Self Image

By Leo Gura - March 5, 2014 | 27 Comments

Why self-image is one of the most important concepts for getting massive results from self-help.

Video Transcript

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Hey, this is Leo from, and in this video we’re going to talk about self-image.

Welcome back. Let’s crack into this one, the self-image. This is going to be a quick breeze through what self-image is, because self-image is such a powerful idea, such a transformative idea. First of all, I love this topic because of the potential it has to completely transform the quality of your life.

I’m talking about ridiculous levels of transformation possible by understanding and utilising this concept. We’re going to break into it, but there’s so much here, I can’t cover it all in just fifteen or twenty minutes. Let’s pack in as much as we can, get you a really solid intro to self-image, hopefully convince you of the importance of further study of this topic and taking some of these actions to heart.

Take A Look At Yourself

What is self-image? A lot of these ideas that I bring to you are really coming from Maxwell Maltz’ classic self-help book Psycho-Cybernetics. If you haven’t checked that out, and you want to be a serious student of self-help, I really recommend it. Of all the books I’ve read, I think this is one of the most powerful, important, practical tools you can use to transform your life.

It is ridiculously powerful. Here are some of the key points. Maxwell Maltz was actually a doctor, he was a plastic surgeon back in the 1950s. What he discovered is, he started looking into psychology, but the reason he started looking into psychology and people’s self-images was because he started to do plastic surgery, he was doing plastic surgery and he noticed a couple of interesting things.

The first thing he noticed was that he would make changes on people, people that had crippling emotional problems because of how they looked. For example, they would have some deformity on their face, which they thought would make them ugly and unacceptable, or they thought they had too big of a nose, or the lips were too small, or they had wrinkles or something like that.

Maxwell Maltz would go in there, and he would cut them up, fix them up and make them pretty. When he did that, what he noticed, much to his shock was that even though he could take an ugly person and change that person’s face totally around and make them beautiful and pretty, that person– two things would happen.

One patient’s life would be radically transformed. His self-confidence would be boosted. His self-image would be awesome. He would feel great. He’d have a lot of self-esteem. He’d go out and really change his life. He’d have a slight transformation that would last for the rest of his life.

That happened with some of the patients. With some of the other patients, who went through that same procedure, what would happen is that they would still think that they’re ugly, even though objectively, they were now beautiful.

In fact, some of the patients were so upset with Maltz that they accused him of not having made any changes to their face at all. They would accuse him of being a charlatan, of being a quack.

Of course, he made changes. But that person, here’s where we’re getting to self-image, had such a strong self-image of who they were before the operation that that self-image still remained even after the operation.

Even though the physical features changed, it’s the self-image that really determines how you feel about your life, even what you believe is true. This is a really powerful concept. Let’s really define self-image. What is self-image?

But What Is Self-Image?

Self-image is a subconscious framework for you how you see life and yourself, and what you believe and what you think is true. This applies to reality and yourself. Every belief that you have is part of your self-image. What you think of yourself is the self-image, but also what you think is possible.

That’s also part of your self-image. For example, you think it’s possible for you to be earning a million dollars a year. Do you really believe that? If you do, then that’s part of your self-image. If you don’t, if that sounds ridiculous to you, sounds like a fairy tale, like wishful thinking, that’s not part of your self-image.

That pathway of reality is blocked off to you. What’s happening here is that in your mind, your mind is creating a map, a mental model of reality and how the world works. This model, this is the really tricky part about it, is mostly subconscious. You’re not aware of it.

You’re not aware of all the assumptions you make about how your world works, how society works, how life works and how you work, who you are. You have all sorts of assumptions that get in there mostly unconsciously by being programmed and conditioned as you’re growin up, by your parents, by all the friends you interact with through school, basically every single person you come into contact with.

Not just people, but also circumstances that happen to you, and even simple things, like experiences that you have when you put your hand on your hot stove, and you learn your lesson from that real quick. That gets seared into your subconscious. That’s part of your self-image and your model of reality. You don’t put your hand near hot objects, because that has hurt you in the past, that has burned you.

Unravel The Thread

This is what you’ve got. You’ve got this self-image which is like a large, I like to think of it as a ball of yarn. Think of it like — you have a ball of yarn that’s this big, and there’s literally hundreds of strands of yarn in there. They’re all tangled up and bunched up together.

That’s been built up over the last — basically all the years of your life up to this point — is all the experiences you’ve come in have taught you different lessons, given you different beliefs and assumptions and it’s all congealed into this tight ball of yarn.

It’s a pretty big mess in there. All this is sitting below the surface, so you don’t even see it. You maybe see a little corner, a little piece of the yarn here, a little piece of the yarn there. What’s powerful and important about this is that this is determining your actions.

I have other videos about this. I talk about the power of the subconscious mind, but the key takeaway from those videos that I’m going to just throw at you here real fast is simply that ninety five percent of your behaviors and actions are subconscious. The results in your life are largely subconscious. You’re not conscious of the results you’re getting.

Maintaining Balance

Your body is like a thermostat, and your mind is like a thermostat. It tends to keep you in a state of homeostasis and equilibrium. That is why it’s hard to make change, and that’s why you’re stuck where you are right now.

That’s why you’re stuck earning as much money as you do. You’re stuck at the weight level that you’re stuck at. You’re stuck at your happiness set point. You’re stuck in your relationships, where you’ve always been. You tend to be stuck there.

If you want to create big change, you’ve got to start looking below the surface into this big ball of yarn. You have to start to unravel that stuff and look at the self-image. What’s powerful about self-image is that anything you really believe to be true is something you’re going to align your behaviour and your actions with.

Your behaviour and your whole personality, and what you think of yourself and the world, and how you then go and act, the things you then do in your life — this is a very practical thing — the things you do in your life are all shaped by what you believe is true.

The crazy thing here is, it doesn’t matter if you believe it to be true and it’s false. You’ll still operate based on that belief. By definition, a belief is believed to be true by you. It feels as though it’s true. There are many things in your self-image that are complete horse shit, false, fabrications, complete illusions. That is keeping you stuck where you are.

If you want to prop yourself out of that, and you want to get going, and you want to create some big change in your life, whether with your career, your relationships, your fitness or anything else, or just how you think about yourself, then you have to start to dig into self-image and do some of this work.

Changes That Last

When you actually start to change your self-image, and this is possible, it’s possible to change your self-image, then you start to create lasting changes that are sustainable, that are not like a yo-yo effect, that actually last. That’s how you can create massive weight loss. That’s how you can create massive success with the opposite sex.

That’s how you can create massive success with your finances and your business. That’s how you can create massive success personally, in your own psychology, just how you feel, how you think, becoming more positive rather than negative, dropping anxiety, depression, alcoholism. All of this stuff happens by working on your self-image.

Whether you’re doing it consciously or not, you’re still working on your self-image. That’s why it’s so powerful. Let me give you a couple of examples now of what self-image is on a more practical level.

These are thoughts about you. There’s thoughts about reality. Let’s talk about thoughts about yourself. What do you see yourself as being? Because who you see yourself as, is what your life is going to reflect. It’s a really powerful idea. Your thoughts reflect your life.

Your life also reflects your thoughts. There is an interaction, it’s a two way street, it’s not a one way street. Right now, you probably think that “Well, what I think about myself is just what’s real. It’s the experience that I’ve had. If I believe that I’m a poor speller, I’m not good at spelling, that’s because I’ve got all this evidence to back that up. I’ve always failed spelling tests, I always make a lot of typos, people keep telling me I’m a bad speller, I didn’t do good at school. I must be a bad speller, right?”

Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. The fact that it’s in your subconsciousness now, it’s in that big ball of yarn, it’s part of your self-image, now your life is going to start to reflect that. It’s going to start to create a self-fulfilling prophecy effect, which can be extremely dangerous and it can propagate the fact that you are a poor speller.

Maybe you were a poor speller in the past. This doesn’t mean you can’t change that going forward. If you believe you are a poor speller, that’s part of your self-image, you really believe it, what chances do you think you have of becoming a good speller? Very little, right?

What’s really dangerous is when you believe it so much that even what I’m telling you right now goes over your head and you start coming up with reasons why what I’m telling you isn’t true. Let me assure you this model of self-image is very, very true.

There are shocking things about yourself that you believe right now, with a hundred percent faith and certainty, which are completely bogus and are completely destroying the quality of your life and your potential to grow. Let’s cover a few more of those.

More Examples

We covered “I am a poor speller”. What if you believe, deep down inside, that you’re bad at math? You always hated math. Didn’t like math, you were bad at math at school. You’re bad at numbers. Whenever someone asks you to do some accounting work, some Excel spreadsheet work, you always make mistakes and errors. Now you believe you’re bad at math.

That can be part of your self-image. How about “I’m a failure”? Can you imagine what that would do to your life if you really believed you fail, that you’re a failure? What if you believed that you are shy? What if you believed “I am shy. I’m just a shy person. I’m an introvert.”?

What if you believed “I’m clumsy. I’m always clumsy. I always say the wrong things, do the wrong things, trip over stuff, bump into things. I’m just a clumsy person”? What if you thought of yourself as an alcoholic? ”I am an alcoholic. I have a drinking problem. I always have, always will. That’s just who I am. It’s in my genes. It’s genetic.”

That’s a good one, isn’t it? “I’m shy because that’s genetic. My parents were shy.” “I’m a poor speller, my parents were bad spellers. The verbal part of my brain is just not as sharp as other people’s. I’m bad at math for the same reason.” Or “I’m clumsy, I’m just naturally clumsy.” Watch out for that “genetic” and that “naturally”. Those can be killers.

How about money? So many negative self-image problems with money. How about believing this: money is hard to make? What do you believe about money? Do you believe money is hard to make, or is it easy to make? Do you think that has an effect on how much money you have in your bank account?

Well, it does, very much so. Look into what you think about money. How about, what if you believed that life is unfair, and life is hard and difficult? Life is unfair and difficult and hard. That’s kind of an ugly one.

What if you believed “I’m ugly”? You believe that you are ugly and that others see you as being ugly. How do you think that would play out in your life? These are some common examples that I might throw at you. You can think of more. There can be a list of hundreds, maybe thousands of them.

Break The Manacles

These are just common limiting assumptions and beliefs, part of the self-image we can have that is perpetuating the low-quality life that we have. I’ve got these, you’ve got them. The trick is we don’t even know that we’ve got them. A lot of these, they sound very silly and simplistic.

Something like “I’m a failure”. You might say “I would never say that I’m a failure. That’s just stupid.” You recognize that logically, but actually, deep down inside, you actually believe that you’re a failure. A lot of the things that are in your self-image are completely illogical, stupid, foolish, until you articulate them.

The problem is you don’t even know what they are, you haven’t dug into that ball of yarn to find out. Or something like “I’m ugly”. You might have never even articulated to yourself that you are ugly, but maybe deep down inside, you actually believe it, and that’s why you have a lot of the relationship problems that you have, because you need the other person to come and give you compliments, and to praise you all the time, and to lavish you with love.

Whenever he or she is not doing that, you feel rejected, angry and bitter. Then that relationship falls apart because you create a lot of stress and drama, because you want more love and you want more affection from the other person. That drives the other person away from you.

You need it, ultimately, because deep down, without even realising it, you believe that you are ugly. You need other people to counteract that belief. You want them to be showering you with compliments all the time. Kind of deep, kind of powerful, right?

Lift With Your Legs

That is how it works. It’s crazy how the mind can work. Let’s move on. Let’s talk about wrapping up here. What can you do about this? Where is all this leading to? Ultimately, what I want you to take away from this video, because I can’t cover all the steps of how to actually start to affect your self-image right now, but I want you to take away this idea that this is something that’s real.

This is something that’s extremely important. This is something that your mind should be focused on and thinking about. This is where change happens. You know the old saying, where they tell you that if you’re going to be lifting some heavy object, you want to lift it with your legs and not your back?

If you lift it with your back, you’re going to strain your back and you’re not going to be as strong as if you lift it with your legs. You have to train yourself to lift with your legs when you’re moving something heavy. Maybe you’ve run across this when you were moving your house, or moving heavy boxes, or that washing machine or that TV.

That can apply here, with doing personal development work. Where it applies is this: right now, if you’re trying to get some sort of change in your life, what you’re probably doing is using your willpower to say “OK, enough is enough. I’m going to go on a diet.”

Then you try to do that diet. Or “Enough is enough. I’m going to try to earn some more money by starting a business.” Then you start that new business, or at least you try. What happens, you probably noticed this, is you quickly fall off, because your willpower breaks. It breaks.

It’s like you’re back. It’s like using your back to lift something. There are times when you can do that, and it’s fine to do it, and I think building willpower is great. But, the key, if you want lasting, massive change in your life, transformation, then what you’ve got to start doing is work in your subconsciousness.

Your subconsciousness is the power center of your results. The subconsciousness is where ninety five percent of your action is stemming from. That’s what you’ve got to work on. That is working on your self-image. It’s working on your beliefs. It’s going more of this deeper introspection work.

One of the ways you can work on that is through coaching. Coaching is really good for getting you these insights, bringing stuff up from your subconsciousness, getting you to realise things you haven’t really realised before.

The last point I’m going to end on is the fact that yes, you can change your subconsciousness. It’s actually not that difficult. It does take persistence. It takes about twenty one days of — Maxwell Maltz in Psycho-Cybernetics says it takes twenty one days to really create a lasting change in your self-image.

That is why, for example, if you’re keeping on diets, or if you’re doing a habit, you’re taking on some sort of new habit, it’s going to take you at least twenty one days, maybe a month of two to really lock that in. That’s because it’s supposed to permeate into the subconsciousness, and that is a form of working on your self-image.

Wrap Up

This is Leo, I’m signing off. That’s all I had to say about self-image right now. Go ahead, leave me your comments. Like this, please share it. I really want to hear comments from you, because I do use the feedback that I get, the discussion that goes down in the comment section, I do use that to polish up what I’m doing.

It gives me ideas for new videos to shoot. If you have any questions, any clarification, go ahead and pop a comment or question down below. Then, of course, check out, where you can sign up to the free newsletter.

I really encourage it because wwe release exclusive content there: articles, weekly videos, downloads, new products I’m going to be working on and releasing over the next few years. Sign up for that, we’re not going to spam you.

You also get some nice bonuses for doing that. You get an exclusive, nineteen part video series which talks about busting limiting beliefs. It actually goes along really well with working on your self-image, and you can get a chance to win two hours of free coaching which I give away every month to one of my subscribers. Go ahead and sign up.

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Levi says:

This video helped in figuring out what my issues with self confidence, but how do I change? Thanks!

tina says:

Hey Leo, I came across your website today and I’m so excited! I’ve watched three already and can’t wait to watch more….. so signed up, thankyou!

Leo Gura says:

Welcome aboard

Rj says:

I’ve watched many videos here and quite amazed on how u precisely explain every facets of life. Looking forward leo! 2 Thumbs up bro!

Sue says:

Hi Leo, thanks for your videos. I would love to understand the whys and the how tos, but change is hard…once you recognize your that’s their is problem with your thought process and want to change, then how do you stay consistent with retraining your mind? I would love for you to do a video on anxieties…

Leo Gura says:

This video explains the basics of personal development: http /

tifa says:

Hi Leo, i am glad i found you website. i like how detailed, clear and specific your videos are. thank you for making them.
i just wanted to say that when listening to this video about self image, i thought, in some cases, individuals hear comments about them that are typically and generally perceived by the majority as non flattering or negative because they don’t fit the norm. That happens often with a physical appearance that can’t be changed or fixed, and even if one thinks it is tunnel vision view, the majority who believe it will act on it, so it still affects the quality of the results they get.
the point of my comment is, are there cases when we just accept the tunnel visions out there? will you be doing another video on self image?

Leo Gura says:

I hear unflattering comments about my physical appearance every day on Youtube. I’ve been called everything from a satanist to vampire to a goblin. I read all the comments. You gotta learn to just not care.

tifa says:

hi Leo. thank you for the replay. When you described what people called you, you instantly made and reinforced your point about not caring and the subjectivity of perceptions.

Lou says:

Great video, short and sweet and to the point! Already bought two books, marcus aurelius and mastery. Almost done with meditations.
Thanks again. Will you be making any videos on dealing with anger and resentment in our partners?
Thank you!!

Leo Gura says:

No plans for that yet, but possibly later.

Paul Arsene says:

Leo, I came accross this amazing site while searching for topics about anger and ressentment at your partner just like Lou. I’ve seen more than 20 videos already and I cried knowing how miserable I am. I’ve made a radical decision to change all that and to have a more spiritual and actualized life, and I’m sure all those videos will help.

Thank you for the time you’re taking to share those informations. This is an amazing job, keep it up !!!

Julie says:

Hi Leo I’ve gone into this subject of self-image a bit… so interesting! I made some personal changes, so on my journey I’ve come across quite a bit of literature.
I loved the way you articulate this subject, and the use of that analogy a brilliant way of bringing it to life. ven though it’s a subject that has been covered extensively, from you it’s original, probably because you’ve processed the info. your style is very current and universal. I do think that last bit is more of a general feedback that covers everything you do, so I am enjoying the content as well as the art and style of how you’re bringing this to the world, it’s very kiff!

When watching this video The concept of optimism in explanatory style kept coming to mind as a core tool (even deeper than affirmations) to help one to see their own world in a more optimistic way, there by aligning their energy with that of forward movement towards being self-actualized. One of the most brilliant books I’ve read “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman. very interesting take on the movement of self-esteem vs learned optimism. would love to see you do a video on this. The world needs to know this.
Thanks Leo

Neil says:

Hi Leo, I have watched many of your videos and taken a lot of positive actions from them and I’d like to thank you for the book list. I have just finished reading the “The book of not knowing” by Peter Ralston and it relates a lot to this video about the “self image” and “beliefs”.
Very exciting subject.

Thanks Leo

marisol says:

Somehow at the moment your videos art showing. I’m upset. Because I was just hearing the one of life purpose. Then one very important one was how to unblock those blocks in your life. That’s very important because there is a block but it’s not known like some kind of evil enery. other people’s unbelief. In my dream I have a special gift. Imy in an impossible situation to get out of. Then I start clapping my feet and start to rise, but then I’m flying through the universe n can’t come back down or known how to. My dream is telling I have a special talent but don’t know how to use it. Anyway thanks for your videos.

Sam says:

Hey Leo,
The video was good. I not only learned so much stuff , but in a weird way I got highly motivated. The thing is , why didn’t you say anything about developing one’s self image? You only talked about self image and how it effects our life. You said that we should work on our subconscious. What does that even mean? I know how to work on my math skills, my body, my football skills, but how in seven hells do I work on the subconscious?

cia says:

You are a healer! I get something big out of each and every video you present. What I got out of this one on Self Image, is that to change your self image/subconscious, one must change by putting into play at least 21 days of a new skill or new habit by adhering completely to hitting a desired goal. You said, 21 days (at least) will start to formulate a new pattern in you subconscious. Not sure how some commenters above missed that key point? Regardless, I appreciate and totally respect your knowledge and I hope to use you as my coach in the near future.

meinereiner says:

As Sam said a pointer in the right direction and how to work on the subconscious would be awesome!
I started Maltz and found a few psych papers on the topic, but you could probably shorten the process dramatically with a few hints.
In any case thanks a lot for your great advice!

Kevin says:

where can I get some coaching on self-image and subconscious ?

Majus says:

Hey Leo,

is the truth always relieving and satisfying for everyone?
One may have an unadequate self-image, but does changing his self-conception towards the truth- a more realistic self-image so to speak- necessarily mean that it is okay for you?
m maltz says: to really live, that is to find life reasonably satisfying, you must have an adequate and realistic self image that you can live with.
you must find yourself acceptable to “you”.

What if e.g. someones nature, his cognitive capacities, his strengths and talents are so “bad” that he cant be truly happy with his authentic self?

Anna says:

Very important one. Wanted to see if you might do a more extended one in light of your more recent enlightened perspective. I know you did self acceptance, but also rewiring self image practices would be interesting. Thank you!

Cris says:

You miss something here,Leo. The other extreme where narcissists love themselves and only themselves. They’re far from being perfect but still….you know, they’re self absorbed. The tendency is to believe people are insecure, lack self confidence and need to work on that, but there are millions of narcissists in the world. The problem of this other extreme is the self sabotaging projection and the high expectations one has from life and others in general by entitlement. What about these guys? How do they “get real” so to speak? How do they make a life, build a career, cause they usually tend to be lazy, arrogant and shallow and think they don’t need to work hard to get what they want in life since they already deserve it all by default?

Max Gron says:

Thanks so much, Leo. The coaching’s the best, then I can take control of my life, moving on with my life for the first time. Yes, I became a liquidarian, I’m not drinking alcohol, and I’ll work on my self-image to never see the light of day. It’s going to be hell, no matter what I do, evil is a real thing.

Max Gron says:

If you have contempt for the ordinary man, then just be an ordinary man, try it for the first time, then you wouldn’t be afraid of a normal life. I’m just a regular guy, a normal guy (usual specifically). I’ll treat these teachings not as having any weird significance, but as just an ordinary teaching, I’m not just going to use the teachings, I’ll twist it to make it just me an ordinary man, just a normal life. It’s not better, it’s not meaningful, it’s just for the ordinary man, and if it’s freaky in any way, you can stick it up your arse. You achieve greatness from the ordinary, not from the freaky bullshit. I just want all normal, no weird and no bullshit, without the sarcasm.

Max Raoy Gron says:

What you want is the change of your image, you want to just be normal, you want to keep the weight off, you want to be the object of the collective, and to be mentally normal. You don’t want to see yourself as special or particular, specifically even the soap you’re using isn’t a particular soap, it’s a soap made for normal people. But your image is tainted, all messed up, you’re a patriot, a 26-year-old in a 39-year-old’s body, your patriotism isn’t just a symbol or a style, it’s acting like it’s Australian. But that’s the thing, it’s not easy. Be an all-Australian guy, be a man, be an ascetic, be pessimistic. That’s my self-image.

Max Raoy Gron says:

That’s right, my self-image is being normal and being a man and pessimistic. Added to this isn’t having a lot of rules, but cleanliness/health and self-reliance is part of it.

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