Projecting a positive image – why looking good is only half the picture

21 Nov

It’s likely that at some time or other we’ve all experienced the good feelings associated with wearing something we really love.  When we look in the mirror and like our appearance (our external image), this gives us a sense of confidence that helps us project a positive image to others.

However, the image we present is not only about our external image.  Our internal image also has a vital role to play.

Internal image

Our internal image is based upon the beliefs that we have about ourselves.  These beliefs are formed through our life experiences and can be helpful or limiting.  For example, we might believe that we are attractive and likeable, or ugly and repulsive to others.

Helpful beliefs enable us to behave in a confident manner and project well, while unhelpful beliefs can result in us feeling unworthy and unlikeable, leading to a poorer image.

In order to consistently project a positive image we must therefore look and feel good about ourselves.  Changing how you look alone will not create a positive impression if it is constantly undermined by a poor internal image.

Overhaul your beliefs

When we feel anxious or nervous about doing something, it is likely that there is a limiting (unhelpful) belief we hold about ourselves that is fuelling our anxiety.  This belief makes itself heard through our ‘inner voice’ or the critic inside our head that tells us we can’t do something, or that if we do, we’ll look stupid (you know the voice!!).

To ensure your beliefs don’t undermine your internal image, it is helpful to do an overhaul of those beliefs you hold about your appearance.  Becoming aware of these enables you to keep the helpful ones and to challenge, remove and reframe the ones that are less than helpful.

Here’s an example.  Say that you hold the belief “My thighs are huge – if I go out, everyone is going to think they are hideous and not want to talk to me.” What impact do you think this will have when you are asked to go out with friends, or on a first date perhaps?  It’s likely that you will feel anxious and nervous.  You may avoid going out altogether, or if you do go, you will constantly be obsessing about your thighs.  Your awkwardness will show, perhaps creating the impression that you aren’t interested in other people, who may avoid you as a result. In this scenario, your beliefs have created the very situation you are trying to avoid, and you are likely to assume that others are avoiding you because of your huge thighs!

Awareness of such a belief is the first step in improving your self image, so be aware of the kind of beliefs that your inner voice is expressing.

Once you are aware of the belief, challenge it.  What evidence do you have for this belief?  Has anyone ever said anything mean about your thighs?  Look for evidence to contradict this belief – when did someone compliment you on how you looked in a skirt or a pair of trousers that showed off that part of your body?  If you don’t think you can challenge the belief yourself, get someone you trust to do this with you.

Hopefully you’ll find some contrary evidence that helps to discredit your belief.  Now, replace it with a more helpful belief.  What belief would you like to have instead?  What would help you feel more confident?  For example, perhaps you like the way your overall figure looks in certain outfits.  A more helpful belief might be:  “I like the way my figure looks when I wear a dress, and my thighs are part of that overall look.”

To embed this new belief you’ll need to repeat it.  This can mean saying it out loud; writing it down over and over, or putting it up somewhere you can see it every day.

Look for evidence that this new belief is true – what compliments have you received when you wore dresses, or any other outfits?  How differently do you feel as a result of this new belief?  How are people reacting to you as a result?

Be patient, it takes time to change old beliefs, but keep putting in the work, as it will be worth it.  To consistently project a positive image, you have to do the hard work on the inside as well as the outside.


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