The person I want to be is as real as the person I am.
I’ve got a sweet tooth. I love sugar; put a Twix bar in my mouth and I’m a happy guy. At least, for maybe 10 minutes until that sugar actually hits my bloodstream.
Diabetes runs in my family, and I used to be a very high risk factor for it due to my weight. Being unhappy with my overall health and wanting to live to meet my grandkids, I finally managed to get it under control. I’m happy to say I’m at a very healthy weight these days (though I’m still continuing to work on being even healthier!), and I avoid sugar almost 100%.
I would be lying if I said I was being “true to myself.” My true self loves sweets and will snack himself into the grave in about 5 years.
Here’s another thing I’m very proud of: when I was much younger I was absolutely filled with a seething, ungodly rage. I didn’t have exactly what you’d call a “temper;” I didn’t fly off the handle easily or anything. Rather, I let things push me into very dark grudges that came out in very unpleasant ways and were hard to put back into the box once they escaped. I didn’t go off easily, but when I did it was bad. I’m very happy to say that’s not the way I operate any more – I’ve never once raised my voice in anger at my children, I haven’t let my mind wander into indulgent revenge fantasies in a decade or more, and so on.
But that’s not being true to myself. My true self is a horrible little gremlin who will magnify the tiniest slight and allow the wound in my heart to fester until it blacks out all reason.
I could go on and on. Horrible flaws too numerous to count. Each time, in order to overcome them, at some point I had to just drink the Kool-Aid and say “even though it’s a lie, it’s a lie that I want to be true – I am not that person anymore.”
I know that’s weird advice, but sometimes you have to start by just lying to yourself. Because who you are isn’t a deeper truth than who you want to be.
You aren’t any “thing.” There are a long series of actions you’ve performed in the past, but that isn’t you. To an outside observer, it may be a predictor of your future behavior, but that’s only because statistically most people don’t change that dramatically. But statistics aren’t destiny. If even one person in a million can do something, then that one person can be you.
And it starts with saying that it is. Whether you believe it or not in your “true heart” or whatever garbage that is, you have to start by looking in the mirror and saying that you are not a slave to the pattern of your prior actions.
Some people might say, “sure, I can change my eating habits and my anger management and whatever else, but you have to stay true to your core values.”
Hogwash. Maybe your core values are garbage and you should change them!
Christian Picciolini’s “core values” were Be A Nazi. Those are bad core values! And then he changed them, and that’s way better.
Saying you have to “be true to yourself” is one of the most insidious forms of status quo bias. It’s giving more weight to your current beliefs than any other set, just because they’re your current beliefs. Don’t do that. Assume, at every point, that you can do better.
With your thoughts. With your actions. With your behaviors, your goals, and especially your values. Improve them and sharpen them. I have what I believe to be good values that make the world in general a better place. But I’m humble enough to recognize: so did Christian Picciolini. Maybe I’m wrong. And so I live to those values, but I also test them by listening to others, being open-minded, looking for the smartest people that I disagree with and seeing if they’ll talk to me.
All that, and no sugar. To thine better self, pursue.