What do you tell yourself and others about who you are? What do you tell yourself and others about what you “have always done”, what you “have always been”, how you “have always reacted”? I wonder if you have ever paid attention to the words you use to describe yourself, your identity. Both when you talk to yourself in your internal dialogue AND also when you interact with the world around you.
What are your “Oh but I can’t do this because I am that” and your “I always get so and so when this happens”? We all have some of those, to a greater or lesser extent in our lives. Have you ever caught yourself doing it? Have you ever stopped to think “wait a minute… why do I say that? What if I reacted a different way for once? Just for fun, come on I know it’s not me but, just for the fun of it… All right I’ll try out a different reaction instead”? Have you ever thought of doing it differently? Giving a go at this thing that you cannot do?
My guess is: too rarely. Maybe you might have tried it once, and because it did not turn out to be a ground-breaking success you discarded it thinking that you were not made for this? What were you so afraid of that you never attempted a second time? Or even a first in some other occasions, when opportunities presented themselves? What scared you? Shame? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of the unknown?
Now following that experience, your mind, being the amazingly helpful tool that it is, has given you plenty of explanations to rationalise your behaviour. You gave yourself dozens of good and solid reasons for what things were the way they were, and this has helped make you feel good about yourself. It made you accept the things as they are, at least on the surface. But deep inside… Don’t you feel the unpleasant yet so familiar taste of bitterness as to what you have ruled out of your life? Out of disappointment? How is that bitterness to know you wanted something else, or something more, and “failed” to obtain it, to go get it, to become it? This hushed anger at the world for the things that were not “made” accessible to you?
Well let me tell you something: in nearly every single case where you tell yourself that you are this and can never be that, that you need this to feel that, that you must do this because of that, you are wrong. There is no rule in the universe condemning you to a way of being.
You can change who you are, how you react and how you come across today. You can change what you believe in, what you achieve and where you are going just as surely. But this will only be achieved when you become aware that there is something more fundamental that needs changing. The most fundamental thing about yourself is who you think you are. Challenge this, and your life will never be the same.
Changing who you think you are is the most powerful agent of change. One of social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s theories is summarised in a few yet impactful words: “Fake it ‘till you become it”. In her studies she has proven scientifically that adopting a power pause for only two minutes will increase one’s testosterone levels and decrease their cortisol levels, the stress hormone, significantly.
Who you think you are at this time, right now, is the sum of all your past experiences, the result of your relationships, family, life situations and more broadly all your social and environmental interactions since your early years. You have learned, at a deep level, outside of your everyday awareness, how to be the way you are now. This means it is deeply ingrained into your way of being in the world. It does not mean you have to continue being that way for the rest of your life. We all learn. We continuously learn; we have started learning the day we were born! One of the first things we learnt was that crying seemed, at that time at least, to provide us with one of life’s basic needs: food. We learn throughout our entire life and I know that this is familiar to you. And you can learn a different way of being if the one you currently hold is not helpful to you.
“I am always stressed”. You can learn to lead a more relaxed life.
“People don’t like me because I’m so and so”. You can learn to love yourself and attract the people who love you for who you are.
“I can’t do this because of that”. You can learn to do this and you can learn to amend that. If you are honest with yourself, almost any limiting thought that you have about yourself can be altered in the way I have just described.
So what is stopping you? What are the things that you tell yourself to keep you on the same track when you know, deep down, that you want to switch course?
Or, as I once read: “What is missing in your life right now, and what are you doing to keep it out?”