You Aren’t Who You Think You Are: Letting Go of False Identity
I am sorry for the labels your subconscious has adopted that keeps you trapped in a cycle of limiting beliefs. The truth is, you are infinite. You can be anyone or anything that you want in this world, and you can change your mind and switch course as often as you desire. The labels you have placed on yourself are just an illusion. They aren’t real. The only thing in the entire world that is actually real, is this present moment, and how can you have a specific label or identity if you are always living in the now?
According to research done by Professor Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D., identities are rarely chosen. They are actually internalized values from family members and/or dominant culture that oftentimes do not align with one’s authentic self, and therefore create an unfulfilling life. People hold many identities, such as sister, teacher, friend, dancer, etc. that each have their own set of expectations that are internalized as one’s “identity.”
To give necessary background information, I have quoted an eye opening paragraph from professor Heshmat’s article ”Basics of Identity.”
“When people misrepresent themselves or present themselves in out-of-character ways to impress an audience, the behavior is unnatural and exhausting. The behavior requires greater cognitive resources, because the mind is filled with self-doubt, self-consciousness, and negative thoughts. Moreover, when people look to immediate audiences to help them define who they should be, how they should look, and what they should do, they are in danger of acting in ways that endanger their health, such as eating disorders and alcohol or drug abuse… Knowing one’s identity accurately increases self-esteem and reduces depression and anxiety.”
Science confirms the immense detriment that mislabeling oneself and adopting a false identity can cause, yet the majority of us are still stuck playing roles that we were never meant to be casted as. And as a result, we feel unfulfilled, restless, and lost.
The good news is that it doesn't need to continue. The cycle can be broken, and I want to help you smash it into a thousand pieces.
First, we need to figure out what identities we have adopted and decipher which ones are false and are holding us back from stepping into our full power.
In my opinion, there are two levels of identities that we adopt. We have surface level identities and deeply rooted inner identities. It is easy to figure out our surface identities and change them as needed, but it can sometimes be more challenging to uproot the inner identities that are ingrained in us, oftentimes because we don’t even realize they are there.
I will use myself as an example.
To figure out my surface identities, I took a piece of paper and at the top wrote “Hi, my name is Danielle Lanteri and I am…” Then on the lines underneath I wrote the first words that came to my head. I wrote things such as “student, writer, daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, reader, dog mom, traveler, etc.”
All those things are well and fine, I resonate with all of those labels. They ring true. I can confidently say that “I am” all of those things with pride and I do not feel like a fraud. But if I realized that I no longer wanted to be a writer or a girlfriend, I could easily change that and move on with my life. However, it was the inner labels I plastered onto myself that were the things that I needed to rewire and change, and they happened to be things that I would never outwardly identify with, so they did not come up on the list.
For instance, I identified my self-worth by my grades and my GPA. I did this because when I switched to a private middle school, I noticed that students who got high grades were praised and well-liked by both their teachers and their peers. Being new and knowing no one, I subconsciously studied to get good grades in order to be accepted and well liked in the academic environment I spent my days in, and it came easy to me. I gained praise and acceptance like I wanted. So, it stuck.
No, like it really stuck. It snowballed into extreme perfectionism, and I had crippling anxiety about every assignment, no matter how small, all the way through my freshman year of college. I never received anything less than a 4.0 GPA, and I continued to receive praise in the academic world, but I was not living my best, most authentic, and joyful life. I was living the life that I thought I needed to live in order to be accepted. But I was not placed on this earth to perfectly regurgitate information on exams; I am here for much more than that.
Once I realized that I self-identified as a straight A student and noticed how detrimental that label was to my mental, physical, and emotional health, I set out to rewire my thoughts, rewrite my story, and burn the label to the ground.
Not only did I achieve the true bliss that comes from freeing yourself from a self-induced prison cell, I went so far as to decide to take a gap year from university. I did this in order to work on myself, my passion, and get extremely clear on what I want from the education system and from life in general. And you are reading this blog post as a product of that.
Okay, so now that I used a personal example to help portray what I mean by “inner identity,” I want to dive deeper into how you too can shed light on your own limiting labels and set about doing the work of rewiring your brain.
Identifying my false identity and recognizing where it stemmed from was not an easy feat. It took time and a lot of soul searching and journaling, but it was the most rewarding process I have ever undergone. My hope is that everyone in the world will learn to identify their false identities and make it their life’s goal to discover their true selves...
How To Identify Your False / Limiting Identities:
First, promise yourself to be vulnerable.
Be the most raw and authentic you have ever been with yourself. This process will not work unless you do. It can oftentimes be scary and uncomfortable to shed light on the parts of ourselves that our ego has tried to keep hidden, but this process is vital, and it requires immense vulnerability.
Interrogate your intentions
Question every little thing you do in your day to day life. ESPECIALLY the things that you do subconsciously. Use all the W’s.
Why do you spend the extra 45 minutes straightening your hair in the morning even when you don’t want to? Why do you get the same coffee order every day? Why do you dress the way that you dress? Why do you exercise in the amount that you do? Why do you hang out with the people that you hang out with? Why have you never signed up for those art classes you have always wanted to take? Why does money make you anxious? Who do you want to be in the future? Who are you right now? What are your goals and why? What scares you? What excites you? What are your passions? Why don’t you dedicate enough time to those dreams and passions? What makes you uncomfortable and why? What makes you feel elated and why? What responsibilities did you choose, and which ones do you feel forced to act out?
The list of questions to ask yourself are endless. Once you get into the flow of asking and answering, the right questions will bubble up to the surface. This is meant to be an intuitive process, so shut off the critical and logical part of your brain. Zone out. Tune out your thoughts. And just ask, answer, repeat.
Answer honestly! Even if it is uncomfortable.
If you feel discomfort, then you are doing it right. Even if the first response that comes to your head sounds silly or weird, write it down; listen to it. There is a message to be received in these answers.
Feel into the responses
You will just know. You will know the answers to the hard questions that you have finally gained the courage to ask. You will know why you do the things that you do, and you will know which things are false and which things are true based on the feeling that arises in your body.
If you are lost, confused, or unsure of the feeling I am referring to, then I encourage you to read my last post “Ego vs Intuition.” We all have an inner guidance system that only wants to see us thrive as our authentic selves, and that article sheds light on how you can tune into that guidance.
Recognize the parts of your identity that are false, that aren’t really you
Use your intuition to shed light on the aspects of who you “think” you are and the actions you take that do not hold truth.
Acknowledge the things that actually aren’t you and make a promise to yourself that you are going to remove those aspects from your life and your identity.
How to rediscover your truth:
Now that you have shed light on the parts of your identity that aren’t really you, what now?
Now, you get to the fun part. You rediscover yourself. You meet who you truly are in your core for what may feel like the very first time.
Below are a few tips I recommend to help you discover your most genuine and authentic self, but this is an extremely intuitive and unique process, so I highly recommend that you follow your gut and have fun with this experience. Do what feels right for you, and enjoy the process of self-discovery.
Take yourself on weekly dates
This is something I implemented after reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. She strongly recommended we all set aside 2 hours a week to do things that light us up. It can be absolutely anything in the entire world, but we must do it alone and it must be something that we genuinely enjoy. Also, no multitasking! This time is vital, and you deserve to embrace every second of it.
A few ideas that resonate with me include:
Shutting my phone off and watching the sunrise (or sunset) with a cup of coffee or tea.
Creating a vision board
Going to a farmer’s market
Writing random poems
Going to a bookstore
Planning a trip
But your list could also look like this:
Taking martial arts classes
Learning to paint
Starting a YouTube channel
Taking long drives
Going thrift shopping
Researching a specific topic
DIYing your old clothes
Writing letters to old friends
Decorating your house
It can be literally anything you want!
Use technology and social media less, especially in the morning and night
There is zero need for you to be using technology the first hour after you wake up. No checking text messages, no scrolling on social media, especially no news. And if for some reason you have a valid argument against that claim, then I highly recommend you wake up 30 minutes earlier so you can spend those 30 minutes waking up without using technology.
Your subconscious mind is the most active and susceptible the first 20-30 minutes after you wake up. This has to do with the frequency of our brain waves at this time being about 10.5 waves per second, meaning the brain is producing alpha waves.
This is the BEST time to journal, practice gratitude and/or mindfulness, meditate, sit in silence and observe your thoughts, say or write affirmations, etc. This time sets the tone of your entire day. And this is also the time when you can be with your most authentic self without interruption from the outside world.
I recommend spending the first hour after you wake up with yourself (and your loved ones if they live with you). Journal, stretch, drink coffee / tea, have a morning chat with a family member, but whatever you do make sure you are tuning into yourself. The self that you are when there is nothing to do and no one is watching. That is who you truly are.
Social media and technology feed our subconscious and send us messages about who we should be and what we should do in order to fit in, be successful, etc. Technology is a wonderful tool, but we should all be conscious consumers of it and educate ourselves on the detriments social media and technology can cause. After doing my own research, I have decided to only use technology in ways that will enhance my life, and I have stopped using it when it is unnecessary to do so, i.e., random scrolling in the mornings and nights.
I know. This one is a cliche, but it is a cliche for a very good reason.
Journaling - scribbling down my random thoughts on pieces of paper that no one in the entire world will see besides me - is the most therapeutic and eye-opening experience in the world. I am able to get all the fragments of my thoughts and ideas and feelings that are cluttering my brain out and organize them into sentences, and it brings me immense clarity and peace of mind. It also helps me build a stronger relationship with myself, and I am able to express my identity with more authenticity and courage as a result.
Just try it. Try writing for 5-10 minutes every morning. It can even be on the notes page of your phone while you wait for your coffee to brew. I don’t care how you do it, but journaling is a necessity for me, and I will advocate for its implementation into everyone’s routine until the day I die. That is how much I value the practice.
Strengthen your intuition
This goes back to the inner guidance system I was talking about before.
Build a relationship with the inner knowing, the built-in compass that we all have, and learn to trust it. The more you tune into your intuition, the stronger it will be. Let your inner knowing guide you to be your authentic self and vow to stop perpetuating the false identities that you have subconsciously adopted in this world.
To sum up everything I just said into a neat little paragraph...
Question the things you do and the thoughts you think. Recognize the aspects of yourself and your life that do not resonate with your core, authentic self. Remove them from your life. Replace them with mindsets and actions that light you up and make you feel excited to live life. And express yourself authentically in everything that you do.
We were put here on this planet as our divine selves purposefully, and we all deserve to experience this existence free from resistance. The first step in doing that is to show up in the world as the souls that we truly are.
Some quotes that inspire me to be me that I feel called to share:
“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” – Francois de la Rochefoucauld
“To shine your brightest light is to be who you truly are.” ― Roy T. Bennett
“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.”– Shannon L. Alder
“No other version, no matter how perfect it is, would ever feel better than being your true self.”– Edmond Mbiaka
“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”– St. Catherine of Sienna
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” – Harold Whitman
“I figured out that being yourself isn’t something that just happens. It’s something you create. You have to create yourself.” – The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale
I hope this inspired you to shed the role society has casted you as and to step into the spotlight as the soul you were destined to be.
With love and light,