The Habit of Identity

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Would it surprise you to know that your identity is no more than the set of habits that you have accumulated over many years.

Habits of action.

Habits of thought.

The repetitiveness of our thoughts and actions causes us to create a mental image of who we are. And that mental image affects how we feel about ourselves, which consequently affects how we show up in our lives.

And then what happens, is that the way we show up for ourselves creates evidence that supports our beliefs about who we are as a person. As a woman. As a being swirling through the magic of life.

Because there is this thing called “cognitive dissonance”. It sounds fancy, but it’s actually surprisingly simple. Elegant, even, in its simplicity. It describes the feeling of discomfort that comes from trying to do something, or be someone, that doesn’t align with our current thoughts about ourselves.

It is the reason that some of the affirmations and goals that we may set ourselves don’t become reality. Because they feel so dissonant to (out of harmony with) our current beliefs about ourselves and our lives, that we don’t believe them.

This dissonance feels uncomfortable, and therefore our gorgeous, protective brains will fight to keep our thoughts and actions in line with our current self-identity to avoid the uncomfortable feeling. Our subconscious will find ways to self-sabotage in order to keep our lives in harmony with our self-identity, so that we can keep feeling stable.

Unhappy, maybe.

Displeased with ourselves and our lives, perhaps.

But stable, nonetheless, and there’s comfort in stability. And we make no progress.

And it applies to all habits: cultural habits, family habits, habits of environment, habits of thought, habits of paying more attention to what other people are believing instead of tuning into and trusting what feels good to us.

As James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, “A behaviour that is incongruent with the self will not last. It’s hard to change a habit if you don’t change the underlying beliefs. You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven’t changed who you are.”

There’s an upside to this that feels amazing!

If our identity is formed from our habits of thought and action, then we can elevate our identity through elevating our thoughts and actions.

And when we do that with good-feeling, easy, believable tweaks, we work with our brain and our identity instead of against it, successfully avoiding the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, and happily creating new evidence of who we are becoming. Evidence that we can believe.

How fun to approach all our desires from a focus of becoming who we want to be.

So it turns out that we actually can change our identity, simply by adjusting the smallest of daily habits to align with who we choose to become.

judith x

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