Last week, I had a conversation with a client that really got me thinking about what makes us “who we are.” What determines “the kind of person” you are? What does it take to change and become a new kind of person? So this weekend, I did a little experiment.
Backstory: Growing up, we spent basically every summer at swim school. Not learning to swim. We did that the first summer haha. We actually collected these little pins you got for various water-related achievements like diving far, deep, from heights, swimming a certain distance, and so on.
Once swim school ended and I entered my teens, I didn’t swim much at all. I didn’t really enjoy it and to be honest, I think I developed a fear of being underwater and diving. I went from being able to do it really well to not even wanting to try.
Here’s a little timeline of “the kind of person” I’ve been through the years:
Age 5-11 (ish): I’m the kind of person who swims and dives and jumps into water.
Age 12-26: I’m not the kind of person who swims at all. I hate cold water (even during the summer).
Age 27-28: I’m the kind of person who takes cold swims/dips all year around. But I only lower myself into the water from a ladder or walk in slowly from the beach.
Age 29: On my 29th birthday (in September), I decided that I want to be a different kind of person. I want to be brave. I want to jump into cold water. Maybe even dive into cold water. Step 1 was to jump in. Said and done (and terrifying).
Age 29: The next step was to jump from a height, which I did a few weeks ago. I jumped from about 1 meter up (definitely felt like 2), off a trampoline into cold water. It was scary but not too bad.
Age 29: I had the conversation with my client this week about “the kind of person” we are and I decided that I’m the kind of person who dives into cold water.
Our thoughts about us = Who we are
I just couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that the only thing standing between me and being the kind of person who dives into cold water was a thought. The thought that I either am or am not that kind of person. There is literally nothing else stopping me.
Intellectually, I knew that if I wanted to dive into the water, all I had to do was make my body do it.
I didn’t know if I was capable of diving, to be honest. I had done it before when I was 10. But that was quite some time ago. I knew how to, in theory, but I didn’t quite know what the result would be. (Yes, I read a WikiHow article just to refresh my memory…)
Regardless if I succeeded or failed with the dive, I knew that I just had to do it to be that kind of person. Despite this intellectual knowledge, up until the point where I actually did it, I wasn’t sure if it would… work? Would it be possible? Am I that kind of person? It can’t possibly be this easy to change the kind of person I am… something is going to stop me from doing it and remind me of the kind of person I actually am… right?
The feeling is what stops us from change
So, I knew that all you need to do to be a person who dives into cold water is dive into cold water. It’s not more complicated than that. I can even dive poorly and still be “that kind of person.”
The only thing that could stop me from becoming that kind of person was the feeling in my body. The fear. The uncertainty. The doubt. All these feelings that try to prevent us from venturing outside of the cave and trying new things.
But where do these feelings come from?
They come from the thought “I’m not that kind of person.”
You having that thought and choosing to repeat it and believe it is what creates the fear, discomfort, and doubt when it comes time to try something new. IT’S JUST A THOUGHT! An optional thought that you made up. It’s not even true.
Who you are is just made up of a bunch of thoughts you have about yourself. So if you want to be a different kind of person than you are, all you need to do is change your thoughts about you and go be that kind of person.
The worst that can happen is a feeling.
If you want it, you’re meant for it
My coach mentor Brooke Castillo always says that if you want something, if you have a desire for something, it’s meant for you. You will never have a desire for something that you’re not capable of or supposed to achieve.
You ARE that kind of person.
I believe that if you have a desire for it, you are that kind of person even if you haven’t done it yet.
Whether it’s about having an open relationship, moving to another country, experimenting with your sexuality and sex life, starting your own company, or being a confident, secure, and happy girlfriend… If you want it, you are already that kind of person.
Only those kinds of people have the desire for it. You’re already a part of the gang.
If I wasn’t the kind of person who dives into cold water, the desire wouldn’t have been born inside of me, to begin with. Yes, you see me become “the kind of person who dives into cold water” in the video at the top of this post. You see me become her “in the real world” through my actions. It’s kind of like I’m confirming what kind of person I am by doing it.
But I was that kind of person before you see me step into the frame in that video. I had to be that kind of person before doing it because it was the thought that I AM that kind of person that got me to do it in the first place.
So the question is… what kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be? Because it’s only a thought that is standing between who you are today and who you want to be.
The worst that can happen when we try something that isn’t aligned with “the kind of person we (believe that) we are” is a feeling. When we act against our beliefs, that creates discomfort in our bodies. It creates cognitive dissonance. But you are allowed to believe whatever you want and you are capable of processing the discomfort of cognitive dissonance and doing it anyway.