Self Approval and Our Self Image
Here's a picture of the writer taken in 2012
Can you look yourself in the eyes and say, "I love you?"
The acid test of self approval is revealed when we can look deep into our own eyes in a mirror and say, " I love you - I really love you." If you can do it, without getting some sort of uncomfortable reaction, then you probably don't need to read any further. If you can't, then maybe what I say here will help you in some way. My sincere hope is that it does help.
Thoughts are of the self-image
When we look into our own eyes in this way without any pretence, and with a silent mind, we are coming from our Real self. We're also in 'The Now.' Moreover, coming from our real self in this way is not usual. It comes from self-understanding. Most of us take more notice of our thoughts and, our thoughts are not us - though many of us believe they are. Mind identification is the general rule.
Thoughts about ourselves are of the self-image. They arise out of ideas we've formulated over time as to what we are and what we are not. But they're only ideas. Now a few words on this self-image.
Our interpretations of the world is based on our conditioning
In a way each of us has three of self-images. This came home to me only today as I was sitting in a bus behind a man wearing a very dirty denim baseball cap. My thoughts were, "That baseball cap. He's wearing it so it depicts him as a certain type of person. In his case, 'one tough hombre.'" Of course, I did not think this in words. It was an automatic interpretation and reaction. This interpretation, of course, was based on my own loosely held beliefs which, in turn, are based on my own bias's which, in turn again, are based on my upbringing and subsequent interpretations of HOW THE WORLD IS. But to get back.
Our cat, Penny. No longer of this world...
Three ways of looking at our self-image
Let's consider three different aspects of self image, though they'll overlap to some degree. Firstly, we have the self-image we wish to portray to others; how we hope others will categorize who and what we are. Secondly, there is the self-image which sees itself in a certain way. It worries about HOW others will see it. And thirdly there is the self-image which others see (though strictly it is not your self-image but their imaginary creation) However, of the three, it is the second one we truly identify with. How we see ourselves. This is the one filled with fear.
The thoughts that drive the negative emotions are not us
Filled with fear? Yes, this is the self-image we all have which can become irritated, annoyed, impatient, bored, exasperated and downright angry. This is the self-image which can fly into a rage. This is the self-image which is triggered and responds with a negative reaction and, if you take the trouble to really look into why, you will have to admit that it is a fear of either not getting something, or having something taken away from it. This fear might not be directly spoken into our mind as words, but the reactions are there. They emanate from our unconscious conditioning.
Here she is again. She loved peoplel
The ego has no sense of humour
This self-image takes itself with the utmost seriousness. There's no humour in it. It supports the STRUCTURES which has grown in our minds. The spiritual teacher and writer Eckhart Tolle, in talking about our self-image structure, lists the so-called STRUCTURAL 'reasons' of our self-image. They are the structures on which all our ego-generated CONTENT is founded.
Here they are:
The structures cause us to feel psychological pain
"There is something which needs to happen in my life before I can be happy. I resent that it hasn't happened yet. Maybe my resentment will make it happen."
As you can see, it's like a little spoiled child. So that's one structure. Here is another:
"Something happened in the past that should not have happened, and I resent that. If that had not happened I would be happy now."
Notice that it is nearly always of the past...our sad story. Then there is the more immediate:
"Something is happening now that should not be happening, and it is preventing me from being happy now."
So this is the ego. This is the self-image with which most of us identify twenty-four seven. Well, maybe not twenty-four seven. We sleep some of our lives and we don't have a great deal of knowledge about what happens during those times.
Eckhart Tolle then says that our unconscious, ego-originating beliefs are often directed towards a person. In that case, a 'happening' becomes a 'doing.' So here we go again.
"You should do this, so that I can be happy. I resent that you haven't done it yet. Maybe if I'm resentful enough you will do it."
Our cat, Pebbles. Also no longer of this world...
"You made me do it!" We hear that a lot...and it's the ego talking
"Something you (or I) did, said, or failed to say or do in the past is presenting me from being happy now." What we are saying is: "It's your fault."
Or, "What you are doing or failing to do now is preventing me from being happy."
The content within those structures can vary enormously, but it is the structures that need to be demolished if we are to find happiness.
So, as you can see, the self-image, which sees itself separate and all important, blames life in general, and other people in particular, for its woes. It takes no responsibility itself.
This imaginary self has ruled Humankind from as far back as our historical records go and probably way before that. Our worldwide cultures have grown up around this misconception of what we are and what we are not. In the English language there are far more words describing our negative emotions - our reactions to life and other people, than there are positive words. Just check out the number of words that refer to our positive and our negative 'states of mind' if you doubt this. Any good dictionary or thesaurus should reveal this.
But I return once more to our three self-images or areas of 'me,' as we see ourselves.
The world's economy thrives on this sort of dishonesty
Huge industries have grown out of our need to be perceived by others in the way our egos would like them to perceive us: apparel, material goods such as makeup, hairstyles, physical appearance of all manner such as our being over-weight, under-weight, too tall, too short, educated, "cool." How we talk. How we walk. The list is endless. And it is always around something we need or don't need to be the person (the self image) we desire to be seen as.
Pebbles as a tiny kitten with Ginger. Never did find out what happened to Ginger
Buy me and I'll make your life happier
The advertising industry have become very clever at this. The 'by association' theme is seen in just about every advertisement. Buy this car, with the beautiful leggy blonde standing next to it at the beach resort, and you will be 'have a life like this.' And in many cases it works. But only temporarily. Sometimes it lasts for a few days, even weeks. Mostly, the buying of a product to enhance our self-image lasts far less time than that.
The ego is never satisfied for long
Why does it not work for long? Because the self-image, for example, senses that if it is not seeking, striving, being dissatisfied, it will cease to be. It is based on thought, reactive emotional thought. In a way it is emotional reaction. Even the thought of stopping thought, and the ego immediately goes into panic mode. For it is based on nothing but thought; nothing but a solidified - if a thought can be solid - conglommeration of neural pathways that have become almost like highways in the mind-brain. These contain our negative emotional reactions.
This is Cindy. Like Penny, she came from an RSPCA animal shelter
The ego cannot abide the present moment
This is 'who' the ego purports to its own self to be. But it needs continually feeding with incessant thinking to keep it alive. The one thing it fears is silence. For in silence we are in the present moment, in what Eckhart Tolle calls, The Now. Now is the only real moment. The past is gone. The future lies ahead. Ego attempts to keep us in either the past or the imagined future. It cannot abide the present moment.
The self-image abhors silence lest it is found out
Anyone who has ever tried to still his or her thinking, such as in serious meditation, knows how difficult it can be. But it is the doing, the 'intending' in this case, the Observer, the Witness, the Wise Decider, who is the real you. That which fights and rationalizes with words such as: "This is stupid. This will never work. This makes no sense," and the like, the so-called rational mind which is not rational a lot of the time - that is the self-image. It knows that it is in mortal danger of being found out to be the usurper it really is. It will fight tooth and nail, using every clever ploy it can think up to stop you knowing the truth.
Cindy as an 'adolescent' cat. Already pretty lazy
In Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth, under a section known as The Secret of Happiness, he says this: "The ego creates stories to convince you that you cannot be at peace now or cannot be fully yourself now." Then, later: "Being at peace and being who you are, that is, being yourself, are one."
Our self-image senses this. So it says, "Maybe at some point in the future, I can be at peace - if this or that happens, or I obtain this, or become that."
And I love this insight of Tolle's: "Listen to people's stories and they could all be entitled: 'Why I Cannot Be At Peace Now.'"
So there you have it, dear readers. An insight into what you are and what you are not. But let us finish with some final words from Eckhart Tolle.
"There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. For "Life is the dancer, and you are the dance."