Structured Self vs. Fluid Self: How Fear Drives Us to Cling to Negative Identities
It’s not unusual for us to try to control our way to happiness. If we’re lucky, we eventually figure out that it doesn’t work.
You can’t white-knuckle your way through life and be genuinely happy. But the need to control, especially when it comes to food and body, goes so much deeper. Often we cling to identities that make us feel bad because we’re truly afraid of what will happen if we let go or give up control. This is the concept of structured self vs. fluid self.
What is Structured Self?
Your structured self is the identity of who you think you need to be. This is a false identity that can evolve over time, and it’s usually based on beliefs that aren’t even yours. For example, when you were younger, you mother may have always described you to others (while you were present) as “so shy and timid.” But you weren’t, you just adopted that persona because that’s who you thought you needed to be for your mother to love and accept you.
You are limited by operating from your structured self.
What is Fluid Self?
Whereas your fluid self is when you recognize what feels good to you in the moment and go with the flow and make decisions from that place. When you operate from this space, you are not afraid or resistant to letting go of control. You do not agonize over the potential for judgment or rejection.
The more you can allow yourself to be fluid, the easier it is for you to make choices that are in pure alignment with what you truly want.
Shifting from Structured Self to Fluid Self
So how do you shift from structured self to fluid self? First, you need to stop identifying with false beliefs about yourself.
Instead of thinking, “I am lonely,” shift that belief to, “I am experiencing loneliness.” This allows you to be separate from the behavior. Do not own beliefs or behaviors; just observe them. This will help to create a feeling of freedom that allows you to hone in on how you really want to feel and be.
Back at the height of my eating disorder, one of my false beliefs was, “I can’t eat like a normal person.” I identified with this false belief for so long. But once I was able to put some space between it and myself, I began to see change.
I did this by shifting into observance mode and telling myself, “I am just struggling with food right now.” And then I thought about the new intention I wanted to create around this struggle. I went with, “Using food for health and hunger comes easy to me.”
I focused all of my energy on that new belief and how I wanted to feel – liberated and at peace with food. And eventually, I got to that place.
Anchor in a Feeling and Intention
It’s super important to anchor in a feeling and intention in order to shift to fluidity. Ask yourself: What is the feeling that I want to embody?
Remember – your brain can’t tell the difference between a feeling that is caused by an actual experience, or by something you’re visualizing.-Samantha Skelly
Really give yourself time to reflect on that. Visualize how you want to feel and how this feeling and intention would cause you to live your life. If your intention is something like having a healthy relationship with food, then you would visualize using food for health and hunger without a lot of anxiety or energy expenditure. It would just be easy and natural. You wouldn’t obsess over calories in/calories out or anything of that nature.
Make sure to put an emphasis on the visceral feeling you want to feel, and allow yourself to image experiencing that. Remember – your brain can’t tell the difference between a feeling that is caused by an actual experience, or by something you’re visualizing.
Another way to live your life from a place of the fluid self is to be more present. No reliving the past or worrying about the future. To go with the flow of fluidity, you need to be grounded in the present moment. That is how you will be able to take inventory of what actually feels good to you, which will in turn help you make decisions that align with who you are and how you want to show up in your life.
It’s Time to Live Differently
Living in a more fluid way does not come easy for everyone. It can be scary to break away from routine and let go of control. In those moments when your fear around this is heightened, take a step back and ask yourself:
“What is worse – letting go of control and seeing what will happen, or grappling with control to the extent that I’m constantly unhappy?”
If you’ve been trying to control your life up until this point, and you’re thoroughly unhappy, isn’t it time to live life differently?
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