The images that we retain in our mind’s eye can fall anywhere between incredibly positive and horribly negative. Our horrible images are usually severe, exaggerated, and very negative in content. The trick is to literally reduce or shrink the negative images in size (i.e., form) and replace them with images that are grand in form and positive in content. This technique is used extensively in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a study of human behavior that emphasizes the connection between how we use verbal and nonverbal language (words, phrases, gestures, and habits) to reveal what we think and believe given the information we perceive through seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling.
In using the term “programming,” this technology proposes that our thoughts, feelings, and actions can become habitual but may be changed by switching or “upgrading” our mental software. Because NLP presupposes that specific thoughts, feelings, and actions combine to create a specific experience or result, we can eliminate an unwanted result or experience by changing our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Below is an NLP exercise aimed at changing a negative self-image.
- Close your eyes and think of an image you have of yourself, any image. Look closely at the picture and determine if it’s large or small in size (form).
- Look at the content. Determine if it’s negative or positive. If it’s negative, check for any physical distortions in the image; that is, see the picture of yourself as you really are.
- Modify the negative content. Think of a more positive aspect of the image you have represented in your mind’s eye. For example, if you see yourself as angry and the meaning you derive from that image is that you are awful to be with, realize that anger is an ally intending to help you; anger signals distress. It’s a legitimate emotion that must be addressed; it is not who you are. Change the image to reflect this understanding. Create a new image with positive content—an image that accentuates your strengths, your favorite personality traits, your greatest abilities. Be as specific as you can. Being very specific works to your advantage.
- Take this new image and make it big and bright. Zoom in so you can see it closely. Add color or make it 3-D. Turn it into a movie if you like.
- Repeat this exercise until it becomes automatic, so that it appears when you want or need it to appear.
If you’re looking for a quick fix to your negative self-image, how about this one? Think about someone you know who truly loves you. Now think about how this person would describe you. Pretend you’re in the next room as he or she is telling someone else about you. What would you be hearing? That’s who you are. Bring her to light in your own mind’s eye.
As Earl Nightingale said, “We become what we think about.” So think good thoughts. Consciously choose to change negative thoughts and how you represent those thoughts. With the ability to change your images–your internal representations–you empower your self-esteem, and consequently your emotions and behaviors.