Psychology

The Secret to Believing in Yourself

The Identity Behavior Nexus is a powerful mechanism that reflects back our deepest understanding of ourselves. Learn how to use it to grow into your highest version and prevent it from maneuvering you into downward spirals.

Do you know that voice in your head that sometimes has the power to talk you down and make you feel small? Imagine this: You've come up with a great plan, finally want to face your fears, and there it is again: that sneaky little voice telling you that you're being ridiculous if you think you can actually do it!

On the other hand, there are people who just seem to do it without caring what others think of them, and who don't seem to have half as much knowledge as you do. How is it that some people seem to have so much courage and others do not?

Why do we actually do the things we do?

There is a secret, powerful force that resides at the deepest levels of our personality that can make or break us depending on how it’s being used. It can make us feel like a queen, or plunge us into severe depression: We call it the Identity Loop.

The Identity loop is like an ever-present mirror that reflects back to us our deepest understanding of ourselves to ensure that we are indeed the person we think we are.

What is an Identity?

An identity is a very deep level of belief about who you are. It is your generalized sense of self and the way you perceive yourself in relation to the world around you. Your identity is not just one belief, but a combination of many "I am" beliefs that you have. It is the way you think about yourself that determines what kind of person you are.

These so-called core beliefs can be described in one of two ways:

“ I am a…”  or “I am the type of person that …”

Each identity includes a set of values, beliefs, interests, and other factors that go along with the identity. As such, it provides a framework for understanding ourselves and our place in the world, and helps us make sense of our experiences and interactions with others.

An identity can describe personality traits, skills, and abilities and help us describe who we think we are to better understand ourselves and to describe it to others.

Core Beliefs or Identities can be for example the following:

  • I am an entrepreneur
  • I am a great runner
  • I am a dancer
  • I am a persistent person
  • I am a strong person
  • I am a morning person
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I am creative and innovative.
  • I am a leader
  • I am the type of person who loves to read
  • I am the type of person who eats healthy
  • I am the type of person who takes great care of their body
  • I am the type of leader who cares about his / her employees

Identities can be not only positive, but also negative.

  • I am unlovable and unworthy of affection
  • I am a useless person
  • I am a bad writer
  • I am a couch potato
  • I am a late sleeper
  • I am insignificant
  • I am boring
  • I am unathletic
  • I am the type of person who messes everything up
  • I am the type of person who can’t seem to do the right thing
  • I am the type of person who can’t finish anything
  • I am horrible at math
  • I am terrible with children
  • I am always late

Some of these so-called core beliefs can be formed in early childhood. These are the ones that are deepest and what we call in transactional analysis attributions. These are beliefs that in most cases you have inherited from your parents, not only verbally but also nonverbally.

Some core beliefs have been formed through past behaviors and experiences, such as "I am a morning person." In these cases, your identity arises from your habits and you believe them only because you have evidence for them.

In other words, the more often you behave as the type of person who does xyz, the more you become exactly that type of person for yourself.

How can we build an identity?

To build an identity, we must first define who we want to be. If you want to start going running 3 times a week, you need to become a runner. If you want to read 5 books a month, you need to become a reader.

It’s crucial to adopt or change an identity if you want to adopt or change a behavior.

If you know who you want to be, for example a runner, think about what a runner does. What does he eat, how does he dress, how does he prepare for a run, when does he go running, does he do it alone or with a friend?

Then start doing the things a runner would do to build evidence to be who you want to be. Build small habits such as going for a run once a week, inform yourself about the topic and start talking about it with a friend. You need to behave like a runner behaves to build proof for your mind. Start attaching pride with your new identity, and make sure to stick to your new habits by keeping them as small as possible for the beginning. Once you can manage going for a run once a week, start going twice a week, even if it’s just around your block.

You can boost your way into a new identity by joining a group or a club. Most clubs attach a great amount of pride to their commonality. Think about crossfit clubs for example, most Crossfitters will let you know they are Crossfitters as it’s well known that you need a lot of strength and perseverance for it. People are proud to be a Crossfitter and that’s where the law of congruence has most power.

If you're trying to build an identity that's not as obvious as Crossfitting, such as being an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to reinforce small successes at first. You don't necessarily have the opportunity to close a sale every day, and in most cases, you can't start a new business every other week. In this case, you can work with affirmation and manifestation. We recommend manifesting your new personality every morning and every evening, as you are most receptive at this time of day.

To do so, define what it

  1. feels like
  2. looks like
  3. sounds like
  4. smells like
  5. tastes like

to be an entrepreneur. Now, get into a meditative quiet state and go through your new identity. See what you see as an entrepreneur, feel what it feels like being an entrepreneur, talk the way an entrepreneur talks like and introduce yourself to someone you just met. Smell, what it smells like being an entrepreneur and taste what it tastes like. Imagine key experiences that illustrate your new identity, for example signing a multimillion dollar contract for your first company exit.

Our mind cannot differentiate between actual memories or highly realistic visualization, this can be a superpower when building and reinforcing new identities.

The Law of Congruence

The law of congruence describes our inner motivation to behave in alignment with our self-image. As a human being we need to have a sense of certainty that we understand the world as it is, understanding who we are and what role we are playing in it.

Once we have identified ourselves as a smart person, we will do everything in our power to maintain that self-image. We build a strong intrinsic motivation to do the things a smart person would do and behave accordingly.

The motivation to do so increases with the amount of pride being attached to it. If you’re proud of being a morning person, you’ll start telling people about that and will do anything in your power to act like a morning person including all aspects that are part of it. With every repetition of the behavior that aligns with the identity, it will gain strength. On the other hand, with every act that contradicts the identity, it will get weaker. The more evidence you have for it, the stronger the belief gets.

The Identity Feedback Loop

The result of the law of congruence in action is what we call the Identity Loop. A Feedback Loop in general is a system where the output of a system reinforces or amplifies its own behavior. There are two types of Feedback loops, positive and negative ones. While positive ones are leading to an exponential increase in the output, negative Feedback Loops are reducing their own behavior.

The same process occurs unconsciously in our minds, enabled by a system called the reticular activating system (RAS). Our brain receives about 11 million bits of information per second, while we can only consciously process about 120 bits per second or less. The RAS is a network of neurons in the brainstem responsible for regulating arousal and attention. It acts as a gatekeeper for incoming sensory information, helping to filter out irrelevant stimuli and direct attention to important cues.

The following process takes place with our identity:

  1. We have a perception of who we are - our identity
  2. We act in accordance with it by making decisions based on our beliefs, values, and strategies.
  3. Based on our inputs, an output is generated.
  4. We interpret the result filtered through our RAS, which is trained to see the cues based on the law of congruence to strengthen our identity.

For someone who has the identity of a great runner or a good leader, this can be a very productive and uplifting process.

Let’s go through a simple example together:

  1. A man has the identity of being a great runner.
  2. He wakes up in the morning, looks out the window and sees that it's raining and a little windy and not the perfect weather for a nice run. He knows he'll feel stronger and more balanced after a run and thinks to himself, "I'm not a fair weather runner!".
  3. He already has his clothes ready (as a runner would), gets changed and goes for a run. When he comes back, he feels strong, confident and balanced.
  4. He thinks to himself, "That's right, I'm not a fair weather runner, I'm a real runner!" and is even more sure of his identity as a great runner.

Identity Feedback Loops can elevate us and make us the best in class, but there is also a downside. It also works the other way around:

  1. A girl has the identity of being a bad writer.
  2. She has a class assignment today where she has to write an essay. As soon as she walks into the room, she feels shaky and is massively nervous. She KNOWS she can't write well, it's going to be hard! She will probably get a bad grade and her mother will not be happy about it at all.
  3. The test starts and she is so nervous that she is already biting her fingernails again. She sees the topic of the essay and thinks to herself, "I'm done. I can't do this." By the end of the test, she has managed to not even write a full page, while her classmates have written an average of 5-7 pages.
  4. She gets the essay back, which is an F. She goes home and tells her mother, "I knew it, I'm just a bad writer!"

Changing your identity

When we want to change our identity, there is one big problem: associations. When we try to change an identity, for example from a bad writer to a great writer, it is not so easy because we have already built such a strong association that confirms it - even physically. Whenever we experience something, we build what are called associations. These are tiny connections between synapses that ensure our brain knows which path to use when it finds itself in a similar situation again. The more often we experience the same thing, the stronger or more efficient this connection becomes (synaptic plasticity) and the harder it is to break.

The best way to change one's identity is to adopt a new one that is not directly related to it, but solves the same problem. In the case of the girl with the identity of a bad writer, she could focus on building an identity as an excellent learner. She needs to convince herself that she is capable of learning anything if she just puts in enough time and effort. If she succeeds in identifying herself as a good learner, she can even learn to write amazing essays. It may always be a more difficult situation than for someone who has the identity of a great writer, but in this way she can massively improve the quality of her work.

There are also Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques that can help in dealing with stressful situations like these. Meditation can also have a great impact on stopping or slowing down negative feedback loops immediately before stressful situations, so that we can manage to act consciously the way we want to, and not just as an unconscious result of our conditioning.

Identities of Successful People

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah often talks about the role of self-perception, how we think and talk about ourselves and how grateful we are for what is given to us. In interviews she often times mentions the following Identity Beliefs:

"I am worthy."

"I am strong."

"I am loved."

"I am grateful."

"I am blessed."

Sir Richard Branson

Richard Branson uses affirmations and positive self-images to maintain a positive mindset and motivate himself to give the very best he can. In his books and interviews, he has mentioned the following Identity Beliefs.

"I am a positive person and choose to see the good in every situation."

"I am always learning and growing, and never stop pushing myself to improve."

"I am passionate about what I do and love making a positive impact on the world."

"I am a problem-solver and can overcome any obstacle that comes my way."

"I am surrounded by a supportive team of talented and driven individuals."

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was known for his strong work ethic and determination both on and off the court. He was the first in the gym and the last one to leave, he was a strong believer in the power of identity and used affirmations to help him stay focused and motivated even through the most challenging times. Some of his Identity Beliefs were:

"I am the best basketball player in the world."

"I am the best at this."

"I am the greatest of all time."

"I am unstoppable."

"I am the hardest worker in the room."

Now it's your turn

We need to make sure that we are aware of our core beliefs and the way we think about ourselves. We can manipulate ourselves greatly without even having the slightest knowledge about it. At the same time, we can use our identity to motivate us, empower us, and help us grow into the best version of ourselves.

Start by listing your identity beliefs:

  • Who do you believe you are?
  • What are the things you are good at?
  • What compliments have I heard many times in the past?
  • What best describes you?
  • How would your best friend describe you?

Now decide who you want to be, what are things you want to identify yourself with? What does a person like that do? What are small habits you can implement to reinforce being that type of person? What are the choices of this type or person? What does he or she do when faced with challenges?

The first step is awareness, the second step is action. If you want to identify your core beliefs, I designed a free 7 Day Course to identify and transform your negative core beliefs and set yourself up for a successful and fulfilling life.

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I am Adriana, Entrepreneur, freethinker and digital enthusiast with a love for marketing, business models and new technologies in Zurich.
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