Your Image is a lot like the air you breathe: it's so close to you and such an intimate part of you that unless you stop to think about it, you hardly know it's there or how it's affecting you.
Like air, your Image is made up of several different elements, some good and some bad, that all interact to create the quality of life you experience. There are elements that would be considered invisible such as your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and energy levels. There are also elements that are visible such as the health of your body, how you carry yourself, how you speak, your hygiene and grooming, the things you own, and the clothes that you wear. The invisible elements are reflected externally in the visible elements.
The Inner and Outer Image
These elements can be grouped into two main areas: the Inner and the Outer. Your Inner Image is the collection of invisible elements that make up your perception of who and what you are. These are commonly referred to as your self-image (which includes your body-image). When other people encounter you they experience your Inner Image expressed as an Outer Image which is made up of the visible elements.
For a simple example, think of a time when you felt happy. You had lots of energy, smiled, and put on clothes you felt good in. You felt open, aware and carried yourself with a sense of lightness and confidence. People probably smiled at you and you probably had some nice conversations with lots of laughter.
If you think of an opposite time, one where you felt sad, you probably had little energy, and your thoughts were negative or anxious. You probably frowned, had downcast eyes, avoided people, and had conversations that revolved around trying to comfort or help you.
In both cases the Inner Image (happy or sad) was reflected in the Outer Image (smiling or frowning) and created a response from your environment (pleasant conversations or comforting conversations).
The Relationship of the Inner and Outer Image
The Inner and the Outer Image work very closely together. When you are authentic and genuine, your Inner Image and your Outer Image match, which helps you feel more relaxed, comfortable and confident. Everything "feels right". The messages you get from people around you match your self-image and are supportive. You find you are achieving your goals, and your confidence is increasing. These messages can be considered Positive Feedback.
When the Inner and Outer Image are not properly aligned, you will experience friction that is uncomfortable and unsettling. Everything "feels wrong". People don't accept you, goals are not easily achieved, and your sense of confidence decreases. These messages can be considered Negative Feedback.
Your Inner Image can be changed to affect your Outer Image. This is the function of many practices such as meditation, positive self-talk and affirmations, planning and goal setting, and various modalities of therapy. However, your Outer Image can also affect your Inner Image, and this is the function of many bodily practices. These include exercise, diet, buying new things, make overs, and various modalities of body work. You do all these things to feel better about yourself and all of these practices have the effect of changing the type of feedback you are receiving into Positive Feedback.
What you experience moment to moment, every day of your life, is the relationship of this Inner Image and Outer Image within your Environment. Your Outer Image acts as a messenger serving your Inner Image for the purpose of getting things from your day-to-day environment. It is continually broadcasting messages into your environment. Said differently, the Outer Image exists to help fulfill the desires and needs of the Inner Image. All the day-to-day activity of your life involve manipulating the different elements of the Inner and Outer Image to achieve things like peace, happiness, success, joy, and well-being through satisfying the creativity of that mysterious, invisible energy that is You.
In our next post, we'll look at the relationship between your Outer Image and your Environment.
Phew! All this talk about Inner and Outer image is a bit heavy...I just want to look good! How do I do that?