We recently chatted with Dr. Andrew Powell, mindset and Blisspot expert, to discuss how our beliefs and values shape our behaviour and the subsequent reality of how we see ourselves. Keep reading to ensure these personal ideas don’t go on to hinder your personal identity and growth.
How are our personal identities formed in the first place?
From childhood, our thoughts and beliefs are essentially ‘programmed’ as we absorb the beliefs from everything and everyone around us. This will be from the people we associate with most such as siblings, parents and teachers. These relationships subsequently go on to then influence the important decisions and factors throughout our lives, from relationships and health to money and careers.
Our brain then has something called confirmation bias. Confirmation sets out to prove that what we believe is the hard truth. In fact, filtering out anything that doesn’t match up with our beliefs places extra emphasis on those that do. For example, we all go through a form of confirmation bias when we have an argument. This is when you won’t change your mind, regardless of the facts being stated to you. What you believe in is what you will continue to back up and fight for.
How do these identities shape how we behave and experience life?
Andrew states, “Our beliefs become our identities, our rules, who we are, and how we operate in the world.”
There are many examples here that come to mind when thinking about the correlations between identities and behaviour. For example, these may include you thinking you’re an overachiever, having certain ideas about your worthiness, how capable you are of certain things, or your attractiveness.
Often these are the hidden beliefs that drive how we act and behave. If you think you aren’t worthy of a certain promotion at work, this might drive you to work above and beyond, to become an overachiever and work extra hours.
Of course, we also have beliefs about the relationships in our lives. Many people make the same negative relationship choices over and over again because it is what they believe is right and what they have absorbed, so they get stuck in a cycle.
Ultimately, these cycles of following the same behaviours, even the unhealthy ones, are an identity that we have in ourselves.
How do we make our believed identities healthy and adaptable?
The identities we hold about ourselves can become a problem when we let them hinder us from making good and progressive changes in our lives. Having very fixed ‘rules’ can become incredibly limiting as it subconsciously tells us what is possible. We are almost letting this program us in many aspects of our lives.
The key to not letting this type of identity programming control our lives is to focus on who we want to be, not what to do.
It is not necessarily saying, ‘I need to eat better or go to the gym everyday’ but instead saying ‘I want to be a healthier, happier version of myself’ and allowing yourself to make adaptable, sustainable good habits for this goal.
Focussing on what to do is usually based on a problem we want to get away from. We might start to eat better and go to the gym, but we haven’t changed our fundamental identity so the motivation won’t stay with us. Our old identity takes over, saying ‘I am not a gym person. I can’t eat healthy because my social life will be hindered.’
Our lives are then very much based on ‘what I want’ or ‘who I want to be’ or ‘who I think I am’, and the identity that has been created internally from childhood. You don’t want this to be stuck, as allowing yourself to grow and change in life is essential for a positive mindset and outlook on the world.
Andrew says to break this cycle, you need to ask yourself, ‘What do I want my new identity to be? Who do I want to be?’
What else can we do to create that new identity?
Visioning and having a ‘big why’ is incredibly important when aiming for anything. For example, what is your ‘big why’ for wanting to lose weight? This then creates an overarching goal in mind to work and aim towards.
In order to move towards your vision in a positive way, it’s important to allow yourself to imagine the feeling of achieving it. This gives you a chance to understand and remember why you are working towards that goal and the incredible achievement you will feel once it’s reached. This will also guide you to make choices that align with who you want to be and what you want in life.