Lately, I’ve been thinking about that thing we call our identity. Some people call it “ego,” but the name you give it doesn’t really matter. Identity can be boiled down to all the thoughts and beliefs you have about who you are.
We take for granted the fact that we are someone, someone who has certain abilities, traits, weaknesses, needs, and so on.
Identity is the way we think about ourselves and about others. The world is full of people, and each of us has a clear set of personality traits that define us. We believe that they define us as solidly as a rock.
But, what if they don’t?
Remember when you were taught in school about atoms and electrons and how they were like little planets that rotated around a nucleus and formed all the objects around us? I believed that was the way matter was actually conformed. I believed it was exactly like that.
Then, one day, I found out that what I was taught about atoms and electrons is called a “model,” or a way to represent reality. What I’d learned was just a representation that fulfilled all the laws of physics known at that moment and made it easier for us to learn and understand those laws.
But a representation is not reality in the same way a map is not the territory it represents.
The model of atoms and electrons was useful until the laws of quantum physics made it obsolete. Thus, a new model was created.
This new model is supposed to represent reality more accurately, but it’s still not reality; it’s just a model.
Now, as this relates to identity: just as we were told in school that matter was formed by atoms and electrons, we’ve been told that we are persons. However, this is just another model. It’s not reality.
How do I know? Because our brain works with models, not with reality. It cannot grasp reality because it is beyond its scope of comprehension. The same is true of your face: you cannot see it with your own eyes, thus you need a mirror. Your brain cannot see reality directly, thus it needs a model to “see” reality. You trust the mirror, hoping that it reflects how your face as it really is. In the same way, you trust your models to represent reality.
But remember: your reality is just a model.
Knowing that all that you think about yourself is not as solid as you previously believed may make you feel a little uncomfortable. At least, that’s what happens to me when one of my fundamental beliefs is broken apart. It feels like the ground shakes under my feet.
However, if you think about it deeply enough, it’s not such a bad thing that what we experience is not as solid as a rock or an unchangeable reality. It’s just a model, and models are changeable.
You can adjust these models, play with them when life doesn’t feel “right.” Every adjustment will make you feel different.
The adjustments you make regarding who you believe you are (your identity) will have the biggest impact on how you feel.
So, challenge your models when you find yourself struggling with something. Challenge them especially when you’re having a hard time. Those feelings are not telling you anything about reality; rather, they’re telling you that it’s time to move on to a new model of yourself.