Improve your image?

In today's world, much time and effort are spent on improving one's "image." But is "image" what really needs improving?

When we think of the word image, we probably think of two meanings: either the exact likeness of something or the mental conception generally held of it. The first definition denotes an accurate likeness; the second a mental perception open to the manipulation and vagaries of the human mind. In today's world we seem unduly preoccupied with the second definition—to the point that, as often as not, the "image" of a person, an organization, or even a country owes as much to skillful media strategies as to facts.

A Christian Scientist was listening to a television news analyst discuss the need to improve a public official's image. "Why doesn't he discuss the need to improve the official's performance?" she protested. "It's his performance that needs adjusting, not the public's perception of it!" This emphasis on what a person is perceived to be as opposed to what he actually is, she regarded as one of the more troubling aspects of our media-oriented society. She couldn't help thinking of a comment by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy: "Substituting good words for a good life, fair-seeming for straightforward character ... is a poor shift for the weak and worldly who think the standard of Christian Science too high for them." Miscellaneous Writings, p. 233.

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Second Thought
January 23, 1989

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