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When I had no sense of identity and believed myself to have little to nothing to contribute to the world, my life was a direct reflection of that.
I could hardly socialise, found it hard to leave the house, and spent most of my time in self-destructive thoughts or behaviours.
We get back in life a reflection of who we are being. Mental health challenges are often correlated with a lack of sense of self (i.e. mid-life crisis, identity crisis), which to me makes perfect sense. With no sense of identity, it’s difficult to connect to a sense of purpose, to want to meet our own needs, to care about ourselves, to feel at home in who we are.
For me, losing the identity of “the gymnast” and realising I had nothing else to cling onto had me completely lost. I had no confidence, anxiety started kicking in pretty strong, and I developed a destructive relationship with my body and food. I started putting all my worth and value on my appearance because I had no idea what else there was to me. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, because how could I? I didn’t even belong to myself.
Identity is the most powerful driving force in human behaviour.
We will do anything, even bypass our values, to remain consistent with who we believe ourselves to be.
The reason I’m sharing all this is because cultivating a sense of identity is what got me on the path to freedom. When I could connect to myself, I started giving a sh*t about the person I was and my life as a result. I started taking my dreams seriously, I stopped giving myself such a hard time, and I worked on becoming confident in my authentic self.
I wanted to have freedom, and in order to do so, I had to stop seeing myself as (in my old words) a useless waste of space. I had to drop the story of victimhood. I had to let go of any identity around having something “wrong” with me.
Because those perceptions of myself were not in alignment with the experience of freedom that I wanted to have. I had to start with how I was seeing myself in order to transform the experience I was creating.
A model we can use to implement this idea and get what we want to have is called Be, Do, Have.
In order to get what you want to have, you must start with who you need to be in order to have it. Because as I said, identity is driving our actions.
Want more confidence, calm, adventure? Want to have a great relationship, business, friendship circle?
Be, Do, Have
Ask yourself: who do I need to be in order to have that? What is that version of me like? What are their attributes? What strengths do they use? What self-concept aligns with having that?
For example, if I want to have the experience of giving talks, I need to see myself as a speaker. I need to see myself as having excellent communication skills, as being warm and engaging, as being competent at delivering a talk. I need to start being that version of me now.
Next, consider: what would that version of me be doing? What actions do they take/not take? What are their habits/routines that help to move them toward what they want to have? What do/don’t they tolerate?
For example, I’d be saying yes to speaking opportunities, I’d be practicing my talk, and I’d stop worrying what others think so much and focus on trusting my voice.
Your behaviours follow how you see yourself, so when you show up as who you need to be and do what they’d be done, the experience of having follows.
For example, I would speak naturally and have the experience I was looking for.
To make this even stronger, bring in the power of visualisation and really step into the identity you’re harnessing. Practice daily to become how you want to be. We already know how we’d be if we had what we wanted to have, but we often think it’s inaccessible for some reason. The truth is, if you can answer the questions around how you’d be, you already know it. And if you know it, you can step into it.
When I did this, the first talk I ever did felt so natural. It felt like I was meant to be there, comfortable in front of the audience—because I had rehearsed it in my mind so many times that my body was already conditioned to be “the speaker.”
Whatever change you want to have in your life, begin first with how you see yourself. Who do you believe yourself to be? And start shifting it as you need to.