How we think and feel about ourselves is reflected in what happens in our lives. If your thoughts are negative, then turn them around so they are positive. By Richard Blakeborough
If you think you aren’t attractive, or that you are not coping well, then you will believe this to be true. Your behaviour will reflect your thinking. The truth is it’s all about how we think we look or feel!
I'm working in Greymouth for the West Coast PHO and was staying at a local hotel for a few weeks. One wet Saturday afternoon, as I was ironing shirts in my room, I turned on the telly and watched the show How To Look Good Naked.
It was interesting to watch Gok Wan work with a woman who had a poor self-image, showering her with advice and encouragement to the point where she felt confident enough to walk down a catwalk in her underwear and, ultimately, stand in front of a mirror naked.
What fascinated me was the process of how this occurred. What were the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours that needed to change for this lady to feel so confident?
On the surface, Gok did a few basic things. He arranged a makeover for her hair and makeup; went through her wardrobe and showed her which items of clothing made the most of her appearance; and (most importantly) he told her that she looked gorgeous. She did all the rest. Gok just believed in her. With his encouragement, the woman started to see herself differently and to believe that hey, she really was gorgeous!
Just as we can believe we are stupid or can't do something because of a stray comment from someone we like or look up to, the reverse can be true. If someone we like or admire tells us we've done well, or look good, or can do a task, we believe them and act accordingly. Confidence can be as easy as just believing!
Gok's programme brought to mind a book I read a few years ago called Pyschocybernetics. The author, Maxwell Maltz, was a plastic surgeon recalling his experiences in the 1950s. He found that even after extensive plastic surgery, some of his patients still felt they looked ‘ugly’.
They may have had scars removed, or cleft palates repaired, or badly broken noses remodelled, but the surgery proved to be truly cosmetic because, on the inside, the self-worth of these people had not improved. They still felt bad about how they looked.
Maltz came to understand that our self-beliefs greatly affect our lives and decisions. Basically, Maltz said, if you think you aren't attractive, you will believe this to be true, and will align your behaviours to your reflect your thinking. Odds are, if you don't like how you look, you will dress ‘ugly’, act ‘ugly’ and live as you think ‘ugly’ people do, settling for far less than you deserve in life.
Maltz also found that people who believed themselves to be handsome or attractive behaved and dressed accordingly. The key point here is that the decision about whether someone is actually attractive or ugly has little to do with the truth: it's all about how we think we look.
Now, what has this got to do with you? The moral of my story is that how we think and feel about ourselves is reflected in what happens to us in life.
Some of you will say “that's not true of me Richard", or you may admit that "actually, I do feel unattractive sometimes”.
You might believe that your chances of meeting a new partner or friends, or securing a coveted job, are low because you feel 'ugly'. If you have a chronic condition, or intensive caring commitments, these are other barriers that you might (wrongly) think make you unappealing to others.
For me, it was a belief that I would never be a creative person and couldn’t write well (I was 7 when my teacher told me this, and it became self-fulfilling; I was still writing ‘badly’ at university). Then one day someone said I should just write, and leave it to others to decide whether my words were worth reading or not. This suggestion nudged my thinking about myself; my negative perceptions changed, and now I write!
Self-talk. Believe. That word keeps appearing, doesn’t it? That’s all we are talking about: what you believe to be the truth. Your thoughts send out subtle and unsubtle messages to the world about how you feel about yourself.
If your thoughts or 'self-talk' are negative, how can you turn them around so they are positive? Well, Gok’s recipe is a good one to follow. Challenge your beliefs; test your thinking; ask yourself, "is what I am thinking really true"? Sit down with a pen and paper and write down all the reasons why it might or might not be true.
As an example, I have a friend who thinks he is forgetful. He can't always remember people's names. I asked him if this was really true and suggested he write down his answers. He realised that his belief about his forgetfulness wasn't always true; he often remembers people's names. He now believes he is good at remembering names (and he is). My friend didn't learn a new skill or technique, he just changed his thinking about himself, and his brain followed suit.
Believe in yourself.
It's that simple.
I didn’t say walk around like a prima donna or an arrogant alpha male, but give yourself a healthy dose of self-belief, direct your thinking so it's more positive, and watch these small steps change your life.
Extra help! Affirmations can be a positive way to move in the direction to feel good about yourself. You can download all sorts of different affirmations at http://www.affirmationsreallywork.com/
Richard Blakeborough is a life coach and regular Family Care NZ contributor. One day Richard was a fit and healthy man, then his cardiologist told him he had heart disease and needed a triple bypass. His e-books, Life After A Bypass and That’s A Big Fat Lie Richard, chronicle his journey following heart surgery and subsequent departure from the corporate world to become a life coach. Learn more about Richard and his books here.