Remember when you were a little girl and you’d play make believe with your friends?
Someone would say, “I’ll be the big sister and you can be the little brother.” Or “I’ll be the person who works the cash register and you can be the person who comes into the store to shop.” Or “I’ll be a flying purple unicorn and you can be a green monster with three heads.”
And from that short introduction the two of you would play for hours, sometimes staying in character and sometimes morphing into new ones as the afternoon unfolded.
Photo credit to Igor Yaruta
Children love to try on identities for size, and they’re not afraid to discard the ones that are no fun. It’s a joy to watch them imitate their parents or their teachers or characters they’ve seen on TV, mimicking certain behaviors or gestures with such poignant accuracy that it can make us laugh out loud!
Yet as we move into adulthood, it seems that taking this playful approach to whom we can be is lost and instead we start to adopt a more fixed view of our identity. We stop exploring new ways of doing things as we establish habits and then stick to them. It’s dangerous, because…
When we hold too tightly to that belief, we transform our habits and tendencies into labels and we attach those labels to ourselves like big sticky name tags that we wear out into the world. A few of those labels may be flattering, but many of them limit us to a life of playing small and safe.
I’m disorganized. I have no self control. I’m just not good with math. I can’t say no to anyone. I’m a terrible cook. I’m not good with children. I’m just not creative. I hate to exercise. I’m not a good leader. I can’t write. I have no patience. I’m not the kind of person who…
Thoughts like these are dangerously limiting. And here’s why.
While we’re busy telling ourselves all the things we’re bad at, there’s a world around us teeming with need. In order to meet those needs, we are going to need to believe in ourselves enough to step up and do our part. We’re going to need to learn new skills and break old patterns and try new things and maybe even reinvent ourselves. It sounds scary.
But listen, reinvention can be exhilarating.
The voice saying you can’t because you aren’t (whatever) enough is the voice of a limiting belief. Limiting beliefs are fabrications that keep us locked in our old ways. They feel like truths but they’re actually far from it. They’re just opinions, and that makes them changeable. We can let go of a limiting belief and adopt a more empowering one anytime we want.
When we change our thoughts in this way, we can literally change how we show up in the world. We can become the person we were meant to be. And it’s never too late.
The chance to try on a new identity is always there for us, just as it was back in our childhood playroom.
So, before you answer, please give this question the consideration it deserves:
Who do you think you are?
Your answer just might shape the rest of your life.