Updated: Mar 15, 2021
© Elaine Bontempi, 2019
All Rights Reserved
When you look in the mirror what do you see? What statements immediately come to mind? "Fat, thin, beautiful, old, successful, popular, loner, magnetic, "etc.? When you consider your “hoped for possible self” that you aspire to become, or even your “feared possible self,” that you worry about becoming, what thoughts regarding your abilities come to mind that might impact either? Take the time to pay close attention to these. For example, were these based on the unsolicited feedback from others such as teachers, coaches, peers, parents, siblings, spouses, or ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, concerning your abilities, looks, strengths, weaknesses, or personality characteristics?
Feedback from others tends to continually loop through our minds, sometimes for years. When these statements come to your mind pay close attention to how these make you feel about yourself, your abilities, and possibilities for your future. Perhaps the easiest way to recognize how these messages impact you is to check your body…when these thoughts come to your mind, do a mental body scan. Do you feel yourself pulling your energy closer to you, or do you feel your energy flowing outwardly? Do you feel tension in your shoulders, neck, solar plexus, or stomach? Or do you feel relaxed or energized? What about your emotions? Do you feel joy, hope, fear, or anxiety?
Part of being able to take steps towards your hopes and dreams in the pursuit of your “hoped for possible self” is overcoming the limiting beliefs about yourself that you have internalized. However, sometimes it is hard to distinguish our own beliefs about ourselves from the beliefs others have towards us. According to the psychological theory, “Looking Glass Self,” we often see ourselves in the way that we believe others see us. Therefore, it is important to identify the source of beliefs surrounding your self-identity, the way they make you feel, and how they impact your motivation. After you have done this you can disarm the accusers, reject false and limiting beliefs, and take control of your environment and future.
The following activities are meant to help you with this. You can work through the following questions on your computer, notebook, or on a scratch piece of paper. Whatever works best for you
Part I: Identifying the Sources & their Consequences The following questions are meant to help you to recognize the sources of thoughts you have about yourself, and the impact these have on your body, emotions, and motivation.
a. Name the thoughts/self-assessments that immediately come to mind when you think about you ability/skills in specific areas. For example, go through each-- your work, academics, social skills, specific topics within academia, artistic/musical ability, earning potential, beauty, intelligence, athletics, etc. Pick as many specific activities and coinciding thoughts as possible and work through all of the following questions for each specific activity and coinciding thought).
b. Name the Accuser (source of these statements about your ability/limitations/etc.).
c. Name the accompanying bodily sensation (ex: tightness in shoulders, neck, chest, stomach, or sensation of relaxation and energy, etc.).
d. Name the accompanying emotions (ex: sadness, hopelessness, apathy, anxiety, fear, discouragement, enthusiasm, hopefulness, eagerness, joy, excitement, etc.).
e. Does the thought that accompanies the specific activity, characteristic, or quality feed your “hoped for” or “feared” possible self?
f. Does the thought that accompanies the specific activity, characteristic, quality or skill energize and motivate you, or cause you to shrink back in apathy, fear, or discouragement? In other words, does it promote an “approach” or “avoidance” mindset?
g. Is it a limiting belief or empowering one?
h. When are you most likely to be reminded of these statements/accusations about your abilities, skills, characteristics, qualities, etc.? For example, when you are tired and sick? Or when you are planning for your future? When you are around specific people or settings?
Part II: Disarming the Accuser
After you have recognized the sources of the self assessments and the impact these have on your body, emotions, and motivation, you want to be able to disarm these. You can do this by:
a. Rejecting the messages--you do not have to accept every message you receive about your abilities/skills/potentials/limitations, etc. If it does not align with what you hope to become and if you do not perceive the source(s) as being credible or as important people in your life you can choose to reject these evaluations.
b. Invalidating the source(s--do these people really know you? Are they jealous of you? Do they have their own agendas in mind?
c. Think about those people in your life who have had the most confidence in you—in your abilities, your personality, strengths, and potential. Replace the critical voices with those who have always been on your side.
d. Think about who you are on a spiritual level. You are a spark of the Divine Creator. Each person has unique strengths, abilities, skills, passions and experiences that set them up to serve the unique purpose that only they can fulfill. There is nobody else like you who has the exact combination of skills, abilities, strengths, experiences, and personality that you have. These equip you to make a very unique contribution on this earth.
e. Choosing your Mirrors: Consider your environment—the friends you keep, social media accounts, and the types of feedback you receive from each. Although you cannot always control every aspect of your environment, there are many things you can do to reduce the amount of negativity you receive from others. Choose friends who will support you and lift you up. Who see you as you want to be seen, and who will give you encouragement but also honest feedback when you need to be held accountable.
f. Who are your available role models? Do you have people in your environment who serve as effective models, demonstrating strategies that you can use to help you to reach your hoped for possible self? If you lack effective models in your life, seek other models and mentors. This includes symbolic models such as the biographies and autobiographies of those you look up to and aspire to be like.