Khalil Gibran & David Goggins On How To Create A Positive Self-Image 

He stares in the mirror and sees three things. First, the sweat which trickles down his forehead, dotting the mat underneath. Second, the pair of dumbbells that lay at the foot of the mat. The third is himself. Wearing a half-sleeved shirt, his arms and shoulders are pumped with blood from the workout. The sight of them draws a smile out of him. But that smile wavers and drops away like the pair of dumbbells dropping on the rubber mats. The thudding sound anchored his smile as he felt his midsection through the shirt. Grabbing at the loose skin and pockets of fat which still lingered. 

The mirror only reflected one thing now.  

Self-image is an individual’s perception of themselves, including their physical appearance, personality, and characteristics. The way we perceive ourselves influences things like self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. 

In our current day and age, I believe that our self-image is under a microscope more than ever before. Meaning, because we have so many outlets to compare ourselves with other people (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), and because there are so many self-help gurus on various platforms and media talking about constant productivity and improvement, it has resulted in a constant bombardment of our self-image. 

Everywhere you look, you can see what you’re doing wrong, what you’re not doing enough of, how you should be acting, what you need to do, why the way you are isn’t enough, and how you can change yourself.

Of course, there are benefits to this type of input. We do want to learn and grow and improve. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a better version of ourselves. However, the difficulty lies in stopping all of this input from creating a negative self-image and along with it a negative self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

Part of the problem lies in what we choose to focus on. With all of these different inputs, it is easy to focus on what we haven’t done or what we have done poorly. This results in a negative self-image. 

Khalil Gibran touched on this subject in his incredibly thoughtful book, The Prophet. Gibran’s advice boils down to our perception. Instead of constantly highlighting the lows and the mistakes we make as we continue to march through life, we should take the time to remind ourselves of all the good things we have done. All the positive things we have accomplished.

You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.

This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.

To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.

To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.

An agreement we sign with life is that it will be difficult, challenging, and we’ll face many failures. But along with this, we also get to overcome obstacles, change our habits for the better, and accomplish our goals. 

But the mirror of life tends to reflect only those things our mind is trained to perceive. Just as someone who is dedicated to exercising and yet can only spot the deficiencies in their physique, we too end up focusing overwhelmingly on the failures and missteps. 

However, if our perception changed just one or two degrees, so the aforementioned individual can see the progress he or she has made to their arms or how much their strength has increased, their self-image will bolster. In the same way, a degree of change in our perception can reveal all the mini-wins we have had prior to a failure or mistake.

Retired Navy Seal and ultra-athlete, David Goggins has a concept that he likes to call the cookie jar. The cookie jar is a list of your accomplishments which you can fall back on when you need them. And because these are your personal accomplishments, they can be whatever you like. For someone who reads all the time, finishing a book might not qualify for the cookie jar. But for someone who hasn’t read a book in years, that is something you can deposit in your cookie jar to pull out at some later point in your life when you’re feeling negativity seeping into your self-image. While for the reader, maybe they haven’t run in a while, so running one mile can qualify for the cookie jar. 

The cookie jar concept by David Goggins is a good way to combat the negative influx and reaffirm your self-image by reminding yourself of all the strong links you have built.

So that our self-image can be built on a foundation of wins and challenges faced, rather than focusing on the occasional crack in the foundation when we mess up. Because in due time, that crack will be plastered over as we continue to strengthen our strongest link. 

Reflections On Building Confidence 

Confidence can be defined in several ways. One of them is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. Another is a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

What I find curious about both definitions is the verbiage. Confidence is associated with “Feeling” and “Belief”. Whether it’s feeling like you can accomplish a given task or believing you have the ability to do something. But, we know both feelings and beliefs can change. They aren’t fixed in nature. Both things are constantly changing and evolving. So, in terms of confidence, I infer that it too can change.

We can go from being confident to unconfident and from unconfident to confident. This isn’t revolutionary thinking. Most people understand this at the basic level because part of maturing through your teenage years or early adulthood requires some degree of confidence. 

My aim is rather to understand what builds confidence within me and what kind of behaviours and habits zaps my confidence. First and foremost, my confidence is built through action. Inversely, I lose confidence through inaction. For example, the more consistent I am with my writing, the more action I take to put pen on paper and churn out words, the more confident I feel about my abilities. So, when self-doubt strikes, when my confidence falters, I can look at the past month of work, the words written, the pages compiled and strengthen my resolve. 

However, when I was on a more in-consistent schedule where I go several days without taking any action, days which quickly become weeks and several weeks at that, then when self-doubt strikes and my confidence falters, the consequences are a lot more dire because I don’t have actual proof to fall back on. It’s an empty void instead.

Proof is another key ingredient to confidence. You don’t want to hang your hat on the things you have done and become one of those people who always bring up past accomplishments and let everyone know how great he used to be. But, having past accomplishments is important. They are receipts of your actions. They show what you are capable of. And one good thing about this kind of proof is that they depend on the individual.

For example, if you’re comparing yourself to a marathon runner, then running one mile doesn’t seem like a big deal. But if you look back and see the past version of yourself who might not have even been able to walk one mile, then you can see how much of a confidence builder this accomplishment really is. Proof that they can accomplish something their former self thought was impossible.

To someone who reads all the time, finishing a book barely registers. But for someone who is on the path of building a reading habit, they can look back at a finished book and gain confidence that they are moving in the right direction. And when their confidence falters, they have a solid foundation to fall back on. 

Habits are another key ingredient to maintaining confidence. It can often take a long time to see tangible results. So, if you rely too much on results, you can find yourself in the uncomfortable position of wondering whether you’re good enough because the result you’re looking for hasn’t come to fruition. This can cause a major dent in your confidence.

One way to strengthen yourself is by focusing on good habits. Good habits are a whole other topic, but most people instinctively know what are good habits and what are bad habits. Perhaps it’s a bit naive to assume that following good habits will lead you toward your goals in life and following bad ones will lead you away from what you want. Life is rarely that black or white. But at the same time, order is necessary. You have to find these mini-steps that you believe are leading you toward your goals. Good habits happen to just that. 

Perhaps a good analogy is a video game health bar. The health bar is confidence and as you go through your life, that health bar begins to deplete, but each time you perform a good habit, you get a little boost, strengthening your health. Perform enough good habits and you accomplish a result that boosts your bar even more. Accumulate enough results and you add a whole new layer to your bar. One that depletes slower than the previous one.   

One commonality throughout this process is action. Keep moving and keep acting, so your confidence can be refilled over and over again. 

Bruce Lee On How We Can Improve Our Life Through Action

Only actions give to life its strength, as only moderation gives it its charm

Many of us are dreamers, we sit around all-day imagining the different lives we could be living, thinking of what our lives could have been or the opportunities we let slip by because we were too passive. It’s because of this passivity that we find ourselves living a life that we don’t necessarily enjoy. Perhaps if we had acted, been more aggressive in our pursuits, our lives could have been enhanced.

Our lives are then weakened by our passivity and even our character suffers when we don’t act.

Action is a high road to self-confidence and esteem. Where it is open, all energies flow towards it. It comes readily to most people, and its rewards are tangible

Confidence often comes from us remember something we have accomplished. When we look back in our past and think of the scenarios that required us to go just beyond our perceived limitations. It is these scenarios that give us confidence and help build our self-esteem. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding ourself that “I have done X before, so I can also do Y”. Yet, one can only accomplish anything through action. The more things we achieve and overcome the more our confidence builds. So, if we want to improve ourselves and our lives we must act, we must be aggressive.

However, we can sometimes be bogged down by the large picture when we think about acting. Perhaps you want to run a marathon but can’t even run a mile at the moment so you think it’s pointless to even try. But once again, Bruce Lee advocates acting instead of self pity.

Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand

That marathon will seem daunting if you keep thinking about the 26.2 miles. Instead, we must turn our attention to the action at hand, which is to build ourselves up to run one mile. After that point, we can turn towards two miles, then 3, 4 and so on.

At the end of the day, whatever it is that you want from life will not be handed to you. Nobody is going to present you your dreams on a silver platter, no three wishes or a magic wand. No amount of daydreaming or thinking will change your current situation.

All you have is yourself and your ability to act.

The end of man is action, and not thought, though it be of the noblest. In this world there are a lot of people who cannot touch the heart of the matter but talk merely intellectually (not emotionally) about how they would do this or do that; talk about it, but yet nothing is ever actualized or accomplished

We shouldn’t be one of those people who just talk about it. The easiest way to not be that person is to simply be active, be aggressive, be about action.


Book Reference: Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living


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