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Break Down the Boxes of Who You Thought You Had to Be

Our brains love to find patterns and ways of organizing information and making sense of it. So of course it would be common for us to create boxes and put ourselves in them. We do this to ourselves and we do this to other people too, right? We tell ourselves we’re this, which means we should look, think, talk, and act like that. And while the boxes we’ve put ourselves in might look nice all tied up with their pretty little bows, the feeling inside is quiet different. When we put ourselves in these boxes we’re left feeling confined, trapped, limited, and quite literally boxed into this narrow identity with this narrow view of what we’re capable of being and doing. It’s time to change that. I’m sharing with you how to break down the boxes of who you thought you had to be so you can decide for yourself who you’re capable of being and what you’re capable of doing, no boxes necessary.

Breaking Down the Boxes of Who You Thought You Had to Be Doesn’t Start with Doing More

When we want something to change in our lives it’s common to think that we just need to do something different. We might think we need to create a list of things we should do. Maybe we think we need to put them on our calendar, get a new habit tracker, focus on creating these new habits, focus on creating healthier routines, get up earlier, or put these things at the top of our to-do list. And if we’d just do those things, we assume we’d be able to create different results. But if that worked, most of us would have everything we ever wanted.

Most of us have used habit trackers. Most of us put things on our calendars. Most of us have to-do lists. But few of us actually put the things we really want to do on them. And if we do, we often have a hard time following through and doing what we said we were going to do. Why? There are many reasons but one of the biggest reasons is because we don’t believe we’re able to do the things we want to do. Why? Because we’ve shoved ourselves in small boxes that narrowly define who we are, tell us what we can and can’t do, and tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. And those boxes we put ourselves in keep us repeating the same things we’re doing but wish we weren’t.

Resource: (Blog post): How to Do a Life Audit in Your 40’s

So How Do You Break Down the Boxes of Who You Thought You Had to Be?

You don’t start with doing more. You start by understanding who you’re being or what you’re thinking and feeling. When you understand this you can understand WHY you’re doing what you’re currently doing. It’s really hard to know what you want to change without first understand why you’re doing the things you’re doing right now. 

Three Steps to Break Down the Boxes of Who You Thought You Had to Be

So grab a piece of paper, and let’s dive in! This is the work of unlearning who you thought you had to be so you can become who you really want to be.

Step 1: Get Clear About Who You Think You Are

Let’s start by getting to the heart of who you think you are. Anything we say following the statement ‘I am…’ is who we believe ourselves to be. So let’s get clear about who you think you are. Write out the sentence”I am…” and finish it with what you think you are for each category listed below.

I am…

  • Roles you play:
  • Career/Business role:
  • Age or Generation:
  • Race:
  • Gender:
  • Location:
  • Location you grew up in:
  • Birth order:
  • Personality traits:
  • Strengths/Weaknesses:
  • Values:
  • Religious/Spiritual Identity:
  • And others that you want to add:

Step 2: What Do You Think You Should and Shouldn’t Do?

Once you know who you are, it’s helpful to then get clear about what you think you should or shouldn’t do. So take what you said you think you are above and finish each sentence with what you think that means you should and shouldn’t do.

So for example:

  • I’m a farm wife so I should take meals to my husband during field work.
  • I’m a teacher so I shouldn’t expect to make much money and I should just be grateful for the impact I’m making.
  • I’m an Enneagram 2 so I should say yes.
  • I’m in a high level corporate role so I should be available at all hours.
  • I’m live in the Midwest so I should be nice.

These are the boxes you’re putting yourself and others in. Most of us don’t even realize this because these beliefs are just floating around in our brains. It’s powerful to write these out and give yourself a chance to look at them so you can realize these are optional beliefs that are limiting your potential.

Again, these are optional!!!

Resource (blog post): What Box Are You Putting Yourself In?

Step 3: Choose Which Box You Want to Break Down First

So now you get to decide intentionally which of these you’re ready to let go of. And if you’re like me you might want to get rid of all of them. But I suggest starting small. Which ONE do you want to start with? 

Choose that ONE. And begin the process of looking at it more closely, poking holes in it, and deciding intentionally want you want to believe instead.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to begin the process of breaking down that box.

  • Is that true?
  • How could I be wrong about this?
  • What else might be true?
  • Do I know anyone who doesn’t believe this?
  • What might they believe that’s different?
  • When I believe this, how does it make me feel?
  • How do I want to feel instead?
  • What would I need to think to help me feel that way?
  • What more would I like to understand about that belief?

Create a Safe Space for Yourself to Do This Deep Identity Work

Notice that nowhere in here is there any judgment or criticism. Give yourself the space to get curious from a loving, self compassionate place. And notice what you’re able to unwind and begin to break free from that belief.

Remember, this is deep identity work. You’ve likely been holding onto some of these beliefs for decades. So don’t rush this process and instead notice any shifts in your thinking and notice how those shifts feel in your body. The more you keep coming back to this the deeper you’ll take this work and the greater the impact it’ll have on who you think you are and how you allow yourself to show up in your life.

If you’re wanting to learn more about who you are in this season of your life, I’m sharing my 31 journal prompts for self discovery with you! Head below to grab them today!

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