Can I change who I am?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

For so long I’ve really felt like I couldn’t define myself, and it contributed to depersonalization and other problems. Now looking at it I see it’s not that i can’t define myself, it’s that my definition of myself is the opposite of what i want to be. I am cautious, yet want to be adventurous, anxious, yet want to be mellow, inflexible while wanting to be adaptive, realistic while wanting the ambition realism cannot support, isolative and self-supporting while I’d rather be reliant on people if it meant i’d be social, and more. I know who i am, i know who i want to be, but the only things left uncontradicted are not any thing important. Can I change who I am to fit how I want to be, and if so, please aid me with a detailed description of how it is even possible. I really need this. If it means anything, self esteem also plays a big part.

A: You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought. Good for you! All things are possible — including reinventing yourself. I can’t give you a full program in a forum like this one but I can give you a few ways to get started.

  1. Don’t underestimate the things you think are unimportant. Everyone has to start somewhere. The qualities that are solid (what you called “uncontradictable”) form a base to work from. They may seem minor to you but they do provide a foundation for what you build next.

  2. Do work on that self-esteem. It’s hard to do a self-improvement program if you don’t appreciate your own good qualities. I suggest you find at least a couple things each day to appreciate about yourself. Positives produce more positives. It’s a fact.
  3. Choose the two or three changes you want most to make. Think hard about what someone would be like who has those qualities. Picture yourself doing them. Picture it in detail. Would you stand, sit, or walk differently? Would you change anything about the way you dress or present yourself in the world? Would you need to know more about something? Got the picture? Now – act as if you were already there. Do it as much as you can for at least three weeks, maybe four. This is like trying on a new pair of jeans to see if they fit. Act “as if” until you either feel comfortable in the new role or you decide that maybe it isn’t what you had in mind after all.

In case you’re skeptical: These things really do work. Give it a try.

If you don’t have a good support system, you might also want to get into therapy for awhile in order to have someone in your corner to talk to and to get feedback from. It never hurts to have some unqualified support when we’re trying to do something challenging.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Can I change who I am?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/27/can-i-change-who-i-am/