This may seem like an obvious statement. Duh, I know who I am. I am me. When I think about me, an image of me appears, and that’s who I am. Go ahead, do it now. Think about yourself. Get a good picture of you. Go a step further, imagine yourself doing something you consider yourself a doer of. It’s you. Right? Now, just for fun, just to amuse me, think of one thing you would like to change about yourself. I’ll give you a second to think of it.
Now conjure up that image of you again, but this time, apply that change. Picture yourself, but with that change implemented. Do you like that version of yourself more? Wouldn’t it be nice to be that version of yourself? But no, it’s unrealistic. I can’t change my emotions / I don’t have time to get into the activity / I’m just naturally bad at it / I’m too lazy / I’m too short, old, and lazy. It’s not really me.
No, no it isn’t. Not yet.
What if I told you that image of yourself is you, in the future? Would you believe me? What if YOU told yourself that’s you in the future?
Our self-image is a powerful thing. It can be a great friend, or a terrible enemy. I am currently reading Psycho-Cybernetics, a book by aesthetic surgeon-turned-psychologist Maxwell Maltz. After spending a lifetime changing people’s faces, he started to notice the rest of their lives would change with it. He started to feel that his scalpel was magical. I fix their scars, reduce their freakish ears, and suddenly they go from shy and defeatist to successful and gregarious. But there was the odd case where they would stay the same afterwards. They would keep being their old drag of a self. He found that this is because their disfigurement was still there — in their minds. And since they still saw themselves as a sad sack with no future, they were.
This is because, well, you are who you think you are. Your mind is an incredible machine, and it does unbelievable things that we are not aware of, because the only things our mind gives us are our thoughts – our conscious mind. I have recently had deep feelings of confusion, because I felt my unconscious mind was busy making me do things without letting me think about them first. Or, the thoughts would be devoid of critical analysis. I now realise this is because I had developed a self-image which was counter in many ways to my true self, and this was my spirit trying to get me back on track. I began to resent my subconscious and mistrust my thoughts. I had become someone who I am not meant to be. I couldn’t take it any longer.
Let’s list some of the things I thought about myself. I don’t have income. I don’t get mad. I never finish things I start. I can’t skate. I can’t draw. I am a man. I can’t stick to a routine. I don’t eat meat. I know what I want in a relationship.
You can see why some of these beliefs could be destructive. When I ended a five year relationship, I was in such a state of turmoil I barely knew what to think. My grandfather spoke to me of his own quarter-life crisis, and sent me Psycho-Cybernetics. Since then, I have been getting in touch with my emotions, and my spirit, and actively deciding for myself what I wanted to be, rather than just accepting what I thought I ought to be, and the faults I was doomed with. I am already feeling drastically better. I feel like I’m in control of my life. I no longer say, “I wish,” but “I am,” even if I’m not quite there yet — and before I have time to doubt it, it’s true.
If you don’t want to read a whole book, at least do this: for 15 minutes a day (30 is ideal), vividly imagine your new self. Any change you want, seriously, any. Go into minute detail. If it seems far-fetched, well, perhaps it will take a little longer. But it will still work. As a good friend of mine is wont to point out, “Jim Carey says, every day, I would imagine myself cashing a million-dollar cheque.” Matthew McConaughey thanked his future self in his Oscar acceptance speech: when asked who his hero was, he said, “it’s me in ten years.” It worked for them; it’s working for me; it can work for you.
Thanks for reading.