In our society, which has become more dominated by screens, image is a big deal. It’s not just the realm of celebrities, performers, and athletes these days. Image affects all of us in today’s world. How we portray our lives and selves to others can become such an influential part of daily living that it can affect how we treat our bodies, health, and those close to us. Image can impact both physical and mental health in ways that can eventually lead to chronic health issues and take us farther away from what we want in life.

What is image? Image is typically what we want others to see despite what we’re feeling underneath or what is truly going on in our lives. We all have an image, and that in and of itself is not a bad thing. Image, or persona, can help create healthy boundaries between ourselves and our environments, including other people. That bit of distance helps us have space and privacy where we need it. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. What becomes dangerous is when image evolves into more of a lie that we start believing even when we’re alone.

We may want to believe that we’re perfect, and try to show that to others instead of facing fears that are surfacing. These days, you may also notice social and media-induced peer pressure to show happiness to ourselves and to the world, even when we’re feeling sad, angry, disappointed, or some other feeling instead. The idea of image can then start to encroach on personality and even become who we are to some extent, often to the detriment of our physical and mental health. The pull to be immune and safe in this world using an artificial image is something each person goes through at times.

Image is a tool that can be helpful in the roles we play at work and in life, when it is mostly in tune with who we are already. When it instead plays a more suppressive role in blocking out real emotions, thoughts, and expressions of who we are, it can also harm the natural rhythm of our health, hormones, neurotransmitters, and personalities. It can become a cage in which we live with our unacknowledged fears and emotions.

The price of image overtaking who we are can be costly. Yet, it’s okay to admit this and honestly look at what image you’re showing to others, and ultimately to yourself. We live in a culture where image too easily becomes everything, and many people are dissatisfied with this way of living. Even when image affects health and stifles life, it can still be an addictive thing to pursue. However, if you remind yourself of what you really want in life, it can become easier to see how the image you’re portraying might be blocking that. And then you can ask, what benefit is image really bringing to your life?

What influence do you notice image is having on the world around you, and more importantly in your life? You know who you are inside, so what price are you willing to pay for image?