Let's consider for a moment how a person's self image is formed.
When we are born, we are totally helpless. All our needs have
to be taken care of by someone else. And we soon learn that by raising our voice
and making a bit of noise (in a normal household), our needs are attended to.
As time goes by, we find that this is no longer enough. We
have to wait for our wishes to be granted. We are surrounded by these mighty
giants who, in comparison to ourselves, are all powerful.
An accurate image of ourselves at this time would be, I guess,
small, powerless and dependant on other people of outstanding power and influence.
And that is what we learn.
Pretty soon we get a lot of things under our belt. We learn
an element of self-care, how to use the toilet, how to get food into our own
mouths, but this never quite seems enough to keep the giants happy. They always
seem to want us to learn more.
Before we know it, we're in school. We learn and achieve even
more. We even master a few elementary social skills. After a while, and with
practice, we gain more and more control over our lives.
Then, as we move up through the school system, we encounter
older kids. More capable kids. In comparison we are somewhat clumsy, unaccomplished,
and in many ways inferior. Quite an accurate assessment. So that is what we
learn. Another blow to our self image.
Eventually we become better at things, and become one of the
bigger kids ourselves. Our self image at this stage may even begin to improve
a little - then disaster - puberty.
Just as we're getting it all together we hit our teenage years.
Hormones on the rampage, maybe spots on the face. Feelings of awkwardness and
embarrassment as strange, powerful, unexplained feelings sweep through us. Our
bodies, ever dependable before this, start to change in ways we may not even
We want to be treated as adults because childish things no
longer interest us, but compared to the adults, what are we?
Inadequate, clumsy, socially inept. And certainly not in control
of our lives no matter how much we'd like to be. The final nail in the coffin
of our self image.
Then, we grow up. Suddenly we are one of those mighty giants.
But it doesn't feel like it does it? Most of us move through adulthood with
a self image formed of a series of restrictive beliefs about ourselves which
were generally accurate at the time they were formed, but which now form a core
of inadequacy inside us.
And this can have a significant effect on how we deal with
the circumstances of life.
Remember that family I mentioned? The eldest, brought up with
a heightened sense of danger, rarely takes risks as an adult. He's unlikely
to be killed crossing the street. But then, all progress in life involves some
risk. And his self image has been built in such a way that any sense of risk
unconsciously sets off all the alarms and leads to paralysing indecision.
In contrast, the youngest takes these risks because he is
confident he is special and whatever the outcome in this particular gamble,
he sees himself as clever enough to come out ahead in the long run.