Self-image is an important tool for operating in this world. But at the same time, it can be dangerously influential to the way we act, communicate and socialize. Undoubtedly, there are some benefits to self-image. It’s useful for defining one’s identity, giving life some sense of purpose and measuring self-growth. However, this sense of self-image is inherently very limiting, as it stunts us from reaching our true potential. What does that mean? Let me put it this way: you are bound to your self-image. Because you want to see yourself in a certain light, you limit yourself to certain specific actions that will keep up this image. Right now, think of a couple of things you wish you could do or you wish you were better at. Now, think of the excuses you give yourself for why you can’t do those things. Chances are, those excuses come from conflicts with your personal self-image. You come up with excuses for not auditioning for the Yorkies or trying out for varsity soccer because you’re afraid of failure– self sabotage at its best. Such thoughts, whether they’re infrequent occurrences or constant mental roadblocks, prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. All fear stems from attachment, and the fear of rejection and failure come from an attachment to self-image. Similarly, all inaction comes from an attachment to fear. In order to remain dynamic, we must release our attachments and embrace the changing nature of things, even if that means being vulnerable. It’s really counterintuitive, but that’s the kicker: we cannot let something as vain as pride get in the way from achieving what we really want. This is especially true here at Andover, where a high emphasis is placed on personal development. Life, both in general and here on campus, is always changing and evolving. If we spend too much time reinforcing our self-image, we remain static. Due to the competitive nature of Andover, the allure to refine one’s self-image in order to remain competitive is very strong. Being vulnerable in a place where people seem so intelligent and talented seems daunting. Because of this, it would seem that the easiest way to solve the self-image problem would be to do away with competition altogether. However, I don’t believe that giving up such an essential element of the Andover experience would be beneficial. In fact, resisting our natural tendency to compete would be a problem in and of itself. Rather, the most appropriate action would be to continue living the way we are, but to do so in a way that’s conscious of why we act the way we do. In giving constant attention to our actions, we are able to recognize both the intentions of our actions and the origins of those intentions. From this knowledge, we can sense when we are simply trying to keep our self-image and letting vanity get in the way of achieving our goals. Acquiring self awareness is difficult, but it is a necessary skill to cultivate if we can ever hope of becoming successful. Makenzie Schwartz is a two-year Lower from Bradford, MA.