Restrictive self-concept is a mind trap

March 17, 2015

Perhaps at some time in your life, you have been in a theatrical play and noticed how each person has a different role—actors, set construction workers, lighting crew, makeup and costume designers, and, of course, the director. It’s the director’s job to make sure everyone follows his or her plan.

Isn’t that the way we sometimes approach life? I know I do. We act as though our self-concept is that of a stage director. We want people to change and live according to our standards, so we can feel more comfortable and have some semblance of control over things.

Maybe it is time to take a step back and reevaluate. What price do you pay for all this backstage directing? How does it affect your stress levels? Maybe if you were to stop trying to change everyone around you, your stress would decrease significantly.  

People who have played the director role for a long time might have actually incorporated that role into their self-concept. Typically, people are uncomfortable stepping outside their self-concepts because to do so would be to leave their comfort zone. This unwillingness to change results in clinging to roles that feel comfortable simply because they are familiar.

Any time those familiar roles are challenged, it leads to resistance because it invokes unpleasant emotions. How much better it would be to let go of those dysfunctional roles and transcend into a healthier self-concept that can adapt to the changes of life.

In most cases, what you desire about a stable self-concept is consistency. However, consistency does not equal stability. After all, you can consistently screw up, but that doesn’t make you more stable.

Since you almost always become defensive when someone challenges your self-concept, the solution seems obvious: Let go of all your self-concepts and just be. Drop all the labels you wear and focus on being authentic. Be real.

It is also beneficial to drop all your labels for other people. Trying to make someone fit your preconceived ideas of them is destructive for relationships of any kind. When it comes right down to it, we have less control over others than we would like to think—and I mean far less!

We cannot control what other people choose to do, their personality characteristics, or what path they choose in life. Many a controlling parent learns this lesson the hard way when their children turn out to be unique individuals rather than parental replicas.

The plus side is that letting go of your preconceived notions is the simplest way to get closer to others. You learn to accept others for who they really are instead of trying to make them be what you want.

The downside is that your mind wants to not have anything go wrong. Your mind wants everything and everyone to be happy. This can lead to playing the dysfunctional role of the people-pleaser. We cannot please everyone nor can we go through life constantly worried about offending someone.

In the end, being a people-pleaser is counterproductive because you need to change who you are to be the person they want you to be. This is not a healthy way to foster friendships and have a positive effect on peoples’ lives.

The solution to most problems in life is to view the situation objectively instead of trying to be the director. Once you take on the role of the director, you get tangled up in a power struggle for control. That’s a losing battle because there is no way to win in the long run.

Today’s Loving Suggestion: When you are upset because things are not going your way, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Don’t ask, “How can I direct this situation?” Instead, be the learner. Just enjoy learning from whatever experience you are in at the present moment. And, for God’s sake, relax!

If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.

The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.

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