This week I had the privilege of having an in-depth conversation with a psychology professor of mine and the topic of identity popped up during our chat. We discussed this for a short while and then moved on to another subject. However, after I left his office, I began to ponder the fascinating topic of identity and, because of that, I felt motivated to do a bit of research.
When I speak of "identity" I'm not talking about someone's name, address or phone number. I'm speaking more along the lines of who someone sees themselves as. I'm talking about a person's view of themselves. The more research I did, the more I found out exactly how important our view of ourseves really is when it comes to accomplishing our goals and overcoming certain obstacles.
Maxwell Maltz was a very successful plastic surgeon in the 1960's. He began to discover that after he completed a successful operation, the patient would begin to accomplish things that they never had before due to their new view of themselves. However, he also noticed that those who were severely misfigured before the surgery and, because of this, had an extremely low opinion of themselves, saw very little change in the way they performed in everyday life. He believed this was because they had been CONDITIONED to see themselves as not worthy or capable of accomplishing very much, even though they had a whole new physical appearance.
So what does this little "history lesson " teach us about our identity and our accomplishments? Well, what Dr. Maltz learned through his obsevations was that our self image is absolutely crucial in determining what we are capable of achieving. In other words, everything you do (and I do mean EVERYTHING) is determined by who you see yourself as and what you believe you are capable of accomplishing. You might say, "C'mon Chris, you mean to tell me that if I decide to go to the store and get a pack of gum it's because of who I think I am? Get real!" And I'd say, "I AM real." You see, you get up off your duff and go get a pack of gum because you know that you are plenty capable of doing so. There are people in this world who are absolutely terrorfied of leaving their house just to check the mail, and the only reason is because they are uncertain as to whether or not they are capable of doing so. This is directly related to how they see themselves. Even if the reason that they stay indoors twenty-four hours a day is because they are simply scared to death that something will happen to them if they go outside, this phobia is directly linked to them viewing themselves as someone who couldn't handle whatever might come their way. When you get right down to it, your self image governs ALL of your actions.
So, as always, the question is: how can we USE this? Well, the fact that you realize this is already powerful ammunition in conquering your fears and deciding to go after whatever it is you've been putting off. The reason for this is that once you know the cause of something, you are then able to stop yourself when you are about to do that thing you dread or talk yourself out of going through with whatever it is you've been putting off, and say to yourself, " Hey, the only reason that I'm not doing this or that is because I don't see myself as someone who is capable." Those who have a view of themselves as someone who does great things or who goes after what it is they want, have no problem doing just that.
One of the secrets to changing the identity you have for yourself is to simply say,"I'm the type of person who does that." For instance, if you are starting an execise program and want to stick with it, then tell yourself and others,"I'm someone who stays in shape." Notice how I didn't say something like,"I'm trying to stay in shape," or "I'm starting a work-out program." We made our statement part of our identity. In essence we said," This is the type of person I am...no exceptions." Once you, as well as other people, start to see yourself as a person who's actions are consistant with who you are, you will start to follow through with your commitments to yourself because people do what is directly tied to who they are.
Anyway...food for thought. If you or anyone else reads this and would like to comment on what I have written, please don't hesitate to leave your comments, even if you'd like to hit me with a bit of critisizm. Once again, thanks for your interest.
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