Blog: Healthy Eating = Healthy Living - Lose weight the right wa...
by OntheBorder

11. Self-image and Self-sabotage

Hidden reasons why when the going gets good you fall of the wagon.

Date:   4/9/2009 7:40:12 PM   ( 10 y ) ... viewed 1375 times


Has this ever happened to you? You decide you want to improve your body or business and live a healthier lifestyle. You read all the books, gather all the information, map out a nutritional strategy, design your own schedule (or have someone do it for you), and you embark on the journey to a leaner, more muscular physique or a better business...and it starts working! But the minute you begin getting results, you fall off the wagon: You binge, slack, you skip workouts, and you cheat. What's most perplexing and upsetting is that you know what you should do... but no matter how hard you try, you can't get yourself to do it! It's as if some unseen force is sabotaging you and controlling your behavior like you were a puppet on a string.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, then the answer to your frustrations might lie deep within your subconscious mind in something called your "SELFCONCEPT." Unfortunately, the average person, at the mere mention of self concept, self worth or Self image usually cries, "Oh no, not another one of these cheesy self-help articles!"

Whenever I mention self concept to a person who has never been exposed to the idea before, their eyes glaze over and they get a distant look as if they were saying, "okay, I'll be out here in la-la land daydreaming for a while... pinch me when you start talking about the good stuff?”

You may not understand or appreciate this "self concept" and "self image" stuff yet. However, if you choose to ignore this information, you would be making a grave error. You can be on the most perfect nutrition program and the best training routine in the world, but you'll always sabotage yourself in the long run if you don't understand what your self image is, how it controls your behavior, and how to change it.

First, let's talk about your SELF-CONCEPT: This is the total bundle of beliefs you have about yourself, including all the names and labels you put on yourself and the way you see yourself. If you really want to know what your true self-concept is, write down the words "I AM” __________ and fill in the blanks with everything you can think of. For example:

I am shy
I am not a good salesperson
I am fat
I am uncoordinated

I am sexy
I am unattractive
I am an F student
I am an A student
I am wealthy
I am a failure
I am accident-prone
I am a great conversationalist
I am broke
I earn $25,000 per year
I could never earn $250,000 per year
My body will always be shaped like a pear
I'm not very athletic

As you can see from the list, you have a "mini" self-concept for every area of your life including your relationships, your ability to attract wealth, your talent in writing, math, art or music and your body image, just to name a few.

Your self-concept was first formed in early childhood, largely from the influence of your parents and the authority figures in your life. When you were an infant and a small child, the "lid" on your mind was wide open. One hundred percent of the information and suggestions given to you at this young age went straight into your subconscious where they were accepted as true, even if they weren't true. Your mind was like a lump of soft, pliable clay.

When you reached adolescence, it was like the "lid" on your mind slammed shut with all the early childhood programming locked inside. As an adult, your self-concept has solidified, but it slowly continues to be molded and reinforced by your successes, failures, triumphs, humiliations and everything you experience, see, hear, read and think.

For example, if you go on a diet or exercise program "and you fail, this goes into your subconscious memory bank and reinforces a negative self-concept: "See, I told you I'll never be able to look like those people in the magazines."


Although your self-concept is deeply entrenched from years of conditioning, it CAN be changed. Before I explain the four steps to making the change, I want to explain how your self-concept affects your behavior using an analogy everyone can relate to - Money! Why money? Well, as I mentioned before, most people not only don’t understand the self-concept, they’re bored to death at the slightest mention of it.

"That would be AWESOME!" is what most people blurt out initially. Well, I have news for you: As bizarre as this may sound, I guarantee that if your old self-concept was still locked in place, you'd do everything possible to get rid of your new-found wealth. You'd make bad business decisions. You'd be unsuccessful in sales. You'd have an uncontrollable urge to go out and spend the money, splurge on things you didn't need, invest in things you knew nothing about, lend to people who wouldn't give it back or even flat out lose it! Just look at what happens to most lottery winners.

Even though everyone SAYS they'd like more money, that's only on the conscious, surface level. The problem is, your behavior is NOT controlled by your conscious mind; your behavior is controlled on a deeper level - from your subconscious mind where your self-concept is located. If having a lot of money isn't consistent with your self-concept, it will sooner or later lead to some form of sabotaging behavior to bring you back down to your comfort level.

Most people stay inside a comfort zone that's consistent with the concept and image they hold of themselves. They rarely rise above it or allow themselves to fall below it. Any time you try to make a change in your life, whether it's losing fat or earning more money, it will stir up resistance inside you because you're attempting to move beyond what’s safe, familiar and comfortable.

To earn more money, you must see yourself as capable of earning more money and worthy of keeping it. If you see yourself as a $24,000 per YEAR person, you'll NEVER earn and keep $24,000 per MONTH unless you see yourself as a $24,000 per month person.

Are you starting to understand how the same thing could happen when you try to change your body? To be lean, healthy and fat-free, you must see yourself as being capable of achieving that body and worthy of maintaining it. If you see yourself as a fat, pear-shaped person, you'll NEVER be a lean, fat-free person until you see yourself as a lean, fat free person.

Just when you start to see results and become happy with how you look all of a sudden, you'll get the irresistible urge to sleep in and blow off your 6 a.m. workouts. You'll get uncontrollable cravings for Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream at 11:30 p.m. You'll lose your motivation. You won't "feel" like working out. These self sabotaging behaviors are all symptoms of a self-concept that's inconsistent with your


The part of the self-concept that affects your physical condition and ability to achieve your perfect weight is called the SELF-IMAGE.

If you see yourself as an overweight person, you will behave like an overweight person. If you see yourself as a wealthy person, you will behave like a wealthy person. An overweight person usually doesn't work out faithfully every day, so why is it any surprise that someone with an "overweight person" self image would skip workouts? Their brain is programmed to skip workouts. Someone with an "overweight person" self-image usually doesn't eat healthy, low fat, low sugar, low calorie meals, so why would it be surprising that they cheat on their diet and binge on junk food? After all, their brain is programmed to eat junk food. Is this starting to make sense?

To make a lasting change, you must work on the physical AND the mental planes. Of course you have to change your lifestyle, exercise and nutrition habits, but the real secret is not trying to force new behaviors, but changing the self-image, which controls the behavior. Put your energy on a new mental picture, and the new picture will create new behaviors. Best of all, the new behaviors that spring from a positive new self-image will come without as much effort or willpower because they're hardwired into every cell of your body. The "unseen forces" are now working for you instead of against you.

So, let’s suppose you have the self-image of an unfit, un-wealthy or overweight person... How the heck do you change it if it's so deeply embedded in your mind from years of conditioning? There are four simple steps:


The first step is to choose your new self-image. You could say this is goal setting, but your self-image is not as much a “goal” as it is a PICTURE IN YOUR MIND.

So what you have to do first is decide what you would really like to look like if you could have any body you wanted. See the picture in your mind. Make it clear, vivid and dynamic. Dream. Fantasize. You've been endowed with an amazing creative faculty called imagination. Use it - it's the starting point of a new self-image and all lasting changes.

Many people get scared at this step and ask only for what they think they can get, not what they really want. It's okay if this scares you a little. In fact, if your goal isn't scary and exciting at the same time, then you're not thinking big enough. Don't sell yourself short. Ask for what you really WANT. Ignore anyone who tells you to "be realistic." Take that "lid" off your mind and DREAM!


Once you've got the picture in mind, the second step is to put a description of your new image in writing. The act of writing what you want on paper is an intermediary step in going from the ethereal, untouchable state of thought (imagination & dreams) to the concrete, tangible state of form. Once on paper (or a "goal card" you carry with you), your image has in essence, begun the transformation from mental to physical. When you write your goal, use the three P's: POSITIVE (what you want to achieve, not what you want to avoid or get rid of), PERSONAL (use the word "I") and PRESENT tense (an already-having-received attitude). Don't worry if it's not perfect. Just sit down and write, write, write. You can always go back and edit, change or update it later. Just start.


What you've done in the first two steps is literally to create a new role for yourself. You've written your own script. Now be like George C Scott playing General Patton. He didn't just act. He became Patton - he lived the part. So do all great actors. Be an actor or actress and step into your new role.

This will feel awkward at first. Resistance will well up inside you. People will criticize you and say you're a crazy dreamer. It will feel like you're lying to yourself. Continue to play the new role anyway. Fake it until you make it. Someone once said that most people live like they were extras in their own movies. Why settle for less when you can be the writer, producer, director and STAR of your own movie? Create the character and write the scriipt exactly as you'd like to be and then play the part until the part becomes real.

Take actions that are consistent with the new image you've created. Act the part. Do something every day that moves you closer to your goal. Get moving! Ask yourself, "What would a person with the type of body I want do in this situation?" Then do it. Act as though you were already the owner of your ultimate dream body. Avery wise Person once said, “Act as though I am and I will be.”


The fourth step is to re-program your mind by replacing the old image with the new image through repetition, repetition, repetition. Repetition is the mother of learning and the father of a new self-image. It took a long time for your current self-image to develop so you can't expect it to change overnight. It takes at least 21 days of CONSISTENT effort for the roots of a new image to form and sometimes up to 90 days before the roots shoot up through the ground and become visible for the entire world to see. Remember, there is a gestation period for everything. Be patient and persistent.

Installing your new self-image is achieved by visualizing, reading, thinking and writing your written description over and over again, day after day, until the new image becomes reality. These four methods of reinforcement and repetition will burn the new image into your subconscious mind like data onto a CD.


You may have heard of these techniques before in self-help, goal setting or motivational programs. But admit it - you probably ignored them because they sounded too "cheesy" or just too simplistic to be effective. The irony is that the most profound truths in life are the simplest and most obvious ones. Don't underestimate the power of these methods.

There's immense power in mental images. The formula is simple: Decide what you want to look like, project your new image on the screen of your mind (visualize), think about the "new you" constantly, create a written description of your new image and read it at least twice per day, (write it out daily for even more impact), then follow through with actions that are consistent with your goal. Your marvelous and powerful mind will do the rest.

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