If you're anything like me, you sometimes feel like you should do something because this is just who you are. It is what you expect of yourself. You are always the one who delivers, so you cannot say no to that new task. Saying no does not fit your self-image or how you think others see you. Or you think you are not an entrepreneur; that is just not you, so you don't give it a try.
But ask yourself: is this really who you are? Or is this something you (or others) have been telling yourself and you've started believing this is who you are? And does this have to be set in stone? Are you not allowed to change how you see yourself over time, as you move through phases?
I never really gave this a thought until my wonderful coach Louise Wilson gave me a different perspective. What if those things do not define me? What if they are not my identity but just stories I've been telling myself? And limiting myself with.
Lately, this issue keeps coming up in conversations so I think more people might benefit from this shift in perspective.
'Identity' sounds definitive; once you've identified as such and such, you will always be that. It's almost like a life sentence, like you must live up to that label for the rest of your life, even when you're in a different place now. A story is something that leaves you a choice. Do you keep telling that story about (and to) yourself, or do you choose another one moving forward?
Once I realized the difference, it was massively freeing. It gave me the green light to ask myself, 'Do I like this story I am telling about myself?. Or is there a story I like better?'
And it feels so much more doable and ok to change a story. Wanting to change an identity is much more personal, judgemental towards who I 'am' right now. But stories about myself? Sounds less heavy. And at the same time, there is no excuse not to change it anymore. Whereas with identity, I could hide behind the old 'hey, that's just me' thing'. Now I know it's not just me; it does not have to define me.
I'll give you some examples about myself.
For years, I used to identify as someone with chronic back pain. With good reason, because it kept coming back. The thing is, I had allowed it to take over my life, to determine who I was and what I did and didn't do. I identified with this pain so strongly that when the time came to release this identity, I was terrified. I didn't know who I was without the pain anymore. Looking at myself differently was like losing myself. And, of course, the pain had also become my excuse, my scapegoat; it felt safe, as twisted as that sounds.
Until I realized that pain was not my identity; that was not who I was. And what I thought I could and could not do, were just stories I had told myself. So, I started to tell myself other stories. Ones where I would not let this one thing determine my life. And I started living my life again.
Another story I have been telling myself: I am not an entrepreneur. When I tell myself this is not my identity, I have the perfect excuse for not really trying. And if I do try and fail, well, I told you so, I'm not built for it! But it's a story born from fear: it's easier to tell myself this story and don't do it than get out there and try stuff and maybe fail sometimes.
My new story? I am an entrepreneur; yes, I have loads to learn, and I 'entrepreneur' in my own way, but I get out there and do it. And who gets to decide what defines an entrepreneur anyway?
Or this one: I am a perfectionist. No, I'm not; Again, I'm just scared to fail. Or to succeed, so I don't finish things. Whatever. My new story? What I do is as good as I've got now, but I finish things and move on. Because that is what I love most: try new things and follow my inspiration.
I think most, or maybe all, negative stories we tell about ourselves are fear-based. And if we think of them as our identity, it gives us an excuse not to do anything about that fear. We keep hiding behind the 'this is just who I am.'
Since I started looking at my stories for what they are, just stories, the gloves are off. I'm not going to lie: facing those fears is hard work. You have to ask yourself who you are without them, who you want to be, and work through a lot of fears about 'them': 'What will they think of me when I suddenly behave differently or go in another direction?'. It took me a long time to not let that control my life and happiness.
But I see a world of opportunity opening up before me now. I get to decide what my stories are at this point in time. And they'll probably change again one day. Who knows. This, to me, is freedom!!
And it's there for everyone. Just decide to change your story. And if you think you can't, well, just ask yourself:' What if that's just one of those stories you've been telling yourself?'