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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 18-Apr-07

 


Wednesday 18-April-07

The falsehood of self-image

How we see ourselves is a rather tricky subject, as we are inside the machine, as it were. We are also very strongly affected by identity needs, and it is how we define ourselves that has much to do with it. Basic human needs as defined by Abraham Maslow 1943 includes a sense of belonging, the esteem of others and achieving our potential.
 
The importance of how other people see us is such that we see ourselves through the eyes of other people (it is called the 'Looking-glass Self'). The problem here is that we have to guess what others are thinking and often get it wildly wrong. Typically, we assume that others are forming strong opinions about us when they actually may hardly notice us. Attention can be good, however, and 'Social Facilitation' is in effect when athletes put in their best ever performances at the Olympics or other big meets.
 
Childhood has, in the Freudian sense, a significant effect on our self-image. If a teacher or parent tells a child 'you're stupid' then the child may well assume that this is how they must act. I have just spoken with my daughter who has a friend who just dropped out of university in his final year just before his finals, which he was pretty much guaranteed to pass. He has a dominating mother, which I suspect has something to do this this. Thus, to some extend, we see ourselves through the supposed eyes of childhood significant adults.
 
Despite the complexities of identity, the good news is that we still have choice. When we can see how things are affecting us, we can combat these effects and make conscious choices about who we want to see when we look in the mirror. It is of course not as easy as that, but with determination, learning and courage, we can be the people we want to be.

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