1. It Is The Mother of All Our Beliefs
All thought leaders stress on the importance of beliefs, and they show how our outer lives manifest our inner beliefs. In other words, we become what we truly believe. The other way to look at it is what we see in our lives is the result of what we hold inside us in the form of our beliefs.
To achieve material success, for example, we must first have beliefs that attract success. This is true because our actions, which ultimately bring us success, can only originate from our beliefs. Our actions does not exist independent of our beliefs.
On the other hand, if mediocrity is all that we see in our lives it is because we hold mediocre and self-limiting beliefs.
We cannot change our actions, words or thoughts directly. We can change them only by changing the source of them: our beliefs.
Just as there are certain actions that help us take closer to our aspirations and others that take us farther away, there are certain beliefs that sabotage our chances of success and others that ultimately take us to our desired destination.
But the mother of all beliefs is self-identity – how you choose to see yourself. If you choose to see yourself as a failure, no amount of positive beliefs and actions will bring you success. But if you identify yourself as successful, the thoughts and actions that follow will correspond to your self-identity.
Self-identity is the fountain from which all our thoughts, emotions and actions spring.
2. Only Self-Identity Can Shatter Socially Constructed Identities
The truth is that all of us are essentially born free. As babies, we take our first breathes on a clean slate.
As we grow up, we are called names and get associated with all the things under the sun. The labels pile up and since we are social animals, the image the society creates for us sinks in and become an essential part of our identity.
Each label the society sticks to us breeds its corresponding set of beliefs in us. If we get called idiot enough times, it is difficult to feel and act smart.
Even without explicit labels, we learn to emulate the society around us in our self-concept, most often, without our conscious awareness. If we are born in a poverty-stricken and violent neighborhood, it would take extreme courage and effort to identify yourself as prosperous and calm. A society that is despondent is unlikely to produce many philanthropists, either.
When we remain at the level of socially constructed identity for ourselves, emotionally we are little more than a mound of jelly going on a ride up a village road in remote Nepal, a rickety tin shed on the shores of Scotland. Uncertainty rules.
The emotional stability of a steel cube comes only from a meaningful self-identity that matches your essence and is in conformity with the external reality.
3. It Provides the Metric to Assess Your Thoughts, Words and Actions
What can be measured can be improved. One of the reasons so many of us fail to make anything meaningful with our lives is that we choose the wrong metrics to measure our lives with.
Being social animals that we are, other people around us provide the point of reference for our own lives. Only when these people we use as reference points superannuate or get electrocuted do we realize the futility.
The next common reference point is the dollar. It is appealing, no doubt, but only when our health deteriorates and all the digits in our bank accounts cannot relieve the pain do we see the funny side of sacrificing our health to make a few extra dollars.
The most worthy metric is our self-identity. If our professional self-identity is built around being a professional, we simply ask if our thoughts, words and actions match with your idea of being a professional. If you see yourself as a person of integrity, you will be repealed by actions that are unethical.
Self-identity is also the metric for your thoughts, words and actions for your future-self. If you see yourself as wealthy and that is what you want to become in future, you will measure the worth of your thoughts, words and actions against that self-identity.
4. It Is the Anchor that Holds Your Emotions in Place
I have always been a pile of jelly when it came to being emotionally rocked by other people and external circumstances.
It took only the slightest tick from the outside to start a ripple effect within me. Frustration, resentment, anger and other insidious emotions – the kind that weighs down heavily on the mind like a ton of lead, saps your energy and keeps you cold and awake at night – resulted naturally. In other words, falling victim to what Mark Manson calls “the feedback loop from hell” on a daily basis was my second nature.
Without having to be an expert on it, there is no fun whatsoever living in a fragile, wobbly emotional state.
So I began a search. A search to be free from negative emotions and the resulting negative words and equally negative behaviors which ultimately came back in kind. The search took me to all the popular self-help, motivational and psychology books and speakers. While my understanding of myself and the outside world reached all-time high from them, I was still not free of negative emotions that directly affected my work, relationship and the very root of my being as my worldview became easily distorted by negative emotions.
Only gradually did it emerge that what I lacked essentially was self-identity.
In all those years, it had never occurred to me and even if it did occur I lacked the courage to ask myself this seemingly simple question: “Who am I?” Not “Who am I?” in the grand scheme of the universe and the god himself, but in that moment.
If a colleague at work throws an unsettling remark targeted at me, I have no swelling of emotions within me the moment I put on my identity as a player in that game which that colleague is trying to play. On the other hand, if I see myself as a target or a victim of that colleague’s remark, I instantly get emotional and the response often is negative.
If we keep on working at it long enough, a stage will come when our self-identity will rise above all those petty emotions that otherwise consume us. We will then have all the time and energy to go after what we really want.
5. All Successful People Had Indomitable Self-Identity
“Success is something you attract by the person you become” – Jim Rohn
Finally, all the legends who reached mythical positions in our collective imagination had self-identity that would have made even Zeus doubt his position at Mount Olympus.
Your turn. Look at the heroes you admire, study their beliefs and see how their self-identity propelled them to the level they reached.