The Identity Challenge

Changing your beliefs about your identity requires two things:

1) Determine the type of identity you want to build

2) Manifest your identity through small wins 1

Instead of thinking about the performance you want to achieve or the appearance you want to give off, I challenge you to ask yourself – what is the type of identity of a person who is attractive?

How do they view themselves?

What makes them attractive to YOU?

Underneath every behavior and appearance is some type of identity. If you want to become the person that has an attractive appearance consistently, then you should focus on investing in that identity. Think about your scorecard of success and happiness.

Although it sounds like a meaningless shift, it guides your behavior in large ways.

If I were to focus on my behavior and performance towards meeting more women, I may tell myself that I need to talk to 20 women in a week. If I don’t achieve that goal or if I get distracted, I will ultimately feel like a failure which will reinforce my low-self-esteem.

Plus focusing most of my time on impressing women is an unhealthy identity, and it is bound to oscillate your portfolio from $0 to $100 and back. You’ll never break through that barrier that will actually make you attractive.

When I think of an attractive man, I think of a man that has a few hobbies he is passionate about, dresses well, eats healthy, works out regularly, spends time with friends and family, and deliberately crafts his life. If he doesn’t like something, he asserts himself and makes it known.

He has a high-self esteem and he has the confidence to try things, despite the looming fear of failure that he feels. He is confident in himself that if he fails at something, ultimately he will be okay. This encourages him to try things like Improv, public speaking, salsa dancing, free diving, writing books, running his own business, and taking the time to explore his flaws, emotions, and vulnerabilities.

Maybe you’re out of shape and you want to invest some of your time into building up that part of your identity’s portfolio. When most people start out on a path to changing themselves, they tend to gravitate towards the approach that their life needs massive action. This is not surprising.

Intuitively, we believe we can only get massive results by massive action. This is where the PUA (Pick-Up Artist) community butchered psychology. They believed that approaching a ton of people would remove approach anxiety, which it does temporarily because it focus on performance, but over time those insecurities, anxiety, and sense of unworthiness creeps back in because you haven’t changed your identity.

This “flooding” approach to conquering social/approach anxiety is simply not effective in the long-run.

Whereas CBT (Cognitive Based Therapy), or the “exposure” method, is far more reliable in the long-run.  It builds confidence and self-esteem. This is why it is crucial to start small.

For instance, a man that works out consistently is the type of man who can become strong.

Develop the identity as someone who works out first, and then move on to increasing the behaviors and appearance. Start small and have faith that the results will come as you develop a new identity. It’s just like an investment fund. You stock 10% of your paycheck away each paycheck, and 10 years later you’ll have a pretty sizable portfolio. Our identities work in the same way.

If you want to get motivated and inspired, then join a boot camp on dating, or take a weekend seminar on “how to transform your life,” but don’t be surprised if you’re back where you started two weeks later. Instead of relying on motivation, it’s more important to become the type of person you want to be. This starts by manifesting your new identity to yourself through small wins.

Want to become sharp?

Identity: Become someone who reads a book every day.

Small win: Read five pages a day.

Want to be fit?

Identity: Become someone that never misses a workout.

Small win: Run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (notice how no distance or time is involved – no behavioral goals).

Want to be known as the person to call on the weekends?

Identity: Become someone that brings people together.

Small Win: Schedule two events a month with friends (movie night, bowling or, dancing).

What to be a rockstar?

Identity: Become the type of artist that is skilled at guitar.

Small Win: Practice a guitar for 15 minutes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

From my personal experiences and the lessons I’ve learned from James Clear, becoming better at something isn’t about getting amazing results. It’s about showing that you can make progress to yourself. Especially at first.

Beginning the path to building different aspects of your identity separates you very quickly from other people. The fact that I’ve taken an Improv class makes me stand out way more than all the bros who play flag football every Sunday. Improv is not a typical thing. It’s risky because it polarizes me from the stereotypical male, but it also signals to the girl that I am confident enough to break out of my comfort zones and try things that interest me, despite other people saying, “I couldn’t do that.”

Most people will want to become more attractive this year. Most of us, however, will focus on behavior and appearance-based goals in hopes that they will drive us to do things differently.

If you’re looking to become attractive, if you’re looking to polarize the dating market and take an active approach in building your life, then you need to stop worrying about the individual performances and results.

You need to start focusing on becoming the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve.

Invest into the foundation of a great life now. The dividends will come later.

The point in building an identity is not simply to go out and try something, but to invest your full being into it. Explore it vulnerably. If you find out you didn’t like it, at the very least you have a story and you have realized one more thing you’ll never want to do again.

Try something you’ve always wanted, polarize people’s opinions, invest in your identity, and care about it.

By themselves, words and actions mean nothing if they are not representative of your identity.

How you dress and hold yourself, what you say, and how you choose to spend your time in this life should be representative of your identity. There’s no rush. Take your time becoming the person you want to be.

We are all on this earth living and having relationships. Choose the way you want to live, embody the person you want to be, and the relationships that will make you even happier will follow.

  1. James clear formulated the – choose the identity and manifest it -through small wins-  in his Identity-Based Habits article 

Kyle Benson

Kyle Benson is an Intentionally Intimate Relationship coach providing practical, research based tools to build long-lasting relationships. Kyle is best known for his compassion and non-judgemental style and his capacity to seeing the root problem. Download the Intimacy 5 Challenge to learn where you and your partner can improve your emotional connection and build lasting intimacy.
The Identity Challenge