Did you know it’s possible to have a self-image that’s too perfect?
Well, kind of. You actually have TWO self images. You have the self image of you as you currently are. And you have the self-image of you as you wish to be: your Ideal Image.
Most people don’t know much about the second one, and it can cause just as many difficulties as the first one.
This is a problem that plagues many people today.
We all carry in our mind, conscious or unconscious, an image of our world as we deeply desire it to be.
When your Ideal Image is pretty close to reality, you tend to feel good. When it’s not close to reality, you tend to feel bad.
The problem for many people today is that their “ideal image” is so far away from reality that it’s completely unattainable.
How we arrived here is very understandable. But for that to make sense, let’s consider some history.
Two hundred years ago, it’s easy to imagine a person having just one dream. Maybe it was to run the family farm. Maybe it was to move to the big city. Or maybe it was to sail to distant lands. I notice in reading accounts from history, people tended to have one dream or desire at a time.
I think we can readily assume it’s because they didn’t know all the options, so they were content to pick just one that they knew about.
Fast forward to today. We now live in a world with Facebook, Google, and limitless information, images, accounts, and stories. We know what exists and what is possible. So we all want to be billionaire-genius-fitness models who travel the world while having a loving family, etc, etc.
And that creates a problem.
If you’re not paying attention, your Ideal Image of your life gets cobbled together by the most compelling parts of Facebook and YouTube. And when that happens, you create an image that is so far from reality that it will never happen.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, here are two things that make the problem worse: 1). There’s a good chance that most of your Ideal Image is in your subconscious, so you’ve never noticed it exists. 2). And because a part of you knows your Ideal Image is impossible, there will always be a disconnect between what you have and what you want.
Whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, you carry an Ideal Image of your life. Some people will immediately know what I’m talking about, and some will have to sit and think about this.
As always, we never state a problem without a few ideas about how to fix it.
If you think you’re carrying an Ideal Image that is unattainable, here are a few simple steps to get back on the right path.
Step 1: Explore the image you hold
What images are you really holding? Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to be overly deep, complicated, or insightful. If your current Ideal Image includes six-pack abs or tons of money, admit it. There’s no sense in lying to yourself. Most people’s ideal image includes things about money, fitness, their work, their family situation, their sex life, among many other things.
As you’re exploring, list it all out. For most, the list can get pretty long. When you spend a while on this it’s common to have 5-10 really big Wants and 10-30 smaller ones.
If you’ve never explored your Ideal Image of yourself, it’s still there, below the concious level, and it can take some work to bring it all to the surface.
To help, here are two questions to ask yourself:
“What have I always wanted?”
This one is a good place to start. I won’t say much about it since most people can get some decent answers by just exploring what they want. But when you want to explore your Ideal Image further, you can ask:
“How do I act?”
This is the one that reveals a lot about your inner workings. Are all of your actions consistent with what you think you want?
If a person thinks they are happy with their current love relationship, but they are spending 5-10 hours a week looking at porn, there’s SOMETHING about sex in the Ideal Image that needs looked at more closely.
The same is true if a person thinks they are happy with their job. For many people, Monday morning comes and they suddenly tend to have bad moods, no energy, and can’t get to work on time. That suggests that their Ideal Image of work and the reality they face are so different that it is creating problems.
So if you notice your behaviors aren’t consistent with happiness in an area, that suggests you need to look closely and see how your Ideal Image is different from reality in that area.
Once you have explored your Ideal Image as much as you can, then you can go to the helpful part.
Step two: Audit
This one’s tough.
You have to admit that some of these are going to be out of reach. It sucks to admit, but you can’t have it all.
We absolutely believe people should follow their dreams and desires. We just argue that you can’t follow EVERY dream.
You have to decide what parts of your Image you can let go of.
We’ll give you two ideas to get you started:
The first one is simple, if not easy. Some people carry two opposing ideas in their Ideal Image. They might see themselves as having an amazing love relationship, while never having to give anything or spend time working on the relationship. They might see a loved and respected employee in their image, but also one that doesn’t do much work or follow the rules.
These are common examples where you can’t have both. Having opposing ideas in your Ideal Image is actually very common, and most people will have more than one example. So if that’s you, don’t beat yourself up about it.
But if it’s unrealistic, you do have to decide which part of the image to try and let go.
Another simple way to decide what to let go:
“Which of these am I willing to do the work to get?”
Almost everything in your Ideal Image requires a lot of work. Lots of money? Great body? Awesome marriage? Constant Zen? All of it requires a lot of hard work.
If you decide you’re not willing to do the work to get it, the only other choice that makes sense is toseparate that item from your Ideal Image.
You can also start doing the work to get what you want.
Remember: When the Ideal Image is too far away from reality, that’s when you feel bad. You can work on changing the image that you carry, or you can just do the work necessary to change reality to fit your image (when possible).
Just remember that it has to be attainable. You will probably have to prune your list of wants to a reasonable level. When you do this, your Ideal Image comes within reach.
Do you need a counselor’s help with this process?
Some people are able to gain benefit from this idea and put it into practice on their own. But this is pretty deep psychology work, and many need help from a counselor to get the full benefit from this set of ideas.
We’ve provided this information for free in the hopes that you can benefit from it. If it turns out you need help to apply it to your life, we’re happy to have you work with one of our counselors to get closer to the life you want!
Photo: 2015.12.12 Los Angelas Places – Million Dollar Listings 00573 by Ted Eytan / is licensed under CC BY 2.0