Soon after entering this world, we begin to build an identity that's unique to each of us: Our genetics, parents, teachers, friends, and overall environment serve to mold us into the persons we ultimately become. A toddler displays diminutive tendencies of the personality he will possess as an adult and is quickly "branded" with a specific set of character traits which make up his identity: He may fall into the category of the overachiever, the risk-taker, the shy one, the procrastinator, or perhaps a unique combination of all or none of the above. As children, we imagine nothing is out of reach and the world is ours to conquer. But with time we begin to fabricate self-imposed limitations, boundaries we ourselves erect as an attempt to "fit the mold" of our individual casts. For example, the attractive woman cannot possibly be intelligent, and the strong man cannot possibly be sensitive, right? Just as an actor must remain in character throughout a film, we are taught to think it is not right to exit the bounds of our own character. This false assumption can easily keep us from reaching our true potential. With time we begin to realize that the only ones who restrain our identity are, well, us.
A healthy dose of self-probing begs the question: Does who you are limit who you could be? All too frequently, we allow others to dictate who we are and who we should become. Society tells us which traits to associate with what identity, and the majority of us succumb to the notion of the masses. But we can change this. Reflect on these five principles to evaluate your current vision of who you are and expand your future vision of who you can become:
You are not what you seem: It's very easy to view ourselves in the same manner as others view us. We may not mean to, but we all judge books by their covers (e.g., the attractive woman not being intelligent). But when we voluntarily place ourselves within the categories others have designated for us, we drift away from our true nature. Remind yourself that within you there is much more than meets the average eye.
Small details are great features: We often overlook our positive attributes, our hidden talents, and the tiny traits we truly should admire. Note the great things you do on a daily basis. Take pride in all that you do right, in the actions you perform with perfection, and in the values you uphold with unyielding dignity. In this way, you can awaken a sense of self-worth within you and begin to focus more on your otherwise unseen but equally important features.
Contradict your stereotype: We all fall into a stereotype, and this is not a problem. The problem arises when we don't confront the conventions which confine us and forcefully tear down their walls. Understand your archetype, but perform actions and work to achieve goals which contradict its typical roles.
Reevaluate what's true for you: Self-reflection is critical in establishing a well-founded relationship with yourself. Making a simple list with two columns might reveal which beliefs are really yours and which ones were imposed upon you. The heading for the first column should read "I Believe..." while the heading for the second column should say "Because...." Fill the first column with your most common beliefs. Under the first column you might write "I believe in Christianity," and under the second column you might say, "because growing up my parents taught me this" or "because it just feels right for me." Finish your dual-sided list of beliefs, then revisit your writings and reevaluate why you believe the things you do.
Create a bigger version of yourself: Psychologically speaking, we live in a box -- our mentality is framed within a handful of beliefs, ideas, and things we know for sure. Each moment of each day, we are thinking, speaking, and acting within the contents of our mental box. But beliefs must be put into perspective, questioned, and sometimes disregarded altogether. Not doing so can lead to stagnation and to manifesting only a portion of our dreams. Jot down three life elements you wish to expand. You can write something like "I'm a nurse now, but I want to become a doctor." Underneath each element, write down how you will expand yourself to achieve your goal in realistic, timely ways.
The false limits we have set up for ourselves can be shattered to reveal the core of our genuine being. Use the following ten principles for building the most authentic version of yourself:
Ask yourself each day, "What is it that I really want?"
Never compare yourself to others.
Engage in your natural talents.
Listen to advice sometimes but trust your intuition always.
Express gratitude daily.
Go against trends.
Believe in yourself wholeheartedly.
Dismiss distractions and invalid excuses.
Work towards your life purpose.
We are much more than we can imagine. But many of us have been conditioned to stifle our own potential. The discovery of our boundless nature is first made when we acknowledge that we can, and must, break down all self-inflicted limits. It is then that we begin our individual journeys down new or greater paths, and gently settle into our truest selves.
To your unlimited identity,
Dr. Carmen Harra