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Please avoid a positive self-image

Posted by Simon Parke, 10 August 2020, 4.52pm

It is helpful if you do not have an image of yourself, positive or negative.

An image of our selves causes nothing but trouble for our lives.

The issues with a negative self-image are not difficult to see. They might stop us getting out of bed in the morning, for instance; or, cause us to erect a wall to keep people away.

If ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m a fraud’ is my view of myself, I will want to hide from both others and myself.

So protective walls are built around us, which others can find hard. It doesn’t make for an openness of spirit.

The fact that this negative view of our selves is entirely mistaken only deepens the tragedy of these transactions.

And it doesn’t stop there. When we don’t like who we are, we stop being honest with ourselves. It’s how we survive.

So when someone says, ‘I like to think I’m non-judgemental’, it is rarely true. The clue is in ‘I like to think’...

They would like it to be so, but it isn’t and that is unacceptable to them. So they cover their tracks with a self-image that better suits them.

It would be healthier to say, ‘I am judgemental and feel uncomfortable with it. Is there anything I can do?’

Such honesty is like light streaming into a dark room. But admitting to the shadows inside us takes courage…or the experience of kindness, which some call grace.

But strangely, a positive self-image can also cause problems. This might seem counter-intuitive, because positive self-images are often spoken of as the Holy Grail.

‘Think positivity!’

But we do need to be careful.

There are the obvious false declarations in this cause. Perhaps someone aggressively declares ‘I think I’m great!’ - when clearly, by all other psychological metrics, they do not. The pressure towards positivity or purity can make liars of us. (Which is why there is so much dishonesty in church communities.)

But there are other more fundamental issues when we self-identify as ‘non-judgemental’ or ‘wise’ or ‘compassionate’ or ‘funny’ or ‘self-aware’ or ‘loyal’ or ‘reliable’ or whatever. Perhaps someone once told us this, whispered it in our ear. Perhaps we felt it was something we should be.

But what happens the day I am not so? I have set myself up to be this particular version of myself – but these labels bring responsibilities I won’t always be able to meet.

Contortions, cover-ups and anxiety can follow.

‘Was I wise enough in that meeting?’ or ‘Oh dear, I wasn’t very compassionate today – did they notice?’ or ‘Was I funny/loyal/reliable/self-aware enough? I’m a fraud! But I can’t let anyone else know!’

So we stay free and don’t attach to any labels about ourselves. They are neither true nor helpful; we don’t self-identify.

Labels, both positive and negative, kill life. I am nothing but this present moment and the transactions occurring here and now. We we look after this moment; we won’t crush it with a label.

This moment is the only identity I possess. I may have been very wise yesterday, but I will probably be stupid today.

So what do we do? We simply notice ourselves kindly and keep the identity space free, no labels allowed.

And here, I suspect, is joy, freedom…

... and endless and resourceful creativity in the world.

 
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