Self-identity is the recognition of someone’s potential and qualities as an individual. When we have a balanced view of our self-identity, we can find the worth and value in the many facets that make us human. For example, a person can say I am smart, I am kind to others, I am attractive, I have a great sense of humor, I have a good work ethic, etc. However, many people find their self-identity, and their self-worth, not in who they are, but what they do.
This is called Performance Based Self-Identity.
Performance Based Self-Identity creates two types of people: perfectionists and avoiders. Both of these types of people have the same mantra of “I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself” (taken from “The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee- highly recommended!)
Being a perfectionist is often viewed as a good trait because perfectionists work hard, get things done, and are reliable; however, being a perfectionist means that impossible standards are set and never obtained. No one is perfect; therefore, setting out to be is impossible and frustrating when not achieved. The perfectionist’s thinking of him or herself looks like, “Today, I got a 100% on my AP test; I got the highest promotion at work; I am a mom who has it all together…therefore, I am good/valuable/worthy/etc.” While these are all wonderful achievements, situations and circumstances change on a daily basis, so if a perfectionist feels valuable because he got the highest promotion, what will happen to his self-worth if he gets fired or laid off? This is when the perfectionist spirals into a state of devastation and feels not being good enough. The thinking then changes to “I failed my AP test; I didn’t get the promotion I went after; I wasn’t an excellent mother today…therefore, I am worthless/horrible/a failure/etc.” A perfectionist constantly struggles with this rollercoaster inner dialogue of being “good” one day and a “failure” the next.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from perfectionism, are the avoiders. Failure is inevitable. It’s a part of life; however, when these people with a performance based self-identity fail, they believe that those failures equal worthlessness. They are then so fearful of failing again, that they become hopeless and stop trying to succeed all together. They avoid situations where they have to take a risk because the fear of failure is what is driving them. Their best is never enough in their eyes.
Performance Based Self-Identity is detrimental because:
• You are unable to relax and enjoy life
• Families and relationships suffer
• It can cause anxiety & depression
• It suffocates your joy and creativity
• You miss out on new and exciting opportunities
• You never feel good enough
• It causes a sense of hopelessness (The Search for Significance, McGee)
Overcoming this type of belief is not an easy task. You basically have to retrain your brain from a lifetime of thinking and start focusing on who you are, not what you do. Focus on these tips to find your self-worth in your SELF.
• Begin to set realistic goals
• Prepare for failure and accept that it is okay
• Be aware of rational vs. irrational thoughts
• Write down affirmations of your characteristics and review them every day
• Focus on who you are, not what you do