exactly the same as it is now or worse, your self-image will suffer. But if you believe your future is bright and full of riches and possibilities, your current self-image will grow more positive.

Take responsibility: We all have much more control over our lives than we tend to think. You can only build a positive self-image when you start taking control. Do not simply surf the wave, but point the surfboard in the direction you'd like to go. So take responsibility for both your good and bad decisions.

In Conclusion

The changes you make to your self-image are sustainable because they are deeply tied to who you believe you are. If you believe your brain isn't wired for programming, any attempt to learn a programming language is doomed to fail. And you likely won't enjoy it either.

But if you see yourself as someone who can learn anything, as long as they put their mind to it, then becoming a programmer becomes eminently doable. That's one of the powers of a positive self-image. It influences your relationship with yourself and makes your goals, dreams, and ambitions easier to reach.