Employee, manager, wife or husband, mother or father, British, catholic or any other description you identify with.
These are typical answers we give to the question “Who are you?”. But if we look inside, there comes another, hidden from the outer world layer, which we often call our personality. You might believe you are a hard-working person or think of yourself as not confident enough and so on.
We come up with labels for ourselves every day without even realising the impact they have on us.
The thing is if you believed you weren’t confident – how would you feel going into a meeting with an important client? If you believed you weren’t good at math, how would you feel while handling financial reports at work?
You could argue – yes, but it’s true, I’m not good at math, that’s why I’m not an accountant.
You see, we all have many ideas in our heads about what we are and aren’t capable of. The summary of those ideas, or beliefs, forms our identity. We throw more beliefs into the mix as we go through different life and work experiences. Let’s say you had to make sales calls in the early stages of your career and couldn’t sell anything, hence you concluded you weren’t good at sales and decided to never do it again. So being a “not good salesperson” became another part of your identity. Maybe you tried to organise your files only to find the same clutter at your desk in a few weeks, hence you started calling yourself a disorganised person. I’m sure you can think of many other “labels” you remind yourself of from time to time.
Every time we re-affirm those beliefs, they become stronger and start having more power over our decisions.
First, the beliefs appear in response to our life experiences,
but then the life we experience becomes the result of our beliefs!
If you believe in this idea ” if you want to do it well, do it yourself”, you’d end up doing everything yourself (be it at work or in private life) and quickly start feeling stressed and overwhelmed. If you think “I have not yet earned a promotion”, you might never take that next step in your career.
That’s why the quote “We don’t do what we can. We do what we believe we are.” by Tony Robbins is so powerful.
The longer we live with our Identity unchallenged, the harder it becomes to step out of it and imagine things to be any different.
So, is there a way out? Can we “modify” our identity to achieve greater goals?
An interesting fact is that identity has two sides to it. As we discussed above, it won’t let you jump above your head, but on the positive side, it also won’t let you perform worse than you believe you can. If you got used to a certain success level in your life, you have that confidence that if things go bad, you’d be able to grow back to that level quicker the second time around. If you believe your wellbeing is important for the success of your career, you won’t let stress run your life and would take consistent actions to prevent that. So, you wouldn’t want to let go of those positive sides. But we can always build up to that level in the areas we struggle with.
So how do we change? Can we find our true self, strong and confident, underneath those layers of labels we’ve been living with for all these years?
As you might have noticed, most self-identification speaks of a person’s behaviour. However, the truth is – you are not your behaviour. You are who you think you are because of an accumulation of all the past experiences you had. Yet, your past is not your future. You get to decide what your future will look like and who you want to be in it.
The simple steps to change any part of your identity that is not serving you, are:
- Identify those beliefs (i.e. ideas, thoughts) that are stopping or limiting you in some way.
- Define the type of person you want to be instead (write down the new, empowering thoughts).
- Prove it to yourself with small wins (take action).
You want to be an organised person, learn the skills needed and practice applying them for 30 days. You want to be more confident, identify the situations where you don’t feel this way and create more of those in your routine. As you practice sales, public speaking, managing people, math or any other skills that make you feel uncomfortable now, more, there is no way you won’t get better at them.
You are much more than the story you are telling yourself in your head, and you get to rewrite it to be anything you want it to be.