Your self-image is the way you view yourself. You might view yourself as a parent, friend, sports fan, intelligent, impatient, and middle-aged. But you’re more than your career, gender, and age. You’re more than your parents’ opinion.
You’re a unique person with nuances that are unique to you! When who you are aligns with what you do, you’re living authentically. But most of us view ourselves as one way and live another. Authentic people act honestly and congruently.
The benefits of this congruency are enormous: success, self-esteem, respect from others, and inner peace.
Those that live lives misaligned with their values, beliefs, and attitudes suffer from more anxiety, guilt, and shame. It might seem easier to live up to the expectations of others in the short-term, but the long-term costs are significant.
Follow these steps to determine your true self and live life on your terms:
1. Identify your core values. An authentic self-image is one that is aligned with your values. By knowing your values, you’ll gain an understanding of what is important to you. Once you’re aware of your values, you can build a self-image and life that are more meaningful and enjoyable.
• Make a list of your values. Create a long list and include everything that you think applies to you. Then, reduce your list to the ten values that are most important to you. You might struggle to narrow your list to just ten, but ten values are plenty.
2. Determine if you have any conflicts. For example, you might say that adventure and freedom are two of your most important values, but what if you also strongly favor responsibility and security? Those values could be in conflict.
• When you’re faced with an inner conflict, you’re likely to shut down and do nothing. If you’ve ever been paralyzed while making a decision, it’s possible your values were in conflict. Think back to when you’ve struggled to make a decision and see if it’s true.
• Do you have any values listed that aren’t really priorities for you? We often carry around perspectives instilled by our parents. Here’s a newsflash: they may have been wrong. Take the time to determine your values for yourself. Disregard what society says you should value. You’re an individual.
3. Create an action plan for each value. Imagine one of your values is frugality. You could create a budget and savings plan that incorporates that value. You might plan to start clipping coupons, visit less expensive stores, and search for free entertainment options available on the weekends.
4. Make a list of activities you enjoy that are in alignment with your values. For example, if generosity is a priority, you could find an enjoyable way to spend your time helping others. If health is a value you cherish, you could join a soccer team or a yoga class. Find your favorite sport and participate.
5. Evaluate yourself at the end of each day. Think about the instances when you failed to live according to your values. Likewise, contemplate the times you were able to live according to your values and self-image, particularly when doing so was challenging.
Create a self-image that is in alignment with your values. First, it is necessary to identify and choose your values. Next, construct a life that allows you to live those values consistently and to thrive. Authenticity eliminates many of the common emotional ailments in life, but it’s not always the easiest choice.
Be bold enough to choose the person you want to become and live accordingly. The benefits are enormous. What are your values?