The Road to a Better Self Image

“We all know how hard it is to hear the harsh words others use when cutting us down. Yet, for those who have gained a little more insight into the inner-workings of life, they have learned to recognize a verbal cut down for what it is – it is a compliment…”
— Rick Cox

Like many, I struggled for a good part of my life with a poor self image. Although the struggle is much less today, there are occasions when it rears its ugly head and I find myself in the dumps. Unless you have ever had to deal with as well as overcome a poor self-image, you may find hard to understand the struggles of those who’ve suffered with it. That being said, regardless of whether someone was genuinely offering help or simply trying to cut me down, more often than not I received them both through the same skeptical ear. In my case I believe the poor self-image was the result of never receiving accolades for doing well at any level. On the other hand I received plenty of criticism for not being whatever it was I was trying to be.

Many years ago, the profession I was in required I encourage and guide people as a whole along with individual and marriage counseling. Seems like, I am still doing that to some degree and this is probably because I am the one most in need. By in large you will learn more as well as become more when you have to stretch yourself through the effort of helping others. This happens because during your study and meditation to bring help to those with whom you are working, you often find the answers to help yourself. In other words you discover during the process either how to get out of, or how to better deal with your own struggles.

It was during one of those counseling sessions while I was doing my level best to help a young lady that she and I both came to understand “the real reason behind why people cut others down.” We came to understand how this could be used, not only to heal her own heart, but the heart of the one she was so angry and bitter with as well. Having this understanding helped us both in the move toward working on bettering our own self-image.

What I knew of this young lady was she seemed to have a cheerful, joyous outlook on life. Although small in stature, she appeared to have a big heart with no concern for her size. She had a continual smile and carried herself, well. Now that she was in my office however, I knew she had a very heavy heart. I asked her (we’ll call her Jane, not her real name) how she and her husband were doing (they had no children)? I asked about her job, her family and his family? It was the “his family” question, which caused her to wince a bit and brought redness to her face. Jane was obviously agitated. I asked her if everything was alright with the in-laws as it seemed to be the most obvious next question. Jane said everything was fine. What is it then I asked? Why do you have such a heavy heart? Why are you so upset? She answered me with a question, “What do YOU do when someone close that you can’t avoid constantly cuts, belittles, and puts down everything you do and never has a nice thing to say on your behalf?”

Interesting enough, I was already searching for that answer; not only for many that had already come to me seeking it, but for my own self as well. What I had told everyone up to that point was the same thing I was telling myself, “We need to love these people in spite of what they do – we need to learn to turn the other cheek OR we will wind up with anger, jealousy, hatred, bitterness and the like entering into our heart resulting in a Broken Relationship.” Having a Broken Relationship would by default allow someone else to run, rule, and ruin your life.

Although it is true, we need to turn the other cheek as well as love others in spite of how they act or what they say; but simply repeating and agreeing to follow those words is a much easier task than following it through in actuality.

My next thought was to look at this from a much different perspective than I had in the past. It came to me to have her describe the verbal interaction between the two of them thereby, allowing me to stand off to the side and observe. I asked her to tell me prior to replaying a typical conversation, how this person intersected with her life. After providing a brief description, which told me the person was her sister in law, she began relating the way this person treated her. As she painted the scene with her words I was actually doing my best to picture their conversation as well as their facial expressions. What I saw brought the answer both of us had all been seeking for some time. I watched as their conversation went from the initial hello’s to the point where her sister in law started the belittling comments; putting her down for how she looked, the way she dressed, the things she said and even the way she said them. I instantly came to know something of the one doing the cutting, which was most startling.

I interrupted her, looked her straight in the eye and asked, “What do you think of your sister in law? Do you think she has a good self-image? Does she have a successful life? Do you think your sister in law is jealous of you?” She sat there for a moment puzzled by my questions. She said her sister in law was taller with a better education as well as a better job. She continued by saying she knew her sister in law made more money than her and all around appeared to be more successful. She then asked me why the question.

What I told her shocked her. I told her that her sister in law envied her; was jealous of her and actually saw her on a higher plane or stage than herself. I continued by saying her sister in laws words were simply a tool being used to cut her down to the level on which she saw herself. Moreover, I said the only reason you could cut something is because it is either too high or too long or too much. Whatever the case, you are more of something and she needs it to be less in order to put both of you on the same level. I then said, “You now know what is behind the verbal attack so, take it as a compliment. By cutting you down she is in essence, be it consciously or subconsciously, admitting that she thinks you are better than she is. Receive it for what it is.”

She took what I said to heart, which allowed her to respond differently to her sister in law when they interacted. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the two eventually became very good friends. What’s more important is the lady I was counseling came to see herself differently. She saw herself as a person of value and worth when others began to cut her down. She also knew these people placed her on a higher level than they saw their self.

Taking this approach helped her better her own self-image, which was what our counseling session was all about. What was also very important was how it helped mine. Remember, when you are helping others, more often than not you get at least as much if not more than they do. I trust this approach will help you too. Give it a try.

Best of LUCK as you
Labor Under Correct Knowledge…


Rick Cox