We are complex beings, yet sometimes we put labels on ourselves, or are given ones by others, that seem to only reflect one facet of our personalities. These labels start to form our identity, which ultimately change the way that we walk through the world.
Now this isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes these identities help create opportunities, build community with like minded people, and build confidence in ourselves. Other times our identities can limit us and hold us back.
Humans are dynamic, and we are much more than the identities we wear. That being said, creating identities is a natural part of human nature, and they often serve a purpose. So how does the way we identify ourselves drive certain outcomes, and ultimately shape our lives?
Getting Boxed In
Sometimes we get stuck with labels that completely change our views of ourselves. Oftentimes the ones that can be the most limiting are the ones we were stuck with from a young age.
Like if you had trouble learning to read as a kid, you might be wearing an identity that you’re not smart or an intellectual. Or if you felt like an outsider in high school, you might identify yourself as a “lone wolf”, even though you truly crave community.
When you let your identities wear you without having awareness around them, you become boxed in. You may miss out on opportunities, connections, and the chance to be truly present with yourself. Not only that, but you start to feed into a self fulfilling prophecy by taking actions that affirm this identity. Like not going to grad school because you don’t think you’re smart enough to, even though you have all the passion and drive in the world. Or not going to a cool meet up group because you don’t think you’ll be able to connect with people, although you are super excited about the meetup itself.
You can start to see how this cycle perpetuates itself and drives outcomes, ultimately driving your life in one direction or another. We’re usually not conscious of this process, until you realize it, and make an active effort to change it.
Positive Identities and Outcomes
Identities aren’t all bad, in fact, sometimes they’re great! When we feel good about the way we identify ourselves, we’re able to build confidence, clarity, and self-assurance. We’re also able to get more things done, and move the needle in the right direction.
I never dreamed I’d be identified as the Healthy CEO Dad, but now here I am! These are three roles that I am so proud of. Wearing this identity allows me to stay focused on my goals and what’s important to me. I’m not only a CEO, I’m also a health-fan, and most importantly – a father. These roles don’t contradict each other, they support each other, each an important part of who I am, and how I relate to the world.
When you identify yourself in a positive way, you start to believe it more. You start to believe in yourself more and more. If you identify yourself as a star athlete, you are able to envision yourself winning, increasing your chance of making it a reality. If you identify as a social butterfly, you start to create opportunities that allow you to spread your wings and create community. This might seem easier said than done, but you can change your identities and the outcomes they create.
You Have The Power to Change
Do you see how the ways we identify ourselves can drive certain outcomes? These identities may be a product of the society and community around you, but you have the power to change them. You’re not just at the mercy of your identities – whether good or bad. We are autonomous beings who can change the direction of our lives, along with our identities.
So how do you do that?
Here are some ways to start:
- Change Your Self Talk: The way you talk to yourself matters. If you say something enough, you start to believe it. Try creating personal affirmations that help shape your identity in a way that supports your dreams like “I am motivated and passionate”, “I am a healer”, or “I have infinite creative potential.” Say your affirmation to yourself in the morning, when you’re doubting yourself, you can even write it repeatedly in a journal.
- Surround Yourself with Inspiration: Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who are you surrounding yourself with? Make an effort to add people to your social circle who lift you up, motivate you, inspire you, and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
- Take Action: What actions can you take to help you believe in the ways you want to identify yourself? Do you sign up for coaching or certain courses? Do you sign up for dance classes? Do you go out of your way to make the people in your life feel seen and heard? What tiny actions can you take each day?
Sometimes our identities aren’t good or bad, they’re often neutral. You may have had an identity that served you well for some time, but now you’re in a new period and it’s time to shed it. Remember that the way you identify yourself changes how you go out into the world, and what outcomes and opportunities come into your life. So think about who you really want to identify as, and start using the steps above to become closer and closer to that person. You’re probably closer than you realize!