Your self-images may not be something you think about them very much. In fact, most of you probably don't even realize that you have many self-images, each one taking a turn depending on the circumstances you are in.
 The way you see yourself, or the way you think about yourself affects the actions and choices you make everyday. We are talking about your belief system. It is the answer to the question; who are you?
Unfortunately, the misunderstanding of this concept produces consequences that are life-changing; often not for the better.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Part of the misunderstanding of the concept of self-image, is in the phrase itself, for most of what you would classify as your self-image, isn't your self-image at all, but other people's images of you that have been integrated in your mind as your own. It is this ability to 'tell' you who you are, that allows advertisers to steer you in almost any direction of thinking, and buying. The fashion industry, for example, isn't so much about fashioning clothes, as it is about 'fashioning' your mind to think that the new fad is important enough for you to spend money on.

Just think of the problems that would occur if the word - exercise - meant both, working out in the gym, and sitting on the couch watching TV eating cookies. If the doctor told you that you needed more exercise to lose weight, you could say, “Sure thing doc!”, go home put on a movie and stuff yourself.
Similarly, because the word self-image has come to mean, your view of yourself, and other people's opinions of you masked in your mind as your own, than what you often do, and unfortunately do all the time, is live your life as an exterior version of yourself, that bares little resemblance to whom you would be without the second opinions of others.

Even though you may not consciously think about your self-image, it's influence is seen in so many of your everyday behaviours. When you don't speak up for fear of embarrassment, when you are too shy to ask someone to dance, when you see a wrong and say nothing, all of these behaviours are shadows cast by images that come from the outside. Settling for a lower paying job, not starting your own business when it is your dream, or staying in a well-paid job that you hate, are further examples of these false self-images wielding control over your own inner drives.

Self-Images Versus Tags

Knowing the difference, then, between your own self and these false self-images, (I call them Tags) is obviously an important thing to know. If you can become conscious of what you really want as opposed to how you learned to respond, then you have the choice of expressing yourself and living your life, and not someone else's.
So then how can you tell the difference between you and your Tags? It is surprisingly simple. You are not your enemy. You never were. Everything about you is designed to make you survive, thrive, and feel alive. If you have 'feelings' to the contrary, there are your Tags. The feelings of stupidity, ugliness, worthlessness, false fear (fearing something that you know won't harm you, such as speaking in public), false shame and guilt, are but a few of those 'feelings' whose only purpose is to modify your behaviour in a way to make you conform to an idea. These so called feelings are but shadows cast by the Tags to make you act in a certain way from criteria that came from the outside.
There are also behaviours that you do that are signposts for some external force exerting it's influence on your life by masking itself as your own self-image. Overeating, over-drinking, along with the other excesses are sure signs of an external influence. Why do we know it isn't your own view of you? Try sitting at the bottom of a pool of water for as long as you can, and watch how much your body's desire to survive kicks in! Your body not only wants to live, it wants to live whole. It know exactly what to do to stay alive and healthy. Anything that you do to stop it, hurt it, or make it weaker is a sign that your are listening to those voices in your head telling you that if you don't act in a certain way, you will start to feel these 'nasty' feelings.
It isn't actions that most of you fear, it is the feelings that are evoked by the action. More than almost anything else, what you avoid at so much cost is the feelings of stupidity, embarrassment, guilt, shame, feeling too old, too young, shy, ignorance, feeling unloved, un-needed, un-noticed, and on and on. If you can understand that you are not afraid of what people will think of you if you get up and speak in public; rather you are afraid of how you will feel imagining what people will think of you speaking in public. That subtle difference is the core of understanding your motivation to act or not act in any situation. It's those feelings that control so much of our behaviour. These feelings you will note are feelings that only humans possess. They are part of our brain development that is somewhat different from other animals. The reason for this is complex and that is what my book “Through the Door!”: A Journey to the Self goes into detail explaining, however, think of these particular feelings as 'Tag Feelings'. In other words, those are the tools that external images of yourself, your Tags, use to keep you behaving in the way that they feel are best for you, not what you want.

Living The Real You

The only way to really start living your life as a true expression of your uniqueness, with all of your dreams, goals, and desires finding an outlet, is to first, recognize these Tag feelings when they crop up, acknowledge that they are not representative of you and your wants, and then tell yourself that “In spite of feeling embarrassed to say what is on my mind, I will do so anyway. It is this conscious act of defying your tag-feelings that allows you to go through the door of discovery of your own self.
Sure, it isn't easy to do all the time, and so often you will find yourself after a situation, where you acted in a way that wasn't an expression of yourself. It is important to remember that you always have other opportunities. Rather than wait for situations to crop up, you can also think of the things that you've always wanted to do, say, or try, and start making plans to achieve them. Just know that as you do, the feelings will try to stop you. Don't fight the feelings, go beyond them! You're going to have to get use to trying things and feeling silly, or whatever emotion that crops up to try to dissuade you. You just have to keep reminding yourself that the feelings don't reflect you. Do it anyway.
With time you will find that the more you ignore the Tag-feelings, the less often they will crop up, or at least their intensity will die down. No more will you need to be a victim of external ideas living in your brain as false aspects of yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Phil L. Méthot is a Montreal Motivational speaker and Author of "Through the Door!":A Journey to the Self

His website offers many insights into business and personal motivation and personal development