Low self esteem is like driving through life with your handbrake on.Maxwell Maltz
The subconscious mind dictates about 95% of what we humans do. We might think its our conscious, rational mind making decisions, but its often our subconscious beliefs and emotions.
Many of us struggle with low self esteem to varying degrees. Low self esteem creates much suffering in life. It is summed up by the thought ‘it’s no use, I can’t do it’.
Much of it is to do with subconscious beliefs we have about ourselves. We might be aware of these or not.
For much of my life, I didn’t even realise that I was walking around with a negative self-image. The underlying belief that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t worthy of love led to all sorts of issues. Self-sabotaging behaviours, avoidance, toxic shame, missed opportunities and not standing up for myself or living my true potential. Not to mention the anxiety that stuck to me like superglue.
It is only in recent years when I have become more conscious (aware of myself and the world around me), that I know a big part of it was due to narcissistic abuse and my early childhood thoughts about it. When I was young, I remember thinking that I was on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse because I deserved it. There has to be something wrong with me, hence why it’s happening to me.
I did not realise this at the time. I did not realise that I was programming myself with toxic beliefs about not being worthy of love and that something was wrong with me. It is hard to put into words how debilitating this can be in every area of your life.
But through self development, acceptance and evolving my consciousness, I have now become much more aware of these beliefs. I had to overcome it if I was going to live a fulfilled life, no matter how Herculean the effort.
This is when I discovered a book called Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. In my opinion, it is one of the best books at explaining the human condition, how the human mind works and how to overcome limiting beliefs and a negative self image.
Our self-image determines what we become
Your worth is inherent and inalienable.
But if you feel undeserving or unworthy then you will always find some way to fail, even if opportunity is dumped in your lap. And your rationale mind will rationalise this outcome as proof that you are not good enough, reinforcing the negative self-image.
You might try to improve your self-image with positive thinking or affirmations which is common for therapists to use. But positive thinking only works if it’s consistent with the underlying self-image. The self-image that operates below our level of consciousness.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.C.G. Jung
Your upbringing, social conditioning, experiences and your thoughts about it can manifest a negative self-image. In a consumer driven, corporate and government controlled society the people in power are reliant on you not feeling good about yourself. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you have little self respect and think you need ‘fixing’. Hence, you will be ‘sold’ the solution by corporations who only care about money and you won’t stand up to government overreach in your life.
So your social conditioning did not facilitate a healthy environment to develop a healthy self-image.
The most control you have to develop a healthy self-image is your thoughts about it. But the reality is that it’s probably easier to climb Everest naked than to control your thoughts!
The key is understanding that it’s not about controlling your thoughts. Knowing something intellectually on a conscious level will not help you that much in real life. The key is in realising the power of the subconscious mind.
Our subconscious creative mechanism
We have two minds; the conscious which is the thinking mind and the subconscious which operates under the surface. We might think our conscious mind is in control, but it’s actually our subconscious mind that dictates about 95% of our lives.
The conscious mind knows, but does not do. The subconscious mind does the doing.
Sometimes we unconsciously cut ourselves off from something good, so we can avoid dealing with painful issues within. So it is, in fact, a deliberate choice, but without you consciously understanding why.Maxwell Maltz
So your body loyally commands the subconscious ‘invisible’ mind like the most well behaved, loyal dog. That’s why well-intended new year’s resolutions don’t last past January. We set a resolution with our conscious intellectual mind, but our subconscious mind doesn’t play ball. Bad dog!
Accept yourself vs transform yourself
The health and fitness industry constantly markets transforming yourself. The subliminal message is that you are somehow ‘broken’ and need something outside of yourself to fix you. But you don’t need to be transformed by anything external, you need to look inward to unlock your innate power.
Accepting yourself just means dropping the resistance. You are not superior or inferior. Acting superior is really an inferiority complex. It’s just a facade to hide the feelings of inferiority. You are an individual and imperfectly perfect like everyone else.
But to accept ourselves we must overcome limiting beliefs that lead to a negative self-image . Beliefs from our upbringing, authorities and experiences can bury themselves deep inside us. They are not formed consciously. So they can not be overcome with conscious willpower.
To accept ourselves, we first have to be the person we want to be. Not think our way there or fake it till you make it. But to actually be. How do you be something that you aren’t?
By using the power of relaxation and vivid imagination.
Our brain isn’t a machine, but it has a machine whereby it can learn what to do. It can be a success or failure mechanism depending on what seeds you feed it with.
We can change in hypnosis because our subconscious mind believes it to be true. That’s why the TV can be so dangerous as our brainwaves are almost in a hypnotised state. Hence, we might believe whatever the TV tells us, no matter how absurd.
The nervous system can’t distinguish between an imagined experience, and a real experience.
So if we sit down quietly in a relaxed state, and vividly imagine something, our brain is experiencing it as if it was real!
We are all born with this innate creative mechanism. It works best when our conscious mind isn’t involved – the harder we think about it, the less chance we have to create.
Conversely, the less we think about it and the more relaxed we are, and the more chance we will unlock our subconscious power and create.
Now we know that the key to improving our self-image is by making the unconscious, conscious and by connecting with our subconscious mind through vivid imagination, how to we apply this in practice?
Here are a few exercises to try. The inspiration for these is taken from the book Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. The key is practice and consistency. This is not a quick fix; the first time you do this you might not notice any benefit. But practice and starting with just 10 minutes a day is the key. First you build your habits, then your habits build you. Every day or as often as you can practice these exercises.
1. Identify existing beliefs
Reflect on your unwanted behaviors and negative feelings. Ask yourself the following questions and manually write down your answers on paper:
- What belief supports this action or feeling?
- Why do I believe this belief?
- Is this belief based on fact and real evidence?
- What if I’m mistaken in this belief?
- Would I come to the same conclusion about another person in a similar situation?
- Why should I continue to act and feel as if this were true? Is there a good reason to continue to believe it?
Going deep into these questions will help you bring your subconscious self-image into your conscious mind.
2. Instill new beliefs
Instilling new beliefs to replace those that don’t serve you requires repetitive practice.
Step 1: Memorise creative mechanism success principles
1. Define your goal – our brain is a goal striving machine
2. Success mechanism is telepathic – do the thing and you’ll have the power (don’t need a how)
3. Mistakes/failures are just feedback to correct course
4. Don’t force it by conscious effort – let it work rather than make it work because it operates below the level of consciousness.
Step 2: Relaxation
Effort is why we fail when it comes to connecting with our subconscious success mechanism. It is impossible to feel anger, fear and anxiety when the muscles in the body are relaxed. Maltz recommends the following process to be relaxed;
- Close your eyes
- Imagine yourself lying stretched out on a bed
- Form a picture of your legs as if they were made of concrete
- See these very heavy concrete legs sinking down into the mattress from the sheer weight
- Now picture your arms and hands as made of concrete. They also are very heavy and are sinking into the bed
- Repeat this with arms, neck, and every other part of your body
- Repeat this for 5-10 minutes every day or as often as you can.
Step 3: Imagine who you want to be
Pick your goal or problem you want to solve for the success mechanism to focus on. When in a relaxed state as above;
- Imagine looking at a TV screen playing a mental movie of you succeeding at your goal
- Use all your senses to vividly imagine all the details of experiencing success: the more detailed the better. Imagine the touch, smell, noise, taste and emotion that you feel when experiencing success
- Rehearse scenarios in your life beforehand and imagine how you would like to act.
Practice this as much as you can. Remember, it’s equivalent to an actual experience as far as the nervous system is concerned.
Add more life to your years
I have felt much better doing these practice exercises. It doesn’t mean I have it all figured out and never suffer from thoughts and feelings of low self worth anymore. However, I’ve got to a place where I am much more self aware and have and adequate self-image of self respect.
A self-image where I will stand up for myself and stick to my values and principles, no matter what. A self-image of not being inferior or superior to anyone else. This helps free you from the prison of your own mind and limiting beliefs. Ultimately adding more life to your years.