From our youngest years onward we develop a self-image. In our young years a good part of our self-image is developed by our environment, our parents, our siblings, our teachers, our neighborhood, and so on. Also, at least in part, genetics are responsible for our personality. There is nothing we can do about that part of ourselves. And until we reach adolescence, teen years, and so forth, it is unlikely we can or will do anything about our self-image.
But at some point we reach adulthood and then our self-image becomes entirely our own responsibility. The law says we reach adulthood at the age of 18. Some, usually women, get there more quickly while others, usually men, get there more slowly. But at some point, say by age 25, we all reach a reasonable amount of maturity that we become entirely in control of our own life. And that is the key here, understanding that the responsibility for who we are is entirely our own.
What this all boils down to is self-empowerment. I have had to stop feeling sorry for myself and feeling like I am a victim. The universe really does not have time for such distractions, and it really doesn’t care either. And those are good things! It all simply means that wherever it is within myself that I do not like, I am ultimately responsible for changing those things within as I am able. What is not acceptable is inaction.
I have been able to build a good and positive ego without becoming self-centered, narcissistic, or ego-maniacal. I take a daily accounting of my shortcomings and accept the responsibility, on a daily basis, for fixing those things. I allow myself to fail without getting down on myself. I believe that failure is simply an opportunity to better oneself.
I think every person deserves to be happy. But we are responsible for our own happiness. Once we feel good about ourselves we find that other people like us better and are more accepting of our short-comings. I have found that absolutely everything I have ever felt has been felt by someone else and that I was never alone but only felt that way because I was unable or unwilling to believe that I share those very same feelings with millions of others and that I am no better nor worse than anyone else. This sort of acceptance has allowed me to feel good about myself and improve my self-image to a point that it is good.
Unfortunately, our society does not teach personal responsibility. Our schools do attempt to teach personal responsibility, but my experience in teaching tells me that parents often undermine this aspect of a child’s education by not believing that their child could be in the wrong. This teaches the child that active avoidance of the truth is a good thing. The effect of such learning is that when the child applied that principle to himself, when confronted with an unpleasant circumstance he deals with it by ignoring it or by putting the responsibility upon someone or something else. And this is exactly how far too many people reach adulthood. Active avoidance of the truth becomes a lifestyle, particularly when taken stock of one’s self is involved.
I was guilty of exactly that sort of behavior for too many decades of my life. I had a very low self-image but I was doing absolutely nothing to change that. I was actively engaged in lowing my own self-image because I was unable to recognize the truth, or if I did recognize it, I was either too fearful or just too dumb to ask for help. And it is because of my inability to take any positive actions or accept self-evident truths that my self-image remained in the gutter.
Then one day someone asked me if I was willing to do “whatever it takes” to fix my life. I responded that I was. I quickly discovered that that meant I had to come to terms with absolute honesty with myself and others. I had to take a “no excuses” approach to life. Because of this approach, my self-image today is really healthy and really good. But it did not get to the point quickly or painlessly.
I have charged myself with being as close to perfectly honest with myself and everyone else as is humanly possible. I always allow for the possibility that something I believe to be true is not. I always allow for the possibility that I have unwittingly harmed someone and that upon recognizing that fact, or being told of it, I am immediately responsible for its correction in the shortest amount of time possible.
One of my prime personal maxims today is that of what to do when I find myself in a place or situation that I believe unacceptable for any reason. I tell myself that I am at least in part responsible for where I find myself and therefore I am 100% responsible for taking action that moves me to a more desirable place. I cannot wait of the universe to magically change my circumstances because that is simply not going to happen. I also understand and accept that for as long as I take no action I can on expect things to stay the same, if not get worse.
The way this all relates to self-image is that when I look at myself and take stock, it is not unusual for me to find something within myself that I do not like. The first thing I do is to accept what I have found. With that acceptance I know the next thing I have to do is decide what actions to take to fix whatever it is I do not like. It is not unusual for me to find that I need to get advice from someone else or even their help. At that point I take the appropriate action. Once I have done that and have fixed what I originally did not like, I always feel better about myself. But I also have to accept that there are things I can do nothing about and accept those things too. In such cases I simply need to figure out how to work with those things I cannot change so that it is not an impediment to my future happiness.