Most people struggle with self image. Our society tries to teach us that we have to maintain a certain type of image that we project to others and we spend a great deal of time trying to conform to that expectation. It isn’t necessarily any one specific configuration of person that everyone is trying to be, but a standard sense of feeling like we are accepted by others. You need only look at the various social media accounts of the people you’ve decided to let into your life to verify this.
The problem with this sort of social striving is that we make it much harder on ourselves to do any sort of true self analysis. Our attention is so caught up in trying to polish our public image that we tend to ignore taking a really hard look at who we really are on the inside. We are far more interested in taking the perfect “selfie” than looking in the mirror and trying to seriously understand the person staring back at us.
I can say with some honesty that this isn’t really something I’ve bought into with any significant level of commitment. Social norms have never really appealed to me, and being in groups of people has always made me uncomfortable, especially when they are people I’m not very familiar with. This has allowed me a great deal of solitude, which is an excellent environment for self reflection.
When you have large quantities of time in which to really take a hard look at yourself, it becomes much easier to be honest about who you are. With all the distractions gone, you stop listening to what other people are saying and really start looking at how you work at every level. The things you start to learn can be shocking at times, as you start to realize you aren’t even close to this ideal image everyone seems to want to wear like a costume.
For many, it is much easier to be honest about the flaws of other people because our egos make it very difficult to think that we aren’t good people. In my own case, I have a very brutal sense of honesty, to the extent that I admit terrible things about myself that I would never have the courage to point out in someone else. As we all know but never admit, we each have an incredibly strong dark side lurking somewhere beneath the civilized veneer we cloth ourselves in.
If this sounds scary to you, don’t be discouraged. Truth is rarely easy or safe. When you decide to start down a path of serious self analysis you’re going to find things about yourself that aren’t very nice to think about. The trick is to have that thought firmly in your head from the very beginning so that you aren’t surprised when you stumble on something that you would normally consider shocking. If you aren’t finding anything that makes you afraid of your own potential, you likely aren’t doing it right.
What do you get out of all of this? As you start to peel back the layers of your own person, you gain a deeper understanding of why you behave the way that you do. It also allows you to identify things in your life you never knew you’d be able to live with. Sometimes we have expectations that simply don’t need to continue, mostly because the way our true selves work is in opposition to these flighty desires. Learning to look at yourself with as clear a lens as possible is a great step toward moving to a better place in your life.
What do you think about self reflection? Have you learned to cast off the illusions we tend to create around ourselves? How can you apply these things to your life in a way that makes it better? Taking the time for self improvement requires a lot of time and effort; there are no shortcuts to anything that is truly worth doing, but the rewards for such a journey can be life changing.
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