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Why Your Self Image is Key to Improved Performance

I just about quit. I was almost two hours and 55 km into a 152 km gran fondo cycling event in Penticton a few weeks ago when I felt like quitting. I had been riding hard and it was starting to get hot. As I struggled to climb a hill it seemed like 50 riders passed me and I asked myself what I was doing. I hadn’t prepared for the ride and had only registered the day before. Suddenly a James Brown song, “I Feel Good” popped into my head and I started singing it to myself as I rode along for a few kilometers.

Self Image is key to performance because it undermines how we act in certain situations. If we see ourselves as losers, deadbeats, or failures, we will typically act in a manner to ensure the results we get will manifest our self image.

When I am working with top performers in sales or leadership I am always amazed at their level of self-confidence. They believe that they are the best in their company and work to ensure that they stay on the top. Often, they have self image statements like “I am a great sales professional and I can sell anything to anybody,” “I get results because I work hard and build relationships,” “I am able to get my team excited about our vision and support them in achieving their goals”. These are all examples of positive self image statements.

Self image affects each of us every day in a multitude of facets of our lives. We might see ourselves as one way at work and then another way with our family. We might be really confident in sport but see ourselves differently in relationships. I might think that I am a wonderful father but a terrible spouse. A great cook but a terrible athlete. A good dog trainer and a poor sales person.

While self image is complex and I don’t have the psychology degree to explain all the dimensions of how we might acquire our self image, how we see ourselves affects our results and our performance. While we can’t change how others see us, we can change our thought processes about how we see ourselves.

In order to change our thinking and our self image we need to recognize what our current self image is in certain situations. If I am a leader, what am I telling myself about my leadership? Am I repeating to myself something like “I don’t know how to lead and my employees don’t like me”or “I am a great leader that is able to bring out the best in the people around me”?

During my ride, I was feeling sorry for myself as I endured the pain of the ride. I intrinsically knew that I could have given up or I could change my mindset. Having a self image statement that I could repeat over and over, such as the lyrics in a James Brown Song - “I feel good, I feel great”, enabled me to reframe my ride and enabled me break the self-talk doubts that were ruminating in my mind. I was able to shift my thinking from the fact that I wasn’t feeling good and should quit to “I am feeling good. I am enjoying myself” and that I was going to finish the ride and it didn’t matter how many people passed me because my goal was to finish, not finish first.

Your self image has everything to do with your performance. What are you telling yourself about your role at work, at home, or in your sports or relationships? What is your mind telling you? Perhaps it's time to turn off the negative self-talk and watch your performance improve? By developing a positive self image statement and repeating it to yourself on a regular basis can change your mindset and get better outcomes.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an Award Winning Business Coach and the author of the books Profit Yourself Healthy and Pivotal Performance. Self talk yourself into emailing your comments to


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