How self-image develops
You have probably asked yourself many times how you can love or at least accept yourself when it is difficult enough to understand why you are who you are.
- Why am I such a workhorse?
- Why do I so rarely treat myself to something?
- Why do I get anxious when I have to give a speech?
- Why do I keep getting involved with people who are not good for me?
- Why can I never make a decision?
- Why do I avoid any conflict and prefer to be disadvantaged?
- Why is it so difficult for me to allow closeness in my partnership?
Complete the list above with the questions that are currently going through your head in relation to your personal life situation and the things that you would like to change. Take the time to find the right questions and be honest with your answers.
The path to greater self-image leads backwards
When you were framing your questions, you probably noticed that feelings, thoughts, desires and disappointments also came up in you. We know this difficult to untangle ball from current stress phases. We often say: "I no longer know where my head is" or "I no longer understand myself". But the real origin for this lack of self-image can usually be found in childhood. This is where the traces that we still follow today were laid.
Harry, 35, a tax lawyer, is to become a partner in a renowned law firm. But his notorious lack of punctuality makes the other partners hesitate. Harry therefore decides to use discipline and willpower to work off his bad habit. But in the course of his efforts he realizes that he is dealing with a deep imprint from his childhood. Since his ambitious mother saw it as her duty to take over the life of her only son, the boy only knew one way out of breaking this caring siege. He got used to forgetting, losing, procrastinating, or being late for things.
How imprints from childhood spoil success
Harry realizes with dismay that these old mechanisms influence him even more today than he would like. Once a clever protection against the mother's attacks, today they seem childish and out of place. Neither the boss nor his clients want to control Harry's life. With the growing self-image for this connection, he finally succeeds in making his professional role more professional. Do you remember Harry's reactions of your own? Are there any childhood conflicts that affect the way you see yourself today? The following questions can provide you with answers:
- Which behaviors keep popping up and bothering you?
- Which behaviors or reactions would you like to change?
- Which moments, conflicts or rules from your childhood do these behaviors remind you of
- Worth imitating: It contributes to a better self-image if we learn not to resort to childlike means from the past to assert our interests. The technique of the inner observer serves well in this process.
Attention tunnel vision
In times of stress, our perspective is usually quite narrow. We no longer see ourselves as a personality with many facets and possibilities, but automatically identify ourselves with the strongest feeling that rises within us. This can be fainting, anger, fear, sadness or rejection.
The idea of having an inner observer available provides the necessary self-distance here. With its help, make it clear to yourself that there is a part of me that is bursting with anger or swoon right now, but I am always more than just my anger. I am also a person full of ideas and lovable traits. At the moment, this negative feeling is being heard more strongly. But it is only a momentary state and nothing more.
The Inner Observer - 3 exercises: Learning to understand yourself better
In the following I would like to introduce the inner observer to you and show you how it can help you to calmly deal with difficult emotional situations. There are two very good exercises for this.
1. Exercise to become an inner observer
Practice the technique of the inner observer to deal with stress responses with more sovereignty and serenity to meet. Write down three events that have stressed you before. Describe your typical reactions. But perceive them only as part of yourself.
- Part of me was angry / angry / scared because ... (for example, angry because the neighbor said something rude to me). How did I react to that?
- Part of me has been sad / frustrated / angry because ... How did I react to that?
- Part of me was pissed off because ... How did I react to that?
You can always use this "observer trick" when you get into difficult situations. In this way, you distance yourself from the stress reaction and do not sink completely into negative emotions.
2nd exercise - with me alone
Withdraw from everyday life for ten minutes and focus your attention on your breath. Without wanting to manipulate it, you are an observer of the breathing process. Concentrating on your breathing will help you get away from your current problem. If you can make friends with this breath observation exercise and see positive effects for yourself, extend the time to 20 to 30 minutes.
You will quickly notice that it is not possible to simply switch off thoughts, memories and worries. They keep fading in. This is a normal process that is part of any quiet exercise and is not bad. Respond in three steps:
- Notice the thoughts that come up.
- Let the mind wander like birds in the sky.
- Keep watching your breath and relax.
3. Put your thoughts in writing
After completing the exercise, take the time to write down your observations.
- What feelings have emerged?
- Which feelings have expanded and taken up space?
- What thoughts, voices and memories have crossed your mind?
- What thoughts kept coming back?
- How did you feel at the end of the exercise compared to the beginning?
This exercise goes a long way towards helping us understand ourselves better and better. In this quiet exercise we experience everything that moves us like in a magnifying glass. What we push away or do not even notice in everyday life now becomes clearer in our consciousness.
We also discover hidden feelings and longings that go back to our childhood and influence our behavior today. Through the exercise we give up identification with our disaster films or negative childhood memories, see things differently from a distance.
How self-change succeeds
The enemy is in my head - the old drivers are still active. Everyone knows this: What do we not think about when we find that we have failed? Would you shower your partner with reproach if he sought solace and help from you? Hardly likely. The only thing we don't leave good hair on is ourselves. We don't treat anyone as badly as we do ourselves.
When someone hurts us, we often think: I now deserve it. Those are bad prerequisites for change. One reason for our harsh self-criticism lies in childhood. Even thoughtless sentences like: "Don't do that", "You can't do that!", "Take an example from your sister" are enough to deeply unsettle a child's heart. In the course of time, the critical voices of our parents become second nature to us. You become part of our identity.
On the trail of the inner driver
Do you know why you behave the way you do in certain situations? As adults, we still follow parental instructions in the form of unconscious self-instructions. Here are some examples:
- We make an effort even when our eyes close with tiredness.
- We'd rather bite our tongues than ask for assistance.
- We avoid situations in which we have to show our colors, such as conflicts or public appearances.
- We don't manage to say no or express wishes.
- We prefer to give 150 percent so that everything is perfect.
Recognize formative rules of conduct and change patterns
In childhood we were not only judged critically, we were also offered rules of conduct. Their attention secured us the goodwill and recognition of our parents. Stress research has identified five of these concise rules of behavior and describes them as internal drivers:
- Be perfect!
- Be popular and please everyone!
- Be strong!
- Be quick!
- Give your best!
Perhaps you will also come across more, your personal drivers, one that you encountered repeatedly in childhood. Write them down. It is important to recognize these patterns.
Because to this day, these drivers influence our thoughts, feelings and behavior. The more we feel under pressure, the more we use them to solve our problems. Unfortunately, often without the desired positive result. As much as we try to do justice to the drivers, it is never enough. And this increases the risk of coming very close to burnout processes.
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