The curse of “That’s not me”

I’m getting ready to fly to Boston in a few hours to work on a secret-not-so-secret project, but I wanted to throw a quick question at you.

Have you ever been afraid to say, do or think something because it wouldn’t be “you”?

I’ll give you a quick example from my own life.

I used to be scared of fighting and physical confrontation. I’m not really sure where the fear first developed. I think it’s natural for most people, but some of us eventually grow out of it.

Not me. For much of my adolescence, I avoided any type of situation that might escalate into an altercation because at the end of the day, I was afraid of things getting physical. Nobody ever taught me how to fight, and I knew that…so I just made sure I was the guy everyone liked.

It worked pretty well, but it left me feeling empty. Especially as I grew into a man.

My internal dialogue was, “I’m not a fighter, I use my words. Physical fights just aren’t ‘me’.” or “Physical fights are for people who aren’t smart enough to use their words.”

Now, I don’t condone violence — but there are certainly good, appropriate reasons to get buck on a punk bitch. And asserting yourself physically has nothing to do with lack of intelligence. In fact, not doing so at the correct time may actually be a bigger indicator of stupidity.

I digress…

What I didn’t realize was that those were actually my mom’s words — not mine. This was the mantra she’d always repeated to me, and I internalized it. Over time, I mistook them for my own beliefs.

Then, one day…all that changed.

I started my acting career and one of my first leading roles was as an MMA fighter who gets a hit called on him by the mob. For the role, I had to train for several months with some of the UFC’s best fighters.

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Check me out in the blue. I think the technical term for that move is the “oh shit” position.

I got punched in the face, beaten up and bruised. At one point during the training I was doing a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rotation and this kinda-scary-but-still-hot fighter chick almost chocked me unconscious. I just remembered thinking how ironic it would be if her implants busted on me as I died in her deathly embrace. It was awesome.

And overnight, everything I ever thought about myself, my fear around fighting and my ability to fight, changed. After that, I started taking more and more classes on my own. Just to fight for fun.

See, before I’d always thought that “fighting wasn’t me” because that belief conveniently allowed me to avoid something that I was scared of. But once I saw the proof — that I actually could fight, that I was good at it…that getting punched in the face wasn’t the worst thing in the world…I could no longer maintain my old self-image of a non-fighter. I was forced to change internally.

Here’s the key: The concept of self is very fluid. Every day you’re changing. If you want to learn, do or become something more — but you feel paralyzed because the changes you want to make aren’t “you”, then the answer is simple — you have to change. And the easiest way to do that is to do the thing that challenges you the most.

The act of seeing yourself go through with something that you were once afraid of will forcefully change your psychology. I promise.

Imagine that as a baby, you never learned to walk. You went through your entire adult life crawling on the ground because…well…crawling felt natural. Walking was never really “you.” Why start now, right?

Thinking like that just doesn’t make sense. It’s probably clinically insane. Of course we’ll to walk. It’s just a natural progression.

So why is it that when other areas of our lives require us to change, we cling so desperately to old, outdated beliefs or versions of ourselves that no longer serve us?

Once you realize that you’re a new person every second, and that with each second you can make a new decision, you’ve unlocked an incredible freedom. Now, what are you going to do with that new freedom?

Can you think of something you’re doing now that 4 or 5 years ago, you might have said “Nah, I’ll never do that. That’s just not me”? Have you surprised yourself?

Let me know in the comments. I really want to read these.

PS – here’s the video of me getting my ass kicked. Spoiler alert: I win the fight. You jerks.

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Daniel DiPiazza
@Rich20Something

Daniel is the founder and CEO of Rich20Something. A millennial business mastermind, he has successfully started three consecutive freelance businesses and scaled them to over $100K in revenue with zero startup capital. His work is regularly featured in Time Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fox News, and Yahoo! Business. His debut book, Rich20Something, publishes on May 2, 2017.

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