What does it mean to act “out of character?” In Hollywood, when an actor breaks character, it means they are acting in a way that isn’t consistent with the character they are portraying. Sometimes an actor will get so enmeshed in their role that they argue with the writers and directors proclaiming, “My character wouldn’t do this!” You may not be an actor, but I can assure you that you also have a character that you cling to and defend. If you’ve ever said, “That’s not me!” or “I could never do that,” it may be time to re-write your character so you can start to live your best life without limits and without fear.
Last week a good friend of mine couldn’t wait to tell me how proud she was for getting up early and going to the gym. “I don’t know what came over me,” she gushed, “it’s so out of character for me.” This innocuous comment illustrates both a tragedy — when you cling to a less than optimal version of yourself — and an opportunity — when you can recognize that you have the ability to break free from your own limits.
Who you have been doesn’t have to be who you are. You are not computer code, which once programmed, cannot change, grow or adapt. Your life is shaped significantly by the character you create and the story you tell yourself about the kind of person you are, what you’re capable of achieving and how you should behave.
But what happens when we desperately want a leading role, but our character has a bit part? What happens when your view of who you are actually holds you back? Is there something that would propel your life forward, but that you just can’t bring yourself to do? If so, it’s time for you to create a different story and character that embrace what you’ve been resisting.
Here are three steps to help you create a more powerful self-image:
1. Who do you think you are? You are who you think you are, so let’s find out what you think about yourself. Write down everything you can about how you think about yourself, especially any negative labels you use, such as shy, dumb, guilty, angry, etc.
2. Get real. Focus on the characteristics that are holding you back and think about them rationally. Are you really a terrible public speaker? Really? What proof do you have? Are you’re not the kind of person to get up early and exercise? Really? Are you a vampire? Do you have a medical condition that prevents you from getting your butt out of bed at 6 a.m.? Excuses often turn into habits that then create our character.
3. Create a better character. Stop being half the person you could be by creating a new character — one that does what you’re afraid to do or wouldn’t do.
What would be “out of character” for you? Standing up for yourself? Taking a risk at work? Saying no? Trusting? Questioning? Speaking up? Starting? Finishing? Becoming healthy? Staying sober? Showing up on time? Starting a company? Sticking to your guns? Reading a book? Writing a book?
The next time you find yourself saying, “I couldn’t do that, that’s just not me!” Yell, “Cut!” and re-write yourself a better character.
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