Choosing an Image

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Sometimes we see ourselves the way we appear in other people’s eyes.  They are mirrors reflecting back an image that they see.  This can be quite beneficial to us in that such a reflection can shake us out of our own denial about an addiction or other serious emotional and physical problems.

However, the image others reflect can also be one that they perceive because they are in denial.  They cannot accept that your hopes, dreams, intelligence and perseverance are different from theirs.  Perhaps they want you to remain where you are because your presence validates what they believe is true about themselves.

For instance, if you have ever quit smoking, lost weight, become vegetarian, or gone back to school, you know that people often start treating you differently or try to sabotage your success by being non-supportive.  They might say things like “Oh, you’ve tried to give up smoking so many times before, why do you think this time is different?”  Or, “What do you need to go back to school for?  Isn’t working with us good enough?”  They might even call you names like “Joe College” or “Jenny Craig.”

In light of this peer pressure and its corresponding need to be feel a part of something, it is easy to concede to that reflected (and distorted) image.  It may be a path of least resistance to maintain the status quo by remaining who you have always been.  Change brings uncertainty.  If you change, the people around you may be reluctant to embrace your new goals and dreams because they do not know how these goals will affect you as a person, as their friend, or maybe even as their spouse.

And, perhaps even you are uncertain as to the change that will become a part of you.  How will you feel now that you are no longer a part of the “smoking circle” that goes outside during break?  Or, the one who gets the salad at lunch instead of the hamburger?  Or, passing up going to a movie with friends or family because you have schoolwork to do?  The fact that you have rearranged your priorities is a demonstration of a new way of thinking.  And, when you begin to think differently, you act differently, and those differences become a part of you.

So, if there are goals you want to reach, and a transformation you want to make, you may have to make a decision.  Which image will you choose to see:  the image others reflect, or the image you want to become?

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