How many times have you heard someone say, "You'll have to excuse me, I'm just not myself today." Who do you suppose was filling-in that day? Usually, this sort of apologetic statement is designed to have someone believe that the behavior being observed today is not typical of what may be expected of me on a different day. Therefore, I am really better than I please don't count this when you evaluate my "self." Confusing, isn't it? However, the negative belief underlying this type of statement often reflects a lot more than simply not being oneself.
Beliefs are fairly durable categorical chunks of information that guide our behavior like a compass or map. Think of them as a kind of reference library that can provide meaning and direction in our lives. But more emphatically, a belief is the most powerful force from which behavior is generated. Beliefs often produce positive problem-solving behaviors; cause psycho-physiological disorders such as body tension, headaches, and ulcers to abate. They may even raise a blister on the arm of someone in an hypnotic trance who believes that a person's gentle touch is a scorching hot metal rod. Furthermore, there is the "placebo effect": People who are convinced a drug they have taken will have a specific effect experience it despite having been given an empty pill with no active properties. What an individual believes about himself (herself)-- his self image-- is the foundation for everything he or she ever does or aspires to become. Stocking your library with resourceful beliefs-- those which generate behaviors that produce useful outcomes-- can be empowering. In contrast, those which limit your actions can be devastating!
Each of us weaves his self-image as a web of beliefs spun from every thought and experience, every humiliation and triumph, every accomplishment and failure; at home, school, with friends...and on the job. Perhaps some of these are familiar: "I have a terrible memory", "You know I'm all thumbs", "There are no jobs out there", "I'm a jack-of-all-trades, master of none", "Nobody cares about me, I'm unlovable." Thus, people with negative self images are controlled by internal pictures, sounds and feelings that depict past failures, traumatic events, and a limited fund of knowledge or experience in a variety of contexts. If this sounds familiar, you cannot outgrow these limits, but you can set new ones that modify your self image.
Try a few thought experiments:

  1. - Relax. Take your self image for a quiet walk in a scenic countryside. Dust off and loosen up the creative part of you. Consider an experience you desire in the future as if it were here now. How does it appear to you? How does it feel? Listen to the sounds it might produce. Take all the time you need to richly access as many detailed elements of this experience as possible.
  2. - Think of a time in your past you were able to achieve something of importance to you-- anything-- even just once! Having once succeeded makes it easier to form the belief that you can do it again. Reviewing past successful experiences can alter your internal representations of what you believe possible and, hence, your self image. How many times were you "stuck" only to realize you had successfully achieved something similar before? An actor with stage fright, perhaps; or a college student at final exam time, a parent facing a crisis, or an experienced employee in search of a job.
  3. - While you are drifting through your past, recall a single past event or series of events that had a tremendous impact on your behavior back then. One that formed a belief which seemed to change your life in some way for the better. Was it the time you met someone you admired? Or the day you saw your team, which was supposed to lose, win big. How about the day you received your driver's license? Perhaps the "closing" on your first house.
  4. - By now, you may have generated a counter-example to that, "I can't do it" self image; the first strand in the web of positive beliefs. Now nourish that growing self image by reading, listening to educational and inspirational tapes, and modeling the behavior of others you consider to be positive, confident and successful.