A Case for Mistaken Identity

by Sandra on December 20

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And what do you do?”

I write for a blog and I’m working on my first novel for Nanowrimo

Oh, wow, so you are a writer?”

A writer? Me? No, definitely not, I’m just a housewife.”

Who we think we are and who we think we want to be are the two basic cornerstones of Personal Development. After all, if we were already who we wanted to be, self-help wouldn’t the million dollar industry it is today..

And yet, most books, blogs, and videos ignore this part. They focus heavily on the actions that you should take to improve yourself, while not mentioning your current identity at all. In this article I’ll focus on how using your identity (the one you have, or the one you want to have) to your advantage in making your life better.

Identity

What is identity?

The dictionary defines identity as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is”. In personal development we don’t use facts very often, we prefer to use words like “perspective,” “belief,” and other similar words that are more flexible sounding.

However, in our day-to-day lives we do use identity and facts to describe ourselves a lot. It is almost impossible to not to: “I am fat,” “I am lazy,” or “I am a procrastinator”. Or more positively, “I am happy,” “I am kind,” or “I am a good person.”

The question about who we are is one that people smarter than me have been trying to answer for centuries, and no one has yet come up with a definitive answer. To me; that means that we all get to decide for ourselves. Who do you want to be?

You don’t have to choose just one identity. Humans are complex beings. You could be financially smart and an astronaut. Or financially smart and a kindergarten teacher.

We are all a mix of an infinite number of constantly changing identities. Some might be more prevalent in our lives and more permanent, and others might be subject to change due to external pressure or internal decisions.

Don’t feel stuck in one identity when there are so many to choose from and use simultaneously. You can be a mom, and an accountant, and a wife, and a friend, and a daughter, and a sister and financially smart, and…. You get the point. We all are multiple identities mixed into one person.

Choices

This is the big chicken and egg question: what comes first, the choices we make, which then decide who we are, or does who we are influence the choices we make? When we want to make a change to our identity it can help knowing how we got that identity.

With the chicken and egg, does it really matter what came first, as long as we can have an omelet for breakfast and chicken fajitas for lunch?

It is the same with identity and choices. It doesn’t matter which one came first, we can use both to our favor. We can either make different choices, which then shape our identity, or we can change our identity and let that influence our choices.

Create your identity to shape your choices

Someone who considers themselves a “fit and healthy person” will make different choices than a person who thinks of themselves as “fat and lazy.” Those choices can be minor, like taking the moving walkway in airports vs. just walking, or sharing a dessert vs. each ordering their own, or they can be more consequential, like getting to the gym each day vs. letting excuses be reasons not to go.

One of the main suggestions that hypnotherapists make when they use hypnosis to help someone quit smoking is to not think of themselves as a former smoker, but as a non-smoker. After all, a non-smoker doesn’t even think about cigarettes, or a smoke break, or anything related to smoking, really.

We can change our identity and the way we think about ourselves the same way. When we start to consider ourselves financially smart we make different decisions than when our identity is “poor.” The actual money in our accounts, unfortunately, doesn’t magically change overnight, but not buying something because “not buying is the financially smart thing to do” is a lot easier than not buying “because we cannot afford it, because we are poor.”

In the beginning this will feel weird. And that’s ok. It is supposed to feel weird, because you are trying out an entire new identity! It is not nothing that you are doing. You may also need to remind yourself of your new identity from time to time when making choices. Just make a quick note to yourself: “oh, I remember, I am a healthy person. One scoop of ice cream is enough”.

The other way around

You may find that “I am a fit person” doesn’t suit you yet. Maybe you have to start with “I am a health-conscious person.” Or maybe just with “I am a fairly active person”.

Or maybe you cannot phantom that at all, even when you really want to assume that identity. You can then adjust your choices to have them eventually reflect who you want to be.

I desperately want to be a writer. I don’t feel like I am one yet, but I know that writing each day takes me one step closer to actually being one. So, becoming a writer is my motivation to sit behind the computer and continue to type those words, even when things don’t flow, and all I want to do is close my laptop and put on some Netflix.

I make my choice of activity not based on my identity as a writer, but on the strong desire of one day becoming one. If I continue to make these choices, eventually I will become a writer in my own mind.

Is it better to change your identity or to change your choices?

As long as you get your results, and get to live the life you want to live, does it matter? Do what works for you. Change your identity, change your choices, use a combination of both, and be who you want to be.

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Sandra

Sandra is a 33 year old mother, wife, life coach. As a Dutch national living in Mexico she is trying to find ways to make most out of life. She’s passionate about simplifying life, yet loves her luxuries and non-minimalistic lifestyle.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail December 21, 2015 at 11:51 am

Great read Sandra! I really enjoyed this piece and love the perspective. 🙂

Reply

lya ferrer December 21, 2015 at 6:41 pm

muy interesante, buenas ideas para hacernos la vida màs ligera.

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