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Is It Time to Change Who You Think You Are?

Start by asking yourself what you really value.

Key points

  • When we are young we create a picture in our minds of who we are.
  • Our picture of ourselves can become a self-fulling prophecy.
  • Take time to reflect on your picture of yourself. Is it out of date?
  • Find what you really value and live accordingly.

I had a personal revelation about a decade ago when I was taking part in a workshop on personal growth. It ran over several days and involved a small group of participants getting to know each other through sharing life experiences and engaging in challenging conversations. On the final day, the facilitator asked those present to, in turn, say to the person on the right of them what positive qualities they had brought to the sessions. Everyone obliged. When the person on my left turned to me, she told me how much she appreciated my intellect, my curiosity, and my love of learning. I was pleased, as you might expect in someone who grew up with a need to do well in school. This was like a gold star for me. But then I heard someone else in the group who I admired being told that they were valued for their warmth, kindness, and compassion. It was in that moment I realized that what I thought I valued in myself was not what I really valued, at least not anymore; what I really valued were these other qualities of warmth, kindness, and compassion. Until that point, I hadn’t understood that these were more important to me, and from that moment, I was determined to cultivate these qualities in myself and make them my priority in life.

Imagine, someone you respect was to turn to you, right now, and tell you what it is about you that they admire. What do you think they might say? Now, ask yourself, what is it that you like them to say?

When we are young, we learn to paint a picture of ourselves in our minds. We carry that picture around with us for the rest of our lives, what it looks like influences everything we do, and all the decisions we make. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For years, I had put my energies into things that I thought valued to me, without taking time to stop and think about what I really valued. I’m not saying that I don’t value those things anymore, but as I had gotten older, I hadn’t fully realized how much I had changed as a person and those things that were of such value to me when I was younger were no longer my top priorities. The question above might help you to reflect on something similar in yourself, particularly important at this time of year when many of us begin to think about what is ahead and what we would like to be different in our lives.

This is an edited excerpt, Think Like a Therapist.


Stephen Joseph (2022). Think Like a Therapist: Six Life-Changing Insights for Leading a Good Life. Piatkus/ Little,Brown. London.

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