IP#13 Redefining Yourself: The notion of identity – August 1st

Redefining Yourself: The notion of identity

One of the biggest limiting factors that prevent us from success are the beliefs we hold about ourselves. These are not simply limiting beliefs. They are limiting identities. An identity is a collection of beliefs that you hold about yourself.

‘Who are you?’ That’s one of those questions which are very hard to answer. Depending on the context, there are a number of possible answers to it. It’s not a question most people relish because there are too many possible answers. Do we answer with respect to what we like or dislike? Do we answer in terms of where we are from? Do we answer in relation to our personal role? Our professional role?

Whatever our answer, we are omitting a large amount of information. There is so much we can say ‘about us’. I think it was Walt Whitman who said, ‘I contain multitudes’. This is true about us all. In terms of the grander question of what we are going to do with our lives, we start forming an identity as a child, and we start searching for who we are.

James Marcia’s theory of identity development suggests we go through a number of stages. One of these stages is known as identity foreclosure. This is when we decide on an identity without considering other options. I am going to be this type of person now. This could mean that you will be an athlete, a musician, or become a doctor, etc. Often this decision can be made by the influences of those you grow up around. There is not much ‘choice’ involved. It simply becomes the direction that you’re going in. There is also the stage of identity achievement. This is when you decide on who you are going to be from a range of possible options. It’s healthier because you realize the potential that you have to choose a direction to go in. While these ideas mainly refer to the stages we go through as an adolescent, they also show how our identity is not something we are trapped with but rather something we construct.

I have heard it suggested that identity is not generally a great concept. I understand that thinking. Indeed, when you believe you are a certain type of person, it can be very limiting. At the same time, I also believe it is extremely difficult not to hold some form of identity. If you believe you don’t have an identity, that is your identity. So, for us to overcome the limitations posed by our identity, we need to figure out how to examine the beliefs that we hold about ourselves. There are three big areas where we form beliefs about ourselves.

First, some of your beliefs about yourself come from events that happened to you. Specifically, they came from the meaning you gave to the events that happened to you. They came from how you felt about the experience. In essence, this means that you have told yourself stories about your experiences in life and positioned yourself as a character in those stories.

Next, some of your beliefs come from the groups or communities within which you find yourself. We join with others and adopt their beliefs and way of thinking. As a result, this becomes something we see ourselves as being. You have a sense of what you like and don’t like, what you value, and what you’re for and against.

Finally, they come from how you behave. The actions and habits you engage in consistently or how you reacted to the events that happened to you. We look at how we behave to understand who we are.

The truth is your identity isn’t you. It’s the beliefs you have picked up about you. You don’t have to allow it to define you moving forward. You have to understand first, how your identity is holding you back. What is it preventing you from doing? How is it causing you problems? What kind of identity do you want instead?

Then the key is to make shifts in these three areas:

1. Change the stories you are telling yourself about yourself

What kind of narratives have you bought into about what’s possible for you? What kind of story have you told yourself about what you’re good and bad at? (growth mindset) What kind of story have you told yourself about why you are the way you are? What needs to happen for you to be different? What new story could you tell yourself about yourself?

2. Change the community you surround yourself with

This doesn’t mean you have to drop your friends or family. It just means looking for the kind of people who inspire you, educate you or support you…. and spending time with those people more often. It means allocating your time differently and your attention differently so you become part of a group of people that aligns with how you want your life to be.

3. Change the actions you take regularly

One of the best ways to redefine yourself is to take new, consistent actions. When you act in a new way, and it becomes part of your routine, you will also start to see yourself as this person. It is because of what is known as cognitive dissonance, which is a form of mental stress that plays out between our identity and our behavior, that this can be very helpful. Taking different actions also helps you to tell yourself new stories because you have new events caused by your new habits.

Redefining yourself is a way of reconstructing how you see yourself. It won’t guarantee that you can become anyone you want to as certain limitations exist regardless of what we think about ourselves. However, it will provide you with more options regarding what is possible for you.



P.S. Brand new podcast interview out yesterday with the fantastic Marcus Chan where we discuss sales, systems and much more. You can listen or watch it here.

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