Your Own Self-Concept Defines You

Oct 19, 2022

For most of my life I was convinced that once I decided who I was - my identity - I was committed to that forever. I'm glad I was wrong. 

I spent decades being an out of shape, beer drinking, televised sports addicted, Christian, right-wing, gun carrying, flag waving Conservative Republican whose job it was to sacrifice my own health and happiness to climb the corporate ladder and provide an awesome life for my wife and kids. 

Listen, none of those are bad or wrong, and I am certainly not trying to portray those qualities as being problematic. The problem was that I looked at them as a package deal, and I fought hard to portray them as a character. I tried hard to project the image of this guy, and I worked hard to get people to see me and experience me through this lens. I thought I was obligated to be that guy, until my entire life fell apart because it was all a house of cards. 

That's when I found out that I can be anyone I want in this lifetime, and I can pivot on a dime. I can change my entire character anytime I choose by changing my self-concept. The world sees me as I see myself. The world sees you as you see yourself.

How you see yourself in this lifetime is completely up to you. 


What is a Current Self-Concept?

A current self-concept is simply how you see yourself today. How you see yourself is completely up to you. No one is forcing you to choose your current character. You did it yourself. Your current self-concept is created by the stories you are telling yourself and how you are defining yourself today. 

Typically, we create a current self-concept based on our past experiences. Most people have allowed the past to create their current identity, even though the past is no more. For instance, I was molested when I was a child. For most of my life I carried the story around in my mind that my body is worthless. So, I abused it more than my abuser ever did. My self-concept about my body was constantly defined by childhood trauma. I chose to hold on to old stories, so essentially, I was living in the past. This aspect of my self-concept was based on things that happened when I was 7-8 years old - not today. 

If you look at your life - how you view your ability to create wealth, how much you believe in yourself, how much you give and receive love, how you take care of your body, how you view God, and just about every other aspect of your life - you've likely never challenged your own self-concept in order to choose beliefs and stories that are more empowering. Maybe you've just brought forth beliefs and perspectives from your childhood too. Maybe you've evolved in one aspect in your self-concept, but others remain less empowering. 

Your current self-concept is simply how you perceive yourself as it relates to the world. How you see yourself today is how the world sees you. You are calling all the shots. 


Your Future Self-Concept

Many people I work with create a vision for their lives and businesses. Having direction in life is healthy and makes life a fun game to play. We are creators, so when we are clear on what we are creating, we get to have more fun being human. 

If you take a hard look at your wants and dreams, you'll find a future self-concept you are trying to create. Oftentimes we want new cars, new houses, new jobs, business results, new relationships, more money, or whatever we want because we are trying to create and experience a future self-concept. This  might be I am loved, I am successful, I am wealthy, I have nice things, etc. When I look at the people I work with, most times they want new outcomes because they are trying to become more of something, or they are trying to feel more of something. 

As human beings we like to rearrange our external world to discover a greater sense of ourselves. We like to believe that we need to have more to be more. We develop a future self-concept, then unconsciously assign some level of attainment or achievement to close the gap between our current and future self-concepts. 

Instead of just changing our current self-concept to match what we want to experience, we delay the change until some external condition is met. Then we often delay it even more. Most times we are so attached to our current self that we choose it in the face of undeniable evidence that it's not true. We might see ourselves as unsuccessful even though we've created magnificently successful businesses. We might feel alone surrounded by family and friends. We might feel poor even though we have lots of commas and zeros in our bank account. Once a human being establishes a self-concept, they fight to keep it intact. Not even conflicting evidence will convince them to let go of their pain. 


Judgement and Projection

Ever since I began to understand the power of self-concepts, I've also begun to understand how human beings allow fear of judgement to choke them, and work so hard to project a false self-concept into the world. 

Fear of judgement is the fear of someone not believing your self-concept as you do. You are afraid that their thoughts and judgements will not match or align with how you see and define yourself. When you fear judgement, you are simply scared that they will see you in a different way than you want to be seen. 

Projection is manipulation of others to get them to see you according to your self-concept. When you project into the world, you are literally trying to rearrange the thoughts of others to mirror the self-concept you are trying to portray. 

Fear of judgement and projection stem from fragile self-esteem, and fragile self-esteem is created by a fragile, fake, unsure, or uncertain self-concept which lacks acceptance, confidence, courage, and trust in yourself. Therefore, I developed a character and constantly tried to reinforce that self-concept - it was developed from low self-esteem.

All of this can be corrected by getting honest about who you really are, accepting every bit of yourself, deciding to be that without guilt and shame, and remaining true to yourself while allowing others to do the same. This is also called radical authenticity, self-worth, and personal significance. 

When you begin to see yourself as worthy and personally significant, the world will adjust to meet you there. Then you'll no longer need to fear judgement or project an image into the world. 


Becoming Your Future Self-Concept

If you are driven for personal growth like I am, you are constantly trying to recreate yourself. Here's the magic of all this: you never need to wait to redefine yourself. Take inventory of your current self-concept, identify how you'd like to experience yourself, identify the gap, and start believing, choosing, behaving, and acting in the world like your future concept. When you begin showing up like the future you, the future becomes now. Sure, you might trip occasionally, and fall back into old self-concept habits. That's the gravity of the familiar. Simply start again asap. The more you bring the future you to the present moment, the faster your current self-concept will change.

Act from your new stories, not the old ones. That's how you change those stories. Your stories and beliefs comprise your self-concept. Change your stories and beliefs, change your life. Only you can. And there's no reason to delay. The best time is always now. Why wait to become the new version of you?


Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

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