Maintaining a disempowering self image
**ATTENTION** Do you say the following things to yourself?
I just can’t do well in tests – my mind freezes and I feel paralyzed
I am so bad at Methods – I just don’t think that way
I can’t be like Alison, she is super-smart, I wish I had her brains
I will probably do really badly in my exams
Over the past 10 years, I have tutored a very wide range of students – from “super-smart” students who proceed to obtain an ATAR of over 99 to students that just want to pass their subjects. After meeting a student it is very easy to determine what type of student I am dealing with – and what type of marks they obtain. Their comments, beliefs and confidence are key indicators of their performance.
There are clear differences in “super-smart” students and students that just would like to pass. Most of these differences have very little to do with “in-born” capabilities. Capability and talent for academic success seems to be a very small factor in predicting how a student will perform. Yes, there are people that grasp maths/science problems easier then others, but this doesn’t mean that people who learn quicker will get a higher ENTER/ATAR in the end.
The key factor of student success is not in-born: it is not their IQ or the amount of brain cells they possess. It has to do with self-image. Self-image is developed through years of schooling. Students that were performing well at school and built good rapport with teachers over the years – developed a solid confidence and trusted their capabilities. Conversely, students that began their schooling years feeling inferior to other children grow up intensifying these beliefs and thereby believing what they have created mentally.
The importance of self image
Every person holds a self-image of himself or herself – it is basically a set of rules that define the person. For example they will decide what type of student they are – and once this is determined they will mirror these rules.
For example I find that students that claim that they do not like maths because “their mind is not mathematically orientated” or they are just not as smart as so and so …and of course the classic “I wish I had his/her brain”. What these students do not see is that they have just as much potential as “super-smart” students. The only difference is that they do not believe in their potential. Unfortunately without belief, it is difficult to become an excellent student.
Of course these students develop strong feedback cycles. Firstly they form the image/idea that they are “inferior” or “stupid”. Then they attempt to do their homework and find that their self-image is supported by the outside circumstances. They may obtain a 55% in a test or fail an assignment – the idea and image intensifies and they become more and more convinced that no matter what they do, or how hard they try, they are doomed to fail.
Generation of an automated, mind monster
By year 12, this belief result loop grows into an automated monster. By now it is rooted deep into the subconscious mind and it becomes their identity. Teachers declare that this student is less capable and parents often re-enforce this by claiming that their child is “no Einstein”. Often parents attempt to help the student by paying for expensive tutoring: unfortunately, this money will be wasted until the self-image of the student is restored from “dumb” to “capable”.?Even the best tutor can’t be effective if a poor self-image is engraved into the mind of the student. Throughout this article we will be investigating and suggesting ways to improve and partially or fully restore the self image of a “weak” student.
The champion’s mindset
The best students that I have taught, have always believed in their abilities. Throughout schooling years they have been praised for their work – which over time has grown into a strong, healthy “student self image”. This made their learning experience more pleasant and resistance free.
Strong students believe that they deserve to obtain a high mark and they know that if they try a question, eventually they will work it out because they are smart enough to be able to handle anything. It should not be a surprise that this self-image also grows from early primary and secondary school years. They believe that they are smart and capable and then they achieve a 100% in their test or an A+ for their assignment. Very soon, their friends start labelling them as “smart” and the teachers/parents praise their performance. This results in the belief cycle intensifying and the student strongly trusts their capabilities because everybody around them is re-enforcing their self-image in a positive manner.
The self- image can be represented by a tree or plant metaphor. Firstly, the student plants the “seeds” into their mind, these are the beliefs and labels of who they think that they are. Slowly they nurture this idea and it begins to grow. Through the feedback mechanism the growth accelerates and gains strength. By year 12 the plant is completely developed and very hard to shift by using conscious effort.
So the ultimate question is; how do you change the self-image? And is there hope for VCE students that have planted the wrong seeds? If so, how can we fix this?
The good news is that the self-image can be corrected by the use of several techniques. The bad news is that it involves practice, patience and commitment. However when someone is really, truly willing to change – they will always find a way. But first let us analyze the two main parts of the brain, and the part that really needs to be targeted.
The two major minds
One area of the brain is the conscious mind. This part is responsible for everyday thinking, conscious movement and actions. This mind seems to be continuously switched on and communicating with us 24/7. It seems to be more powerful because it is very loud and obvious. With this mind a student will declare that they need above a 80 for their ATAR or that they need to improve in a given subject (like chemistry). However this mind is controlled by a more “subtle” underlying mind the conscious mind is just the surface of the iceberg. Underneath this conscious mind is the subconscious, which is a very powerful instrument.
The subconscious mind keeps us alive. It is not felt because it is more automated. We forget about this mind – however it is vital. For instance it keeps us breathing, keeps our heart pumping blood, keeps hormones regulated does millions of important “jobs” around the body. Just imagine the conscious mind trying to handle all of this! It can hardly remember a telephone number, or what to buy in the supermarket! We would probably forget to breath during the day and collapse, it would be chaotic! The subconscious mind is a very strong tool – image what would happen if a student could tap into this source and re-write it from “failure-orientated” to “success-orientated”.
So how is this related to the self image? There seems to be a link/communication between the conscious mind and subconscious. During birth, we have no self-image – our opinions are blank and we are (essentially) a clean slate – ready for a lifetime of possibilities. Something very interesting occurs when we begin to grow up. An idea begins to form, and we obtain a conscious label of who we are. We decide who we are based on our family’s opinion, our parents, teachers and friends. This becomes automated and gets stored into the subconscious – the conscious mind doesn’t have enough space to fit in information about who we are so it is transferred to the powerful subconscious.
Therefore no matter how much conscious effort a student places into changing their mark, no matter how many hours of tutoring they take, no matter how much they “try” they will never get the results that they are searching for unless they target the deeper subconscious level. Trying to change a subconscious “problem” by using the conscious mind is as effective as painting over metal in an attempt to get rid of rust, or “cleaning” your room by stuffing everything into the cupboard – it may look like you have done something however the root of the problem is still there.
How to change your self-image?
By now, you should appreciate the power of the self image, and the two minds involved – let’s move on to taking correct action to changing it!
1) Power of hypnosis – “you are getting sleeeeeeeepy”
One of the ways to improve self-image is to visit a hypnotherapist. You must make sure that this person has proven results and knows what they are doing. There is no registration to become a hypnotherapist in Victoria – so make sure you research before going, otherwise you may end up losing your money, time or worse – start clucking like a chicken. We can recommended hypnotherapists that are trustworthy and experienced in their field of expertise.
If you feel hesitant have a go at self-hypnosis, there are many recommended books you could read about the topic. You can eventually make your own hypnosis script and put it on your iPod, listening to it before you fall asleep (your subconscious is more receptive at this stage because your conscious mind shuts up). Why hypnosis? This method is for people that wish to change their subconscious mind about a given topic. People often use hypnosis to stop years of continuous smoking, to lose weight, to cure insomnia and much, much more. It is effective because the hypnotherapist changes the belief within the subconscious mind – eventually this will change the conscious mind and the actions.
2) Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)
There are people out there that have had amazing and instant changes by using NLP. It may seem like a complicated name, but realistically the method is straight forward. It involves reprogramming the belief systems that a person created by the use of sound, visualization, emotions and body language.
For instant if you are a “poor student” now, then you can build a timeline and go forward to see yourself obtaining honours for a particular subject. Using these emotions, visions and sounds – you can transfer then into the realm of now and strengthen the positive feelings. Whereas with the negative belief you can make it smaller and push it away further in your mind until it disappears. NLP is often instant and there are thousand of successful stories about people who smoked for 20 years, quitting within three or less NLP sessions. It completely re-wires your programming and hidden subconscious beliefs.
There are many self help books about the self image and I would suggest to purchase the very best – ?it is called “Psycho-cybernetics”? by Maxwell Maltz. Although the heading sounds scary and difficult, the book is amazing. It explains using real life examples how people (in general) are affected by their self image. Remember that self image is not only important in determining your school marks -but it can also have a major affect on your finances, relationship, health and almost any facet of life. Maxwell Maltz – who was a plastic surgeon realized that some of his clients, even after an operation, could not see a difference in their image. For example a women that identified herself as “ugly” ?due to a bump on her nose, did not feel any different after the bump was removed. Maxwell Maltz theorized that the women’s self-image was that she was ugly and that no matter what would happen – she would still have this encoded into her subconscious mind.
It is definitely worth a read! It has great examples of students that improved their marks dramatically by a simple shift in self-image. I recommend the book highly and believe that all VCE students (and earlier) should read this – it will help during the challenges of school and beyond!
I will be making more articles on techniques to change the self image so keep tuned ! By now hopefully you will appreciate the power of “self-image” and how vital it is for success. Remember that you do not have to be a genius to conquer VCE nor do you have to do 50 hours of homework a week (if that is even possible) – a large factor of your success will be based on the beliefs you hold about yourself. By changing the self-image, and by taking correct action i.e. doing enough homework you will find that anybody is capable of achieving their academic dreams!
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