Identity precedes behavior
But you get to choose your identity. You choose who and what you’ll be. Understanding this principle is key to making positive changes in your life. If you want to live your best life, learn how identity precedes behavior.
Understand the source
You always act consistent with who you think you are. And you’ll always feel good about yourself when who you think you are is who you think you should be.
This is self esteem, how well your self image (how you see yourself) matches your self ideal (how you think you should be). When you live up to what you think you should be, how you see yourself matches how you think you should be, yielding high self esteem. Conversely, when you see yourself very differently than what you think you should be, your self image and your self ideal don’t match. That mismatch creates a dissonance you feel as low self esteem.
Matches don’t require exactness. You don’t need to see yourself exactly as you idealize yourself. You can see yourself as mostly there and have a healthy self esteem provided you forgive yourself for coming up short. Lacking that forgiveness leads to a rigid disposition that prevents a robust sense of mental health. As in other areas of life, you don’t need perfect, just good enough.
Understand the choice
Understanding these ideas sets the stage for positive change. But to effect that change, you need to add agency into the mix.
You choose whether or not you have self-esteem. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter how well your self image matches your self ideal. That’s not the way it works. We’re all built to operate based on the match between our self image and our self ideal. But you can choose your self ideal. And you can choose to bridge whatever gap exists between your self image and your self ideal.
Our culture hands us norms that we then adopt in constructing our self ideal. For many singles, for example, that includes being married by a certain age. If you aren’t married by then, it’s easy to get down on yourself because your self image (seeing yourself as single) doesn’t match your self ideal (you should be married by now). Low self esteem leads to feeling worthless, and you won’t think any effort worthwhile when you see yourself as worthless.
But you can choose your self ideal, one that doesn’t necessitate being married by a certain age. And you can choose to bridge the gap by taking action — learn the fundamentals of the dating journey and then change yourself to become more agreeable to a potential partner.
Make your choice
When it comes to bridging the gap, Christ is the ultimate bridge builder. His Atonement allows all to cross the chasm between how we see ourselves in mortality and what we can be in the eternities. Christ can help you achieve your greatest potential.
He does this by transforming you inside, effectively changing your identity. He lifts your vision towards a higher standard and provides strength to lift your performance to match that standard. In essence, he changes your self image to match a higher self ideal.
In contrast, the world would have us lower our standards to match lower performance. Rejecting covenant living may appease the natural man and woman, but only covenant living yields the fulfillment of eternal growth. Settling for low performance always invites a medium of mediocrity. Christ wants to raise us out of that mire into a more glorious state of being.
We all want positive change in life, but you won’t act inconsistent with how you see yourself. Identity precedes behavior. So partner with the Lord and let Him lift your self image to eternal heights and strengthen you to do the daily tasks your positive change requires. Laying your daily brick will eventually result in the very fine structure that is your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
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Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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