The Ups and Downs of Working on a Positive Self-Image: Feel Good About Yourself Naturally (Series 1 of 3)

24 06 2010

Please welcome Jeffrey Douglas as a guest blogger. This series helped me through some recent transformations.

Article Summary: This article has three parts. Part One looks at the typical strategies used for working on a positive self-image and why suffering or always feeling like you are falling short is inevitable. Part Two discusses the source of feeling good that is already within you. Part Three outlines a simple and practical process for naturally drawing from your Soul to feel whole and complete. This is part 1.


Part One: Paradise Lost and Why Suffering is Inevitable


Feeling good about who you are is essential to a healthy and productive life. When you have a positive self-image, you are happier, and tend to be more creative. You feel more alive and connected to others. It can make all the difference in the world! Yet, by now you have experienced just how fragile your self-image can be if circumstances change in ways that do not support your desired sense of self. In spite of all your efforts over the years, stressful circumstances can trigger negative self-talk and judgments that leave you with little or no self-respect just when you need it the most.

It is easy and all too common to endlessly obsess over why a friend didn’t include you as part of a dinner gathering or spin around in a vortex of self-criticism when a team member at work didn’t like your project or feel profoundly inadequate because you did not follow through on an important goal you set for yourself. On the wrong day, even the slightest look or comment can be hurtful and leave you down on yourself.

Furthermore, the negative self-talk often has a desperate, urgent and compulsive quality. You “have to” know the reasons now why someone passed you over at work for a project, you “can’t rest” until you know why a friend didn’t return your call, or you “won’t let it go” until you figure out why your meeting didn’t work out the way you planned. You are anxious and tense until the answers are found and there is usually a heaviness to the whole matter that easily can slip into depression, irritability, frustration and obsession.

It is time to acknowledge and recognize a fact that becomes self-evident once brought into awareness: anyone who has a self-image by which they define who they are suffers. The enormous amounts of time and energy spent on self-improvement books, retreats, counseling and physical appearance attests to the extent of this type of suffering. The majority of marketing and advertising plays upon different aspects of this fact. The underlying message is that you will feel better about yourself if you buy this product or service. Given that a self-image is an endless project, you will tend to always be looking for the next break through and/or buying another product in hopes of some relief.

Why is suffering inevitable when you have self-image? Based on your past experience, it is probably clear that you cannot fundamentally change or create a new self-image for yourself, only grow out of it.  But it is not because you haven’t tried hard enough or because there is something wrong with you. It has to do with the nature of a “self-image”.

First of all, a “self-image” needs to stabilize over time to become an enduring identity. Repeating patterns of behavior and thought while “working” on yourself to change what you don’t like does this. It provides a sense of who you are and a purpose so you can go about the world with an orientation in mind. Who would you be and what would you be doing if you didn’t have a self-image that needs continual maintaining and improving so that you can finally be your ideal image? You are working at cross-purposes without knowing it. This is because the deeper, unconscious need is to keep the unfinished self-image you have. When separated from your essence or Soul consciousness, your self-image is what you identify with and how you know yourself. Inevitably this ends up being frustrating which tends to result in more self-criticism and judgment.

Secondly, at the core of any self-image is a deep sense of inadequacy driven by a persistent fear. There is really no answer to this, only distraction from your disease: busyness, incessant thoughts, seeking, finding, acquiring, struggling, scarcity thinking, guilt and other symptoms of not being at peace with yourself. It’s because a “self-image” was formed in reaction to inadequacy. The origins of “inadequacy” go back to childhood. Most basically, it has to do with the eroding away of Soul consciousness that inevitably occurs in a world where others have not yet remembered their Soul. A perceived loss of Oneness is felt followed by a core sense of inadequacy in reaction to feeling like you were abandoned. A self-image is created to protect against the further threat of abandonment stemming from the most significant separation that has already and ever will occur. The origin of all fear is the deeply held and largely unconscious pain of apparent abandonment from the source of all love. The repressed pain of a felt separation from Divine Love has never been resolved or in most cases, even raised as an issue. You have simply gone about living and engaging in your spiritual pursuits without ever having dealt with what it  was like to lose the knowing of Oneness and your essential nature soon after you were born. Yet it is the greatest grief and source of all suffering that you have ever known. It was the “loss of Paradise”. Nobody talks about this. Instead, the reaction to core separation was to get busy with creating a solid self-image that will protect you. It didn’t work. Now there is an overlay of frustration on top of unhealed suffering.

Having and maintaining a positive self-image is not your true answer to feeling abandoned and unworthy of acceptance and love. The sooner this is recognized, the better the chance for real change. A self-image is just that, an image. It is not real nor is it your essence. There is no ground that it can rest on.

Failing at changing your self-image is meant to lead you out of your ego’s separation and back to your Soul’s wholeness. Real change is now possible. Given the failure, you are more willing to let go of your “game plan” and your control of your self-image. The ego part of you will still want to “make yourself” but now there is more space to return to Divine Source to know yourself and to face down the fear of being “made” by something beyond your mind’s idea. It is the path to wholeness that is a return to what is more real than a self-image. This requires letting go of the project called “me” to experience the you that is Oneness. Even working on stopping the “negative self-talk” by learning to love yourself can be an obstruction if the goal is only to have a better self-image.

When blended with the life force of Soul, you can’t dictate a course of change. You are moved in sometimes very unexpected but effortless ways. If you can allow this, you will notice something at hand that is greater than your self-improvement project. Simultaneously, you start to lose interest in your self-image. A “self-image” starts to be seen and appreciated as only a transitional stage in the maturation of consciousness. Like teddy bears or dolls that you were once so attached to for comfort, as you got older, you became more interested in what was more real and truly safe. This took place in a natural  “growing out of” versusthinking” it or “working” it through.

Jeffrey Douglass, MSW, CSW, author of Living From Your Soul, has been a licensed psychotherapist integrating psychology and spirituality for 33 years. Jeffery offers individual and couples counseling (also available by phone), as well as retreats, workplace coaching, and telecourses. To purchase the book, or for further information, please visit the website:, email  jeffrey@ or call 208-667-8387.

Read Part 2 here.




8 responses

18 03 2011

I really found it enlightening and look forward to the next two parts. I find myself in change always and it is reassuring to know that my ground values and my true beliefs are my soul and what really matters not image and what others feel or think about me. They do not know my true self.

14 07 2011

Sorry for the long wait. Part 2 is on it’s way! Thanks for the comment! Hugs, Amber

4 03 2011

Very well said. I for no reason considered I would agree with this thoughts and opinions, however I’m starting to view things from a different view. I have got to research much more on that as it would seem really exciting. One issue I don’t understand though is how almost everything is associated together.

14 07 2011

Let’s stay in touch. I can help you with understanding more about us all being one. See, we are all made from the the same God (in his/her image and likeness), we are all made from the same star dust, the same energy. We all are connected in the energy field of life. Everything affects something else in this world. I look forward to being on the Path with you. Blessings, Mrs. Scott.

14 07 2011

Actually, part 2 talks a little about being separate and what that does. How we all feel abandoned when separated from God. Deep stuff.

31 08 2010

I can’t wait to hear more. I read this when it was first posted and I have found myself thinking about it often since then. It helps push me through the tough spots.

26 01 2011

More to come….

14 07 2011

Ok, I am posting part two tonight. Thanks for sticking with it.

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