How to Use Guided Imagery to Overcome Self-Doubt

By Kirwan Rockefeller in Visualization on April 19th, 2008 / No Comments

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.” – Jack Nicklaus

Guided imagery is a skill. And like all skills, it needs to be practiced on a daily basis. If you want to develop greater self-confidence to accomplish any goal, you need to be diligent and faithful in your practice of imagining.

Practice Makes Perfect
Champion golfer Jack Nicklaus knows the power of using guided imagery for confidence and success. He knows that when practicing a swing or putt in his mind, it’s best to fill the imagery with as much sensory detail as possible. He knows that in order to reach a high level of peak performance he must practice mental repetition of his desired goal.

“First, I see the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass,” says Nicklaus. “Then the scene quickly changes, and I see the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”

Filling in as much detail as possible creates a high-quality image. Think of this kind of mental rehearsal, or “imagery rehearsal,” as a test drive. Here you get the chance to try out different scenarios and situations until you’re completely at ease with acting in new ways in order to achieve your imagined confidence goal.

The Benefits of Imagery Rehearsal
Athletes, actors, musicians, and dancers all know that imagery rehearsal allows you to practice what you want to accomplish in the future. During rehearsal you have the opportunity to go through every move, gesture, tone of voice, sight, and smell that will propel you to give an extraordinary performance. Rehearsing in your mind grounds your experience, increases your awareness and perception, helps you get out of your own way, and secures new ABCs of confidence that tell you you have what it takes.

Most important, imagery rehearsal helps you to anticipate any and all obstacles that might come up during the actual event you’re planning. When you’re able to anticipate obstacles or challenges, you can use imagery rehearsal to practice what you would do or say differently. This way, if any surprises come up in the actual event, you’ve already practiced how you can act so you’re not caught off guard. Remember, your brain, mind, and body don’t know the difference between an imagined performance and the real thing.

If you’ve watched Olympic ice skating or gymnasts on television, you’ve seen the athletes going through their motions backstage, practicing their routines in small steps, sometimes even with their eyes closed. They are anchoring into their body and mind the sensory experience of what they’re about to do. Then, when they skate out onto the ice or jump onto the balance beam, their bodies are duplicating and acting out all of the imagery they have mentally rehearsed hundreds of times.

Your peak performance is enhanced by repeated imagery rehearsal when it involves all your senses. It’s exactly this mind-body focus that makes guided imagery such a dynamic force in helping us realize our new ways of acting and being. Because you’re involving the right hemisphere of your brain, the home of your emotions, you’ll also find your self-image, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-confidence taking off like a rocket.

In her book Thriving in Transition: Effective Living in Times of Change, Marcia Perkins-Reed says that “unless we challenge ourselves [to see] through imagery how our lives could be better, we will tend to make choices that fall within the parameters to which we are accustomed” (1996, 161). Do you really want to get the same results you’ve always had? Of course not.

By practicing your desired achievements in your mind, you will equip yourself with the imagery necessary to attain your desired results. Remember, your new self-knowledge is providing you with new insights and perceptions about yourself, which in turn leads you to realize that you have new options, and those new options lead to new behavior. Through this process, your imagery rehearsal is being reinforced in your mind and body and is boosting your confidence. But what if you still don’t feel confident? Not to worry – you can fake it till you make it.

Fake It till You Make It
If you act as if you’re already confident and have what you’re seeking, then you’re setting up positive beliefs that will result in your success. “Fake it till you make it,” means that when you practice new behaviors and new ways of being, you become a magnet for your future achievements. When you practice the body posture, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that go along with being confident and self-assured, your body and mind start working together to make it so.

Actors, business executives, and athletes all know the value of aligning nonverbal body language and self-image beliefs in order to act as if they already have supreme confidence. One thing is for sure: when you act like a loser, you’ll be unsuccessful. When you act like a winner, you’ll believe you are a winner and you’ll be a winner!

When you “act as if,” or “fake it till you make it,” you’ll notice a difference in your outlook on life. You’ll notice yourself walking tall, making eye contact, smiling, and speaking calmly. With enough practice, your self-image will begin to catch up with you, and one day you won’t have to pretend. When you “act as if,” you’re mentally rehearsing your newfound confidence one step at a time.

As you practice this, your confidence becomes real and natural and you become grounded in the knowledge that you can do it! And, not only will you persuade yourself that you are confident, but you’ll also convey to others that you are confident. When you walk, sit, and talk as if you’ve got all the self-assurance in the world, people will interpret your behavior as confidence.

Finally, refuse to continue believing and acting small. As Marianne Williamson says in her book A Return to Love, “You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world” (1996, 191). So be bold. Fake it till you make it, and act as if. Use your imagery rehearsals to practice new behavior and then actually try out new ways of being in your real life. You’ll see tremendous changes in your life when you realize that you are a worthy human being.

Copyright © 2007 by Kirwan Rockefeller. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

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