It is commonplace in our culture that we try to improve our self-image in many different ways. Many people attempt to enhance their self-esteem by positive thinking, different types of therapies, or being nice and follow social norms to fit in, in order to get approval by others.
The ‘I’ is constantly seeking appreciation in some way or another and feels it has to make an impression on others to make them like ‘me’. It is trying to push an image to imprint into others’ minds, how it wants them to see ‘me’ and think about ‘me’.
We relentlessly try to improve our self-image, because deep down most of us feel we are not OK, we are not complete; something is missing. We push our desired self-image forward to win others over. ‘This is how I want you to see me’. The irony is that this image that depicts how I want you to see me is the exact opposite of how I see myself.
So, who do I want to convince that I am better than I think I am?
You or me? Is there any division between ‘you’ and ‘me’?
Without believing that there are two solid, separate selves, ‘you’ and ‘me’, the ‘I’ could not feel better or worse than ‘you’. Without comparison there is no division.
The ‘I’ wants to improve its self-image because there is a belief in an incomplete, deficient self. This belief can take many forms: ‘unlovable me’, ‘unworthy me’, ‘ugly me’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am not successful enough’, ‘something is wrong with me’, ‘I am not strong enough’, and so on. The list is endless.
The illusion of the self is constructed from millions of beliefs, but the belief in the incomplete, deficient self has the strongest and most enchanting effect of all. This core belief is the basis of ‘our’ so called self-esteem and identity. All relationships reflect back this central belief, because the mind cannot help but project all its content ‘out there’. And since the world mirrors back the incomplete self, the reflection seems as a proof for validating its deficiency. As a result, the core belief is fortified and kept in place.
No matter how hard we try to override the belief in the separate, deficient self by positive thinking, or spending hundreds of hours in meditation or in different practises, the suffering is guaranteed.
But the existence of a deficient self is just a belief.
When this core belief is seen for what it is – just an unexamined thought taken seriously – it naturally falls away. But for the ‘I’ this can be frightening, since this belief is the basis of its ‘existence’.
Without believing in the incomplete self, there is no self, there is no ‘I’ to be found.
There is no need to enhance ‘my’ self-image and imprint onto ‘your’ mind to make a desired impression. Self-image and self-esteem become empty words, not referring to anything real.