Self-image psychology ... the art of loving yourself

June 20, 2011

By Dr. Bob Kroeger

Somebody said that love makes the world go around. Who’s better to love than yourself? A healthy self-image is a crucial part of successful stress management, but it’s not widely understood. Socrates said nosce te ipsum. Know thyself. Those are ancient words in a modern world.

If you had to paint a picture of yourself, what colors would you use? What background? Would you be smiling? If you had to write a paragraph about yourself (three sentences), what would you write? Go ahead. Paint a picture and write that paragraph. What you paint and write can reveal how you feel about yourself. Do it again six months from now.

Let’s start with personality. Forget the Type A and Type B stuff. That’s anecdotal crap. Instead look at the Myers-Briggs type indicator, which is explained well by Dr. David Keirsey in his book, “Please Understand Me,” which has undergone several revisions since I first read it in 1980. It certainly helped me.

This model involves 16 personality types — they’re all wonderful yet different with individual preferences. Some personalities easily make decisions and enjoy routine. Others prefer spontaneity but have trouble with deadlines. Extroverts energize as the party roars into the night, while introverts want to go home after an hour or two. The point is that each personality is just fine. It’s useful to know how your personality interacts with your job, spouse, boss, staff, or coworkers. The Keirsey Sorter, a survey, is available online or in this book. I found it very effective in hiring staff. I also enjoyed learning about my own personality and the personalities of those around me.

Dr. Wayne Dyer has published books and DVDs on self-motivation and self-image. He tries to avoid using the phrases “I can’t” and “I have to.” Within reason there’s not much we really can’t do, so there’s no sense in setting limits for yourself. And there’s not much that we really “have” to do. What do we really “have” to do? Breath and take bathroom breaks. Everything else is optional. There is a major cognitive difference between “I have to” and “I’m going to.” Try saying, “I’m going to the meeting,” not “I have to go to the meeting.” This thinking lets you control the situation.

Here’s an example. George buys a newspaper every morning from a surly vendor, a guy with a perpetual frown. But George is always polite, smiles, and says, “Have a great day!” Someone asks George why he’s always nice to this cretin. “Simple,” says George, “I don’t want him to determine my behavior.” George’s self-image is strong and in control. Do you let others control your feelings?

Want to enhance your self-image? Take some cookies to a nursing home, or the next time you buy something, look the clerk right in the eyes, smile, and pay him (or her) a sincere compliment. If it works, he (or she) will smile back at you. Now, here’s the hard part. Don’t tell anyone you did this good deed. Only you will know … and you will like yourself for it. Try doing this once a week and see what happens.

Maxwell Maltz wrote the book “Psycho-Cybernetics.” A plastic surgeon, he could not understand how someone he transformed into a gorgeous human being could still be unhappy. So he shifted his interest to self-image psychology and developed methods to help people love themselves. Self-help gurus Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and Tony Robbins base their presentations on Maltz’s work.

The important point is to love yourself. If you’ve had childhood trauma, this love can be difficult. My wife did not like herself and she died young. Only you can change this part of you. If you Google “self-help DVDs,” you’ll get four million choices. Read the reviews on Amazon. In my early years I listened to Ziglar, Tracy, and others, and now in later life I can honestly say that I like myself.

A major component of stress management is to have a good self-image. If you’re there already, that’s great. If not, now is the time to fertilize that flower within you, water it daily, and watch it bloom into the beautiful person that you are.

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Dr. Bob Kroeger retired after practicing general dentistry for 33 years. A stress management consultant, he presents seminars to the dental profession as well as to general industry. In addition to lecturing and writing, he runs seven to nine marathons a year and is a certified personal trainer. Contact him at [email protected].