Sitting poolside at a magnificent resort overlooking the ocean in Mexico may not seem like the typical location for a deep, thought-provoking chat about anxiety, but that’s where I found myself.
Over the years I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety, things I’ve learned and ways I’ve been able to manage it. But this conversation with a friend in Mexico unlocked a new thought and it changed my entire perception:
What if the reason I felt anxiety so frequently was because I had identified myself with having anxiety?
It was part of who I was as a person.
I would say things like “My anxiety is really acting up right now” or “This is just who I am, so I need to get used to it.”
What would happen if I simply stopped identifying myself this way?
Sure, I would still feel anxiety, worry or nervousness in certain situations like anyone, but what if I made the decision that “a person with anxiety” was not who I was anymore?
Could I do that? Was it even possible? Would it make any difference?
These were all questions I started to ask myself that day. And once I started asking them it opened up the possibility that I could actually change.
It was within my control.
And from that day forward, I no longer attached my identity to being a person with anxiety. I was just a person who had feelings, like anyone else.
Who you are as a person, your “identity”, is what you truly believe is true about yourself. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your brain then tries to reinforce this identity and prove it to be true.
In my situation, if I believe myself to be “an anxious person” then my brain is going to serve up doses of anxiety much more frequently to reinforce that identity.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t consciously choose their identity. We go through life believing things about ourselves to be true because of past experiences, cultural beliefs or because someone else told us.
But the good news is that we can change our identity.
All we have to do is determine the limiting beliefs we believe to be true about ourselves and start to question them. Once we start to question a belief, it starts to lose its grip on us. It becomes weaker. And once it’s weak, we can break away from it.
After you’ve questioned this belief to a point that you no longer believe it to be absolutely true, you need to replace it with a new empowering belief about yourself.
Finally, once you have your new belief about yourself you can begin to reinforce it by finding reasons for it to be true.
Do this until your new empowering belief is so strong that it becomes a part of your identity as a person.
It’s not an easy process, but once you’re aware that you can actually change your identity and let go of limiting beliefs, you can change things very quickly.
You can become whoever you want to become.