Who's Image are you Created In?
ANCIENT ARTS & SCIENCES
from the pages of Thresholds
WHO'S IMAGE ARE YOU CREATED IN?
By Pam Carpenter
"Well, that's just the way I am. I'll never be any different. I can't change."
Do you really believe that the way you are right now is the way you've always been and the way you'll always be? Do you really believe that if you wanted to change, the best you could do is hope or wish to be different?
Think back to when you were a child. Are you the same person then as you are now? What made the difference? You've changed? Yes, that's true. And what was it that caused you to change? You grew up? You went to college? You got married? You got a promotion at work? Uncle Bill told you you'd be this way? Here's where you're wrong. You're the one who caused you to change. The people, places and things in your life only supplied the stimulus. Have you ever stopped to consider that the way you are right now is the way you used to think you might be? So, Uncle Bill told you when you were a kid that you'd make a good lawyer. You took the idea in and began to imagine what it would be like if you really did become a lawyer when you grew up. What would it feel like? What would you look like? What would you be like? If you liked the way it sounded, felt, looked, yes, and even smelled and tasted, you had bought the idea and begun to build your identity around and toward it. But what if when you "tried on" the idea of being a lawyer, you didn't like the way it felt looked and sounded. Being an artist or a teacher felt and sounded and looked like something you would rather reach for. Then you rejected Uncle Bill's idea and bought another idea that you began to prepare for with your imagination. As a child you "bought" or rejected many ideas that were presented to you.
When I was a little girl my mother told me that I had sinus trouble. A short time later she overheard me telling one of my friends, "I have sinus trouble." Now my mother was smart enough to know that I had "bought" the idea of sinus trouble and was beginning to make it mine. She realized she could influ-ence me to change the thought. So a few months later she said, "Pam, I believe that you have outgrown that sinus trouble." Again, I "bought" the idea. As I grew up I remember telling my friends that I had had sinus trouble but that I had outgrown it, and indeed that was the case.
You take pieces of information into yourself all of the time. When you "try it on for size" by imagining what it would be like to live within that condition, and then "buy" the idea by identifying with it, you prepare mentally and physically for it to be a part of your Self-image or a condition in your life.
Who you are right now has been determined by choices that you yourself have made about yourself in the past. Besides being something that someone said to you, it may have been something you noticed about someone else that you wanted to be like: a quick wit, an ability to speak to people, a happy laugh. Or it may have been something that you imagined yourself being when you grew up: a nurse, a successful business person, or someone with a heart condition.
Who you are didn't just happen by chance, but by a determined choice on your part. When I was yonger, I used to look at women's magazines. I would choose pictures of women that I would like to look like when I got older. It wasn't that I wanted to have the same face or nose as theirs; it was that each expressed a certain quality of elegance, softness and warmth. These qualities were what I wanted to be able to express, too, when I got older. I imagined what it would be like for me to express these same qualities.
As you have built your image of yourself, you have used the same ingredients, the same steps. By knowing what these ingredients are and how they fit together, you can use them over and over again to build your image of yourself.
Attention is the most basic, as well as the most important ingredient. Look at yourself in the mirror and what do you see? Do you see your double chin and the ugly wrinkles that are starting to cross your face? Or do you see your bright blue eyes and your smile? All you are doing in either case is placing your attention upon different parts of your face. Anything in the world consists of parts that are beautiful and strong as well as parts that could be improved or changed. Where you place your attention is up to you. What you keep your attention focused on is what will grow. What you remove your attention from is what will eventually wither and die.
If you only dwell on the things you don't like about yourself or what you would like to change, that's dishonest and only leads to condemnation or self-pity. If you dwell only on the things you like about yourself, that also is dishonest and leads to false pride or vanity. Honesty requires both---seeing what you appreciate about yourself as well as what you would like to change. It takes attention used with honesty to be able to see both.
You have accomplishments and traits in yourself that you appreciate. You also have qualities in yourself that you would like to change or improve upon, as well as that which you would like to accomplish. What you appreciate about yourself are your accom-plishments. What you would like to change are goals yet to be accomplished. What a relief to recognize that what you are not content with in your life can be changed and that you can be the one to change them. What a sense of freedom. You are not stuck with the way you are with no hope of ever being any different. You have the freedom and the power to be anything you want as long as you are willing to take the steps and put forth the effort to get it.
As you form your goal it is important to notice how you are focusing your attention. Is the goal you are setting something you want --- to be outgoing, thinner, more muscular? Or something you don't want --- not to be crabby, or depressed, to loose ten pounds of ugly fat, or to stop biting your fingernails?
A goal gives you something to reach for, not something to push out of your life. So make sure your goals state the things that you want rather than what you don't want. I once set a goal for myself to stop biting my fingernails. After a few weeks I wasn't making much progress, so I began to examine what was happening. That was when I discovered that I had set a negative goal (something that I didn't want). So I changed it to "I want to have beautiful hands." This idea gave me something to reach for, a way to replace the present condition with an improved condition. It was then that I began to take positive action toward what I wanted.
Along with your goal, be sure to add how you will benefit by achieving it --- how you will be more at peace with yourself, how you will gain confidence, how by having this goal you will have time to do the things that are important for you. What we are talking about here is purpose. Purpose gives your goal a personal touch and adds a special motivation, a special sweetness, like the icing on the cake.
Once you have your goal and purpose, mix them together by using your imagination. What will it be like to have accomplished your goal? What will you be like and how will you have changed? What will it feel like and smell like and sound like and even taste like to be a bank president? What changes or adjustments will you need to make in your life and your self in order to accomplish your goal. Imagination is a powerful ingredient. As you take steps to changing your identity you will use your imagination to make adjustments and to improve upon what you have already accomplished so far.
Achieving anything will only be complete when there is a physical action correspon-ding with the goal. In adding a quality to yourself this means first acting as if you already possessed the quality you wish to make a part of yoruself. At first it will mean pretending. As you get accustomed to responding in this new manner it will no longer be pretending for you but a true expression of yourself. For any thought to be complete it must be expressed in the physical. And what a thrill it is to witness your own ideas manifesting into conditions in your life!
Putting It All Together
The following is how I put all those ingredients together and what I discovered as a result.
It began with me evaluating myself and how I identified as a director of a School of Metaphysics. I saw the need to add a particular quality to myself: that of profes-sionalism and the quality of someone who knows what they want and who is actively pursuing it. The purpose that I saw for myself was added confidence to meet any situation and to identify with success and thus be a success, bringing a sense of contentment and security. I imagined what it would be like meeting radio and T.V. personalities, walking up to them and shaking their hand as an equal and then getting the things that I wanted.
When I would walk out the front door of the school I would put on this attitude very much like putting on an overcoat. I would practice this at times when it didn't matter whether I expressed this quality or not --- like the post office, the laundramat, the grocery store. One day I was running some errands and practicing at the same time. The first place I went to was the post office. I was standing in line, waiting my turn, and at the same time pretending confidence and professionalism. The man next to me in line started talking to me. Normally people did not talk to me when I was standing in line. I thought this unusual and wondered if it were not what I had been pretending.
Then I went to the library. As I was walking up the front steps, still pretending, someone was coming out of the library and stopped me. "Haven't I seen you out at the University? Don't you work out there?" I realized these people were "seeing" that quality that I was only pretending to have. I realized that it is truly what we think about ourselves that is expressed outwardly and perceived by other people. By practicing in neutral situations like the grocery store, the laundramat or the post office, the identity that I was building became increasingly famil-iar to me so that it was no longer a pretending but a true expression of myself to be used anytime, anywhere. When it came time to use this ability, I had gotten comfortable enough with it in neutral situations that I could use it with confidence.
Change doesn't happen overnight. It happens in gradual steps by taking control over the "small" things in your life on a daily basis. Changing your self-image also doesn't happen overnight. Gradual change is actually advantageous.
What if you were to go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning being the greatest person you can imagine. Would you be able to adjust to this change that quickly? Gradual change gives us a chance to adjust our own attitudes about ourselves and responses from others. I knew a lady who was in the process of losing weight. When she got down to a certain weight men started paying attention to her --- something she wasn't used to. Instead of adjusting her attitude toward this change in other's responses to her, she got scared and put the weight back on.
It is the gradual process that when applied every day, has the dramatic impact on you and the world around you. So keep your goal and purpose in mind. Use your imagination and attention toward what you want to be, acting on them in seemingly small ways in your daily life.
Appreciate the small steps you make every day and within a few months you could be saying "Wow, I have changed a lot in the past few months."
Here's to who you want to be and the you who is willing to go after it!
Pam Elizabeth Carpenter is presently directing the Columbia, Missouri branch of the School of Metaphysics. She has been a teacher of mind for the past nine years.
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