Phil Pearl: Mental Toughness Coaching, Training & Hypnotherapy London.

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Existential Coaching. Existential Hypnotherapy


Who do you think you are?

Our self-image refers to the mental image that we have of ourselves; it is our view of our good and bad characteristics and attributes. Our self-image includes:

  • Our view of our character traits and personality
  • Our personal assessment of our confidence, skills and abilities
  • Our view of our intellectual abilities
  • Our view of our emotional characteristics
  • How we believe we appear or seem to others
  • How we believe we are evaluated by others
  • How we believe others see us physically
  • How we picture ourselves physically

Why does self-image matter?

We all carry within us a mental image and operating system of who we think we are. This mental image is our own conception of "who I am", "the kind of person I am" and acts as a blueprint for how we see ourselves and interact with our environment. Once a belief, suggestion, quality or attribute is accepted and integrated into this image it becomes "true" to us. If we do not challenge or question these attributes then we will behave as if they are true.

Because we accept our self-image as true and as who we are, we will always act in accordance with it; we cannot act otherwise. Our self-image controls our confidence; what we can and cannot do. Our self-image also determines how others react and respond to us. Despite our conscious efforts and will power, we will revert back to our self-image. We will follow labels and scripts (schemas) that correspond with our self-image.

For example

  • I am shy; therefore I have difficulty making friends and forming relationships.
  • I am intelligent and open-minded; therefore I will approach new ideas and understand them.
  • I am pessimistic; therefore I expect only bad things will happen and ignore any good things.
  • I am optimistic; therefore I expect good things can and will happen.
  • I am a winner; therefore I persist and persevere to be successful in reaching my goals.
  • I have a short fuse; therefore I am irritable, quick to anger and shout at my colleagues.
  • I am outgoing; therefore I am open, sociable and make friends easily.
  • I am unattractive; therefore I avoid looking in mirrors and going out to meet people.
  • I am resilient; therefore I will recover from life's setbacks and succeed.
  • I fear failure; therefore I lack the confidence to try new things.
  • I am confident; therefore I do not overestimate potential threats.

    Our self-image has been constructed from our beliefs about who we are. Most of our beliefs regarding ourselves were shaped from our experiences of life - our successes and failures, the occasions where we felt humiliated or embarrassed or when we overcame obstacles and reached our goals. Our self-image is also formed by the way significant people have reacted to us especially in childhood, for example, whether we were treated fairly and decently or viewed as bad and unworthy.

    Having mental toughness and changing our self-image is therefore essential, if we are to change our self-imposed limits. If we do not update our self-image, we will keep reverting back to our distorted views of ourselves and lack the confidence to progress in life. For example, the person who views themselves as poor at English and has the label "I am useless at spelling" may conform to that label even if there is contrary evidence. Let's suppose that, they take a spelling test and score top marks. They now have a choice, either a) to update and adjust their self-image to "I am good at spelling" or b) to re-interpret and distort the evidence and experience, thereby maintaining their original self-image as "useless at spelling". Strangely enough, people will often go for the second choice and re-interpret and distort the evidence to maintain their self-image. The good speller may claim that, "the test was too easy and doesn't prove anything - it was a fluke" or  " I must have been given the wrong results - I'm still useless at spelling".

    Of course, if in the above example, the person does badly in the spelling test, then the experience will add to and strengthen their "useless at spelling" self-image and a vicious cycle ensues; a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Here's another example. A person may have the self-image that they are a "fantastic singer and entertainer" and after years of singing into their hairbrush in front of their bedroom mirror, they finally have the confidence to enter a TV talent show. After performing in front of the judges at the audition, they may get the feedback that they are "tone-deaf, talentless and boring". They could then take on the new information and adjust their self-image to "I'm not that great a singer" or re-interpret the experience to maintain their self-image as "a fantastic singer and entertainer" and claim that "the judges are idiots" - "they can't recognise a great talent when they see it" - "I had an off day" - I was nervous"…. you get the idea.

    Intellectual self-image

    Our intellectual self-image can determine our confidence regarding who we feel comforatble being around and of course our further education and career choices. We may base our intellectual self-image on our educational successes and failures, or how we have performed in previous roles that required us to problem solve and be competent. If significant people have labelled us as "bright" and "intelligent" and we have received favourable feedback and encouragement then we will incorporate those labels into our intellectual self-image. If, on the other hand we have been labelled as "dim", "stupid" "clumsy" and "thick" then our intellectual self-image and our confidence will suffer.

    Emotional self-image

    Our emotional self-image comprises of our everyday moods and feelings. We may have emotional self-images such as depressive, pessimistic, angry, volatile, anxious and impatient and our behaviour will correspond to these emotional labels. Conversely, we may view ourselves as optimistic, calm, confident, good natured and accepting of others. It is possible that the negative emotional self-images helped us cope with our environment at some point in the past (such as a hostile workplace or family) and we have continued to act them out in the present, where they are no longer adaptive and helpful in meeting our needs. For example, it may have been beneficial to be viewed as depressive or angry in order to avoid unwanted tasks and duties. We may incorporate a specific event or experience into our emotional self-image. For example, if we felt nervous and nauseous when we gave a presentation or if we suffered from exam nerves, then we may expect (and tell ourselves) that we will feel the same when we give another presentation or take another exam.

    Physical self-image, Body-image

    Our physical self-image or body-image is the view that we have of our physical attributes and includes whether we perceive ourselves as attractive or unattractive. Our physical self-image will also include our traits and characteristics such as, height - tall, short; weight - thin, fat; hair and skin colour, muscle tone, posture and poise.

    Our physical appearance is the first quality that people judge us by - that "all-important" first impression, so clearly this is a vital component of our overall self-image and confidence. Crucially, it is how we feel about our physical self-image rather than how others perceive us that is "all-important". What we think and believe about our physical self-image will affect our emotions and behaviour. If we believe that we are unattractive our confidence will obviously suffer; we are less likely to be outgoing and will avoid social contact. Our ability to communicate will diminish, as we will expect to be rejected and others will pick up on this, so it will become a reality. We may avoid certain activities such as swimming, dating, or social gatherings. Further we may avoid looking in mirrors, compare ourselves unfavourably with others, be negative and critical of our bodies, dress ourselves to hide our bodies and label ourselves as unattractive. There may be small blemishes in our appearance that we see as out of proportion, when compared to other people's perceptions. For example, the spot that we think is huge or the haircut that we feel is disastrous but others do not notice. At the other end of the scale are conditions such as anorexia where the sufferer's perception of their physical self-image is extremely different from others.

    Alternatively, we may see ourselves more positively and view ourselves as slightly more attractive than others see us, or taller and younger. This overestimation is healthy and will lead to higher self-esteem and greater confidence. A positive body-image leads to more outgoing behaviour and less social anxiety or depression.

    Our physical self-image is affected by our family, peer groups, culture, environment and the influence that significant people have had. Our physical self-image will change at different stages throughout our lives, so it is vital that we maintain a positive relationship with our bodies as we age.

    How can Hypnotherapy help?

    Our self-image is a mental image. We have formed mental images all our lives. We store these mental images in our unconscious mind, which is why they are so powerful and why we act upon them as though they are true. During hypnotherapy we have full access to everything we have learned and stored as mental images including the times when we suffered traumatic incidents and felt humiliated. We can lessen and remove the negative emotions and scripts attached to these memories so that they no longer affect us and we no longer act on them in the present; we can turn past anxiety into future confidence. We can use hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis to update our self-image and see ourselves as we will be without our current problems or obstacles. By seeing our ideal self-image and focusing upon it, we speed up the realisation of that image and it becomes our true self-image and the person that we want to be - the person we desire to be - the real us - without our current restrictions and setbacks - it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Further, rather than imagining things going badly or picturing failure, we can use mental rehearsal techniques to see ourselves performing more adaptively in social or career situations. We can use relaxation techniques to ensure that our bodies are centred and balanced, projecting confidence and self-assurance. Relaxation techniques also keep our minds are focused on what we are doing, rather than how well we are doing it or imagining failure. We can have confidence rather than be filled with self-doubt.

    How can Rational Thinking help?

    Rational thinking is based on the coaching approaches of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

    Rational thinking helps us to confront distortions in our thinking and challenge them. When we change the way we think, we change how we feel and behave, also we change how we interpret our physical sensations. We can discover what it is, that we are telling ourselves with regard to our self-image and confront our irrational thoughts. If what we are telling ourselves about our intellectual, emotional or physical self-image is distorted then we can change our thinking and switch off the internal critical voice that holds us back. By changing our thinking we will change our behaviour and will no longer avoid social situations or career activities, where we may have felt self-conscious or uncomfortable. Rational thinking enables us to discover and identify any thinking errors that we may be making concerning our perceptions of others and ourselves. For example, whether the labels we give ourselves and our peers are justified or unrealistic and whether the comparisons we make between ourselves and other people are helping our confidence, self-efficacy and self-esteem or are causing us distress and holding us back. Rational thinking gives us the mental toughness to keep things in perspective and to see things as they really are, without distorting any negatives out of proportion. Therefore, we are more emotionally in control and our feelings are appropriate to the circumstances and not exaggerated. We can then update our emotional self-image and our subsequent behaviour to better suit our needs and goals.

    Self-image and results.

    There is a link between our self-image, self-esteem, self-efficacy, behaviour and results. If our self-image is positive, we will have higher self-esteem (like and appreciate ourselves more) and in turn have greater self-efficacy (stronger beliefs in our capabilities and our resilience to failure), we will then be more outgoing in our behaviour, have greater confidence and take calculated risks to achieve our goals. To change effectively we need to manage and change our self-image. We must challenge and break through our self-imposed limits.

    Make the change!

    Phil Pearl DCH DHP MCH GHR Reg.
    Hypnotherapy London
    Mental Toughness. Resilience. Confidence.
    Life Coaching. CBT Coaching. Existential Coaching. Hypnotherapy.

    Mental Toughness Coaching, Training & Hypnotherapy London


    Mental Toughness Hypnotherapy London

    Tel: 07966 377478