Our sense of self, that is, who we see ourselves as, is built on our emotions, experiences and history. This definition is what almost single-handedly controls our lives: It determines what we can accomplish by controlling our confidence, work ethic, self-worth, and sense of entitlement. It decides who we allow ourselves to get close to and build relationships with, among countless other facets of the human experience. And if you want to grow, it is imperative that you gain control of this definition. Laozi is an ancient Chinese philosopher, contemporary to Confucius, and author of the Tao Te Ching, one of the two principle texts founding Taoism. (You may be more familiar with the old translation of his name, Lao Tzu.) He has an incredibly simple, yet life-altering quote:
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Hardened clay cannot be reshaped until it is first softened, releasing its rigid form. In the same way, we cannot reshape ourselves until we consciously set aside our automatic definitions of ourselves.
If you see yourself as someone who has always been overweight, you will fight an uphill battle trying to lose weight. You have to think of yourself as one of those people who can work hard, lose weight, and get fit.
If you continue to live in the wake of old relationships, you'll never be able to form a strong and rewarding relationship with someone new. No one you meet will ever be the same as those you've gotten close to in the past. The good things and the bad things.
If you think you're average-looking and don't bring a lot to the table, you will consider a lot of potential partners as out of your league, never attempting to make a connection. Don't decide for them that you're not good enough.
If you don't think you can achieve your dreams or career goals because those things only happen to other people and not you, you will never reach them. You won't put in the necessary work if you don't think you can actually achieve something.
Our entire perception of life is based upon not only how we interpret the world, but how we see ourselves fitting into that interpretation. It controls what we think we're able to accomplish in every aspect of our lives. I invite you to actively ruminate on what current definitions may be holding you back, and discover new ones to help you on your development process.
I like to use wallpapers like this one as a real-world, constant reminder to never get stuck in life due to an out-dated or false sense of self.