How to Stop The Raging War Inside Yourself

By StevenAitchison

August 31, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

So much of our life is spent battling against ourself that we begin to forget who we really are. We think we need to look like Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock or many of the other ‘perfect’ celebrities that grace our world.

‘If I could look like her/him my life would be perfect’
‘If I had their money, I wouldn’t have any worries’
‘If I could buy the most fashionable clothes I would feel great about myself’
‘If only I change my personality I would find the perfect partner’

Our ideal self and perceived self
When we go searching for our ideal self we are expending energy on a needless war; the war between our perceived self (the way we see ourselves) and our ideal self (the way we would like to be)

Maybe you’re a chunky cheeseburger muncher who feels guilty every time that cheeseburger crosses your lips. You want to be thin but you also want that feeling of satisfaction when you take that first bite and savor the taste of cheese, onions, bread and the burger (of course you have already thrown away the two pieces of gherkin. Does anybody ever eat the gherkins?).

So what do you really want when you eat the cheeseburger? It’s a sense of controlling your hunger which leads to satisfaction which leads to a sense of inner calmness.

What do you really want when you want to be thin? It’s a sense of controlling your hunger (to be loved this time) which leads to satisfaction which leads to a sense of inner calmness. So the war you have created within yourself is coming from two, seemingly, opposite ideals; the desire to be thin and the desire to have a cheeseburger. However, when you look close enough these two ideals have the same goal; a sense of inner calmness. So what do you do? eat the cheeseburger and then get your chunky butt down to the gym.

Two sides of the same coin
Your perceived self is the self that needs most loving yet a lot of people disregard themselves every day, instead choosing to love their ideal self.

Imagine if you have two children, one of them is hard work and you seem to be constantly on at them for one reason or another the other is nearly perfect and you never have to tell them off for any reason. Would you love the ‘hard work’ child any less than the ‘perfect child’? of course you wouldn’t, it just means you have to find a way to work better with the ‘hard work’ child and gently coax them and encourage them.

So it is with your perceived self. You should look for ways to work better with your perceived self and accept yourself for who are are at the moment, knowing that change will come through gentle coaxing and encouragement and not forever declaring war with yourself.

5 Steps to accepting your perceived self

    1. Acknowledge it
      If there’s something you don’t like about yourself, acknowledge it. For example, I acknowledge the fact my stomach is slightly protruding.
  • Accept it
    You don’t have to like it but accept the fact, for the moment, that you have something you dislike about yourself. 
  • Thank yourself
    To acknowledge and accept something about yourself which you are not happy with takes guts and honesty. Thank yourself for that. 
  • Know why you want change
    If you want change to happen know exactly why you want the change. Get right down to the core of ‘why’. For example I want to change my protruding stomach so my wife still finds me attractive -Why? So I can be accepted by my wife – Why? So I can have a deep relationship – Why? So I can feel content – Why?, You get the picture, just get deep down to the root of why you want to change.
  • Gentle change as opposed to drastic change
    Gently coaxing yourself to change helps you to feel less stressed. If you want to lose weight keep eating the cheeseburgers for now but coax yourself to go to the gym or go for a walk after it or before it. You will find by doing this change will happen more naturally and the momentum will build up into the change you want.

The cycle of change
All change has a cycle to it whatever it is, from drug addiction to learning to read. The model from Prochaska and DiClemente states there are 5 stages to change:

    1. Pre-contemplative
      You’re happy munching the cheeseburgers and don’t really care about your weight. and are not thinking about doing anything to change 
  • Contemplative
    You think maybe you are eating too many cheeseburgers and maybe need to do something about your weight.
  • Action
    When you have actually managed to join the gym and start attending whilst cutting down on the cheeseburgers.
  • Maintenance
    This is when you maintain your momentum and you keep going to the gym and are beginning to see change happening.
  • Relapse
    The stage where you have not been to the gym for a few weeks and munch on a few more cheeseburgers than you did at the action/eminence stage.

All of the stages serve their purpose and all of the stages will happen throughout the cycle of any change. So just because you relapse doesn’t mean to say you are never going to change, it just means you need to learn some more and the relapse will help with this.

The way others see you
It’s important to say that your perceived self is not necessarily the way others see you, however the way others see you is not going to help you in your war between your perceived self and your ideal self. No matter how many times someone tells you that you are good at something if you believe you are not good at it nothing anybody says will change you. You are the only person to be able to change you.

Sometimes drastic intervention is required by other people when you might have an overly distorted self image, such as people with anorexia. This is a mental health issue and should be treated professionally. However for the most part we all have a pretty accurate self image.

Don’t be too hard on yourself
Most people want to change something about themselves even Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock, we are all in the same boat. You want what they have and they want what you have. Accept yourself for who are but acknowledge that you want to change, if you really do, and gently coax yourself. Then there will be peace between the perceived self and the ideal self.

Written on 8/19/2009 by Steven Aitchison. Steven is the Author of Change Your Thoughts and works as an alcohol and drugs counselor. He has a BSc in Psychology and has a passion for studying belief formation, thought processes and values and principles. His blog focuses on personal development through changing your thoughts but covers the whole personal development field. Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram

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