2 min read

You Are Holding Yourself Back

The way you view yourself is preventing your growth.

You can't think of a solution until you know it's possible -Malte Skarupke

Describe yourself

Describe yourself in 5 traits. How many of those traits did you choose? How many of them are labels that someone chose for you?

Here's me in high-school:

  • Unathletic
  • Smart (read: doesn't need to work hard)
  • Quiet
  • Japanophile
  • Wears ill-fitting clothing with puns on them

I didn't choose any of these traits. But I took these labels and used them as excuses to hold myself back. In my youth people said, "he's such a quiet boy!" I latched on to this concept, and used it as an excuse to avoid meeting new people.

Self-Consistency Bias

Our need to feel self-consistent is powerful. We resist any change, thinking, "that's not who I am!" To maintain self-consistency, we make excuses and rationalize negative behavior:

  • "Why bother running if I'll never come close to ‹crazy ultra-marathon winning coworker›?"
  • "If I ask questions in class I'll look dumb"
  • "I don't have much to say anyway so it's okay to be anti-social"

These rationalizations aren't real. They're just ideas bouncing in your head which limit you. Take note when you make excuses.

Set a Target

Habit Layers - Graphic By James Clear

Graphic by James Clear.

Think about the best version of yourself*. Or maybe think about someone you admire. How would you describe that person in 5 traits?

What's the smallest step you can take towards becoming that person? A small step is less of a threat to our identity, and easy to take.

Let's say you want to change from "unathletic" to "in shape." Maybe today you put on running shoes and step outside. You could walk for 5 minutes, or you could step right back inside and do nothing. Either way, now you've become an unathletic person who puts on running shoes! When that gets easy, take the next step. This small shift in your self-concept is enough to kickstart change.

Choose Who You Are

The best changes in my life came when I realized I had the power to change my internal labels, to shape myself into who I really wanted to be. And I think even better changes are yet to come.

Further Reading

James Clear on Identity-Based Habits

Ramit Sehti on Invisible Scripts

*Be realistic here, your ideal self can't be someone who wins the lottery everytime, seduces people by existing, and learns everything by glancing at a university. Think about positive traits which guide action.