Smoke and Mirrors

How is your self-image today? Perhaps you see yourself as confident, well-groomed and with a spring in your step? Or maybe your self-image is tired and hesitant with messy hair?

It may be a relief to know that almost everything you think about yourself is wrong! This is because you are always so much more than your self-image. Let me show you.

We are brought up to apply labels to ourselves and others, labels such as ‘I am a shy person’ or ‘she has a caring personality’. We use labels as shorthand for longer and fuller descriptions.

But labels can never be fully accurate. They are often misleading because they become out-dated and they are always limiting because they tell half-truths. Like a magician’s illusion, they are believable misrepresentations.

When we can see past our labels, a wealth of new possibilities opens up in front of us. We become free of self-imposed limitations. 

But we have to recognise the labels in the first place. They come in many forms such as: personality traits, types of behavior, habits, roles, CVs, qualifications, prejudices, beliefs.

We like the good labels, the ones that reflect status and achievement. But even so, these labels can be limiting if you don’t look beyond them. They don’t define you – there is always more.

This is why psychometric test results can backfire. They can be helpful when seen as a single perspective on your behaviour and preferences. But they become a handicap if you adopt them as a personal definition and then curtail your future options in order to be consistent with this adopted definition.

Labels that we categorise as bad bring us down. They bring unwelcome feelings. And if you don’t see past the label, you are stuck with it.

So how do you see past a label?

Simply be seeing it for what it is – a way of thinking about yourself. A label is a bunch of thoughts that shape your self-image. And as a bunch of thoughts, you get to choose how seriously you take them.

If you focus a lot of attention on them, they get bigger and blot out the view beyond. Withdraw your attention from the labels and they shrink so you can see past them and into the infinity of possibilities beyond.

The nice thing is that spotting labels can be fun. You lighten up when you see a label that you have been taking really seriously for a long time is actually just a way of thinking. And you can withdraw your support and allow it to be replaced by new thinking.

Instead of the rigidity of labels, you may notice a pleasant feeling of fluidity encompassing your experience, rather like the distant days of childhood. As the hard-edges of your self-image dissolve, your sense of self comes from a deeper place. It is from this deeper place that you see past the illusion to the truth of who you really are.

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