Man is something that shall be overcome. – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Nothing is more difficult than change. Trying to change yourself is like trying to pull yourself out of a mire by your own hair. It’s like performing surgery on yourself. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but it kind of is when done incorrectly. And the reason why conscious change is so hard is that you’re trying to break existing patterns while being bound by them at the same time. You’re trying to go off script in a story which was written for you by your unconscious mind and which you internalized so deeply that you can’t imagine the world outside of it. You’re a character in your own play and you can’t break the fourth wall unless the author allows you to do so.
So, the question is, how do I convince my unconscious mind that I am not something I think I am? You don’t. Because you can’t. If you force yourself into thinking “I am THIS and not THAT”, perform like it was true and inevitably fail (because it’s still not), this will only reinforce your dysfunctional beliefs about yourself. Your unconscious mind will be like “Told ya! You are THAT and not THIS!”. And then you stop trying. That’s why you can only let it learn by example. And the best way to do so is by adopting the mindset of curiosity. Instead of forcing your way into something, allow yourself to be it. The difference is subtle but important. The curious mind is free in the sense that it has zero expectations. It observes instead of just playing the role, almost like from a third-party perspective. It puts you in the right place for analysis where you start asking the right questions instead of judging yourself. Ask yourself “What if I open that door and allow myself to be something that I’ve never been before? How does it feel?”. And at first, it will not feel right. It will feel unnatural. That’s where most people stop and go back to where they started convinced that it’s just not for them. Because the feel is so integral to our perception. It is exactly what we want to change when we speak about changing. We want to feel something, not fake it. But that’s also exactly where that subtle difference between curious and not curious mind shines through. The curious one instead of avoiding that unpleasant feeling will study the shit out of it, play around with it and start asking even more questions.
What you can do is question the validity of the old belief, become open to the possibility of a new, better-fitting one, try it out for size, and slowly learn to see if it works in the world. – Richard Ragnarson
It will happen eventually. The unconscious mind will start to slowly rewire existing patterns and eventually, it will feel right. Yes, it takes time. Behavioral changes don’t happen overnight. And yes, it’s not pretty. It will uncover the very thing that you want to change, make it more visible and prominent because it will contrast with your new behavior and emphasize itself in it. It will probably make people cringe. People tend to cringe at things that they secretly hate in themselves. But remember: you are the one who decided to change and they are the ones who were too afraid to do so, so each year they just become more of themselves.
That’s why it’s so hard. It’s a very uncomfortable process and it feels like beating yourself up for nothing. But you got to understand that that self you’re torturing is exactly what you want to let go of. It’s counter-intuitive even, but only when you’re bound by the assumption of a limited self that defines who you are. You need to let go of the idea of the limited self and accept the idea of the flexible self, something that is not static and inherent to your identity, but able and willing to change.
To do that you need to learn to be curious and develop the mental toughness that would allow you to go through the process of transformation. Understand that you’re changing, be easy on yourself and don’t judge. And finally, respect yourself for having the balls to declare war on yourself.
So, yeah, that’s what I want to learn. I want to learn the skill of personal transformation. I want to learn how to be flexible and not to let someone else’s opinion to hold me in the bounds of assumptions they have about my personality. I want to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortability and confident in awkwardness. I want to constantly overcome myself. I don’t want to hear any more of these “if only I was more X”. If you want to be something, become it. I am not who I am. I am who I decide to be.
…that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet