We think we know ourselves. We think we can look in the mirror and say, “Yup, that’s me. I’m like this, a little bit like that, and sometimes I’m totally this.” But our perceptions of ourselves are often from the past; outdated and they don’t exactly fit right anymore. You have changed and you may not even realize it. But when you talk about yourself using your old perceptions, you are limiting yourself.
I used to be quite shy and quiet. I was a nerd (I still am, I know). It would kill me just to make eye contact and say hello to strangers, or introduce myself in a crowd when I felt all eyes were on me. I preferred to be the observer than to join in a conversation. But I’ve grown up. I say hello if I pass by you in the hallway or on the street. I introduce myself when I walk into a room. One of my favorite activities is just getting to know someone, sharing stories back and forth and spending hours talking. But if you asked me right now to describe myself, I would tell you, “Yeah, I’m really shy and reserved.” That is a barefaced lie my friends, I am not shy at all and I freaking love to share ideas and talk to people! But in my head I am still stuck on this idea that new people make me nervous, I’m shy and scared to speak up when I should.
Are you hanging on to old ideas about yourself? Here are a few examples of this phenomenon:
- You used to be overweight. You got serious about being healthy, started exercising and eating right and are now in the best shape of your life. But you still think of yourself as a “fat person”. You don’t trust yourself to stay in good shape, even though it has become an ingrained habit in your life. You like your new look, but you don’t embrace it as you. You’re not sure if the old, fat you or the new, fit you is the real you.
- You used to be in debt or wildly irresponsible with your money. Then you wised up. Paid off those credit cards, started saving more than you spent on junk and needless expenses. You’re getting better at investing and saving to buy a home. But you don’t believe in yourself. Going back into debt is only one night-in-Atlantic-City away, you scold yourself. And while that could be true, you don’t really plan on blowing a bunch of money at Tropicana and dabbling in illegal activity, so why are you forcing yourself to live in fear?
- You had a temper. Anger rules over all of us if we allow it. You may have grown up in a home where getting angry was the only way to get anything accomplished. Even though that may have been how you survived in your childhood, you also knew how to grow out of that and can let anger go as you grow up and move on. You don’t get angry anymore and that’s awesome. But it’s easy to still think of yourself as angry and temperamental if you spent years in that “mode”.
You’re not doing yourself any favors by thinking of yourself in the least favorable terms. I’m not saying you should sit around all day thinking about yourself or how you perceive yourself (even I know that’s kind of vain), but we are called on to talk about ourselves regularly, especially as we meet new people. Remember who you are and how you got here, but realize just how far you’ve come and what an incredible feat that is.