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Self-Esteem or Self-Image

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There is a difference between self-esteem, self-concept and self-image. These are all terms that most people use interchangeably as if there are the same. However, as I will show here, these terms represent key differences in how we make meaning of, and represent our perception of our world. Perception is the key word here as it indicates how we interpret the world around us.

The term ‘self-image’ is about just that: the image or picture that we have in our minds about ourselves. Self-image is the way we represent ourselves visually and ‘pictorally’. Your self-image is the picture that you hold in your mind of how we look!

Is the image you have in your mind about you a ‘real’ representation of how you ‘really’ look? The answer is mixed: sometimes yes… sometimes no! For example, there are some people who, when they think of themselves, seem themselves as very fat! Yet when they go on the scale it registers a normal weight (average for their height). So they have a distorted ‘self-image’ and as a result they go on extreme dietary regimen in order to ‘lose weight’. Some individuals, while they may seem to eal normally (in public) they quickly exit to the bathroom to induce vomiting. Why? So that the food they eat might not contribute to their distorted perception that they are overweight or over-sized.

While self-image is about the internally held picture of oneself, self-concept is about the thoughts, philosophy, ideas and beliefs (or concept) which individuals use to describe themselves. Self-concept is what people ‘say’ about themselves (mostly to themselves). Self-concept is a verbal internal representation of one’s self. It is self-talk about ourselves. It is the sets of thoughts that says things like “I am handsome”, “I am capahble”, “I can do this or that.” or, conversely, “No, I can’t,”  “I am not worthy,” “I am too fat, or too old, or too skinny, etc.”

Now self-concept may contain the same information as one’s self image, except that this information is represented in words versus pictures. Self concept involves your inner voice, while self-image involves your inner eye which you turn on and make pictures of yourself.

Self-esteem is described as the way we ‘feel’ about ourselves. Self-esteem involves the ‘feeling; we have in our bodies when we think about ourselves. Think about the last time you were really scared… what was the feeling like in your chest or your stomach? What were the sensations like? Were you feeling discomfort? Now think about the last time you felt deeply satisfied… how did your body feel? Were you ‘relaxed’? How does ‘relaxed’ feel? What  the physical attributes?

Some people equate self-esteem with self-value and self-worth. As a result they don’t have a specific word for self-feeling! And when I say feeling… I am referring to feelings such as anger, happiness, satisfaction, discontent, hate and love. How are these feelings represented in one’s body versus the way they are related to you and represented in your thoughts (self-concept) and the pictures (self-image) you use to represent them.

Rather than referring to self -worth, the reference here to self-esteem is primarily about ‘how you feel about yourself’ form a physical perspective. My focus here on self-esteem is a focus on the emotions that you feel when you think about yourself and the physical manifestations that accompany those emotions.  Confused? How does that feel (and where in your physiology are those feelings)?

As you can see, there is a clear distinction between self-image, self-concept and self-esteem.

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The Negative Power of Emotions

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Most people’s lives are driven by their feelings. You feel hungry and you eat. You feel that you want a little more and you eat a little more. You feel that some ice cream or cookies would be the best dessert… so you ‘indulge’ (even though you have to follow it up with 1000 mg of Metformin, or worse – some insulin – because of your diabetes).

And I know and you know that the stomach is not the only place where our feelings dictate what we do. You are a married, internationally powerful leader and you feel that you should ‘indulge’ yourself with an intern. And, you do! You are rich, but you feel that you are not rich enough so you ‘indulge’ in some illegal investment activities. You a White policeman and you ‘feel’ differently (negatively) about Black people than you feel about White people, so when push comes to shove, you let all your ‘hidden’ feelings drive your actions.

So what should you do if you find that your feelings are controlling your life (and you don’t want them to)?

Stop living by your feelings. Stop letting your feelings drive what you do daily. Stop letting your feelings dictate your interactions with others.

Stop following your feelings until those feelings are insync with your decisions, your values and your life’s mission. But here is the problem with that statement… your decisions are probably driven by your feelings. Yes, your feelings are probably the hidden (and not so hidden) drivers behind your thoughts, beliefs, decisions – and definitely your actions.

Some writers have called this the “think, feel, do” cycle. I call it the “feel, think, do” cycle… and the “feel, do, think about it after the fact” cycle.

Most things that we do don’t go in the order of: “Let me see… what should I do? OK, I will do this and that… and then after that I will do so and so… etc.) Nope. Most people feel a particular way about something, this then drives their thoughts… and their actions follow quickly thereafter.

For example, you are driving on a neighborhood street and someone cuts in front of you just barely missing hitting your car. Do you say to yourself, “How should I respond to this person?” Nope. Instead, you probably think – “That idiot, what the hell is he doing? He could have killed me!” And, that’s the tame version of what you might say, not only to yourself but out loud. You might not even say anything! Instead, you might speed up right under his bumper, wait until you both get to the next red light… pull up by his side, roll down your window and blast him – verbally of course (although your preference at that moment would be to use some other instrument other than your mouth to do the blasting)!

At that point, what is in control of your actions? Is it your cognitive self (rationally thinking and deciding on how to act)? Or is it your emotional self… driven by your out of control feelings? Of course, through all of this, there is no part of your rational, cognitive self, saying to itself… “I shouldn’t…” You might even hesitate because your 8 year old is in the car, or because there are four burly, ‘hooded’ and ‘tattooed’ guys in the car glaring back at you.

So even if you hesitate, your ‘rational’ brain tells you, “I have a right to be pissed! That so and so…” In other words… there is no part of you that questions your feelings… or your right to feel the way you do. And even worse, there is no part of you that challenges your follow-up actions (because you have a right to be angry). So, your feelings have carte blanche control of all other aspects of your ‘self’ (thoughts, other feelings, behaviors and actions). And to add to this misery, each time you think about this even (even five years later), those same thoughts, feelings and the drive to act in a certain way, resurface in full blown mode all over again!

It doesn’t matter if you are a nun, priest, monk, police, lawyer, teacher, addict, retired judge, or octogenarian. Your feelings probably have almost total control of you.

So… what do you do?

Keep reading this blog!

How to disable, diminish, neutralize the power of your feelings/emotions to totally control your life in ways that put you at risk is the subject of a forthcoming book and several forthcoming articles on this site.



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Spiritual Approaches to Depression

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Depression is a deep and intense feeling of sadness, feeling ‘down’, or feeling like if there is a heavy weight on one’s shoulders. It is a serious concern that may possibly impact most people are some point in their lives. However, for some people depression is a very debilitating disorder. Even when it occurs occasionally it must not be ignored because these occasional moments might indicate a deeper issue lurking somewhere in the recesses of one’s mind.

There are numerous ways in which depression can be addressed. Some of these are related to physical, mental and social interventions. However, there are also strategies that can be classed as ‘spiritual’ methods of dealing with this major disorder.

One ‘spiritual’ method is meditation. There are many research studies that demonstrate the healing effects of meditation on both body, mind and spirit. While there are various forms of meditation, the patient has to find one which fits their personality, belief systems and life style. For example, some Christians take issue with Buddhist type meditations… and even with the word ‘meditation’ itself. However, when it is pointed out that ‘prayer’ can be seen as meditation, then this kind of healing activity becomes acceptable.

Other forms of spiritual practice could involve reading uplifting, inspiring and motivating texts, practicing daily acts of kindness, and regularly involving oneself in periods of stillness and quietness.

Being still or visiting places which bring calmness and inner peace can provide one with positive changes on the inside, and can be a powerful healing force for depression. The feeling of ‘being close to nature’ can neutralize feelings of sadness and wipe away the clouds of mental darkness that sometimes accompany states of depression. Walking or sitting in places of serenity – at the beach, by the side of a still pond or lake, sitting on a hillside looking at the valley below, or sitting quietly at night listening to the chirping sounds of the nocturnal insects – can be very soothing and healing.

All of these can provide the kinds of spiritual healing of depression that many patients worldwide have used to bring their lives back to harmony. You can do the same!

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Statistics on Depression

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Depression is common mental condition and these days people seem to be suffering from depression because of their stressful lifestyles. Depression not only affects the person who is suffering from depression but also affects their family members. The overall effects of depression are huge. The statistics on depression support this.

According to statistics on depression, it is second most serious, uncontrollable and costly health issue in the world. Still, most people who are suffering from depression are not seeking the treatment they need. Though depression is treatable with proper prescribed medication and psychotherapy, many people don’t seek treatment due to lack of awareness of the help that is available or because of the stigma of mental illness within most societies. Based on the statistics on depression identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is clear that around the world, depression seems to be growing everyday. It has become a very serious issue.

Statistics on depression from the World Health Organisation identifies it as the fourth most deadly contributor to the global health diseases and a significant cause of health related disability. WHO declared that by the year 2020 it will be the second highest cause of diseases around the world. According to one study which cited statistics on depression,  121 million people in world are suffering from this disease, and each year hundreds of thousands of people around the world commit suicide due to severe depression.

Here are some general statistics on depression:

  • 121 million people are suffering from depression.
  • Among 25% people seek treatment.
  • After age of 18 yrs, seven persons out of hundred suffer from depression at any stage of their life.
  • One of every 33 children and one of every eight adults suffer from clinical depression.
  • Many people notice their depression in their late thirties.
  • 10% of the 6 million people who are suffering from late life depression receive proper treatment.
  • Experts believe that 80% of people who are suffering from clinical depression are not diagnosed and treated.
  • The world economy also suffers from the cause of depression.  One study indicates that more than $51 million loss is due to lower productivity which is a direct result of depression.
  • Still many people take depression as personal weakness and don’t seek treatment.
  • Most communities around the world (in both developed, developing and emerging countries) place a stigma on mental health disorders including depression.

Though depression is a complex disease, 80 to 90% people get relief if they get proper guidance and treatment. So awareness among people about depression and its effects is very necessary.

For resources on depression, go here.

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