Beating your self-criticism is as easy as recreating yourself using a ‘faux self’.
He was born bi-racial and he unabashedly represents both: Samoan and African-American. He’s a third generation wrestler, too. A part of his history that he is also unashamed to represent. He is now a cultural icon. Yet, his current career is miles away from where he intended to be.
In college, he played for The U as a defensive lineman. When he was playing, life was good. When he was injured, he learned a hard lesson. The team went on without him. He started losing his identity. He went into a depression, using drugs, and drinking heavily before he fought his way out of the emotional pain that he was subjecting himself to endure. He still had dreams of making it to the NFL.
When he wasn’t drafted, he moved hundreds of miles away from home and his future wife to chase his dream of becoming a pro football player. He figured he’d have to make a name for himself in the CFL before he made it to the NFL. His dreams were dashed again when he was cut from the team.
He’d tried and failed. And, all he had to show for it was some game films and $7. At 23, he moves back to his father’s home where he decides to reinvent himself. He enlists the help of his father to teach him how to succeed as a wrestler. His father worked him hard. Yelled at him to toughen him up. He pushed him to reach into himself and pull out what it would take to make a name for himself.
A few years later, every wrestling fan knew the People’s Eyebrow and his catchphrase: “Can you smellllllll what the Rock is cooking?” The Rock’s story
Outside of the hard work, determination, and big goals, what do you believe is a key factor in Dwayne Johnson becoming the superstar that he is today?
I believe it has a lot to do with his alter ego. Not just because it was the character he portrayed in the ring. It’s because of the character that he created that he became the person that he is. He’s not the only athlete or entertainer to use an alter ego to perform at a top level on the field (more on them later).
Maybe you’ve heard of the idea of alter egos. Have you created one for yourself yet? It’s not reserved for actors, singers, athletes, and marketing ploys. It’s a way for you to step into your highest performing self without having to take a shot of vodka first (or whiskey or tequila if you’re a real man) or down a glass of red wine (for the ladies).
You know I don’t participate in either anymore. Those were my go-to… let’s call them accelerants when I needed some liquid courage. I gave those things up but I still needed the courage. My solution was to reinvent ‘Fortune’. He is my own version of “The Rock”. He’s one of my alter egos.
“The opposite of courage is conformity.” – Earl Nightingale
Now, before you start calling me crazy, let me set the story straight. I am. I’m a little bit crazy (if it’s possible to be a little crazy). Being different from everyone else is also the reason why I’ve been able to separate myself from the crowd. My weirdness and craziness:
- Afforded me the opportunity to write (and publish) my first book. That was crazy.
- Afforded me the chance to begin my speaking career by announcing to the world that I am a recovering addict, served nine months in jail, and have a record. That was crazy.
- Afforded me the chance to be who I am and allow God to use me as He sees fit regardless of how the world tells me that I should be. That is totally crazy.
It’s also called courage. I don’t conform well…
Unless I’m being Dwight. Dwight likes to fly under the radar and keep to himself. He’s content with reading his books, watching a good flick (action, comedy, or love story), and being around the people he cares about most. Dwight likes to eat healthy, maintain his physical appearance, and watch people from the corner of the room.
That’s who I am. That person is nice. People like him. He’s also forgettable. So, I created another version of myself, an alter ego, to get the things that I wanted. When I reflected on the importance of having an alter ego, I came up with three characteristics that make it so influential in my life:
- lifts you or levels you
- creation of your own making
- fake it until you take it
The rest of this article goes into each characteristic. At the end, you’ll learn how to create your own because I will have persuaded you to believe in the importance and the opportunities that abound from having tapped into another source of power within. To think, this article began because of a dolled up plastic person…
Lifts You or Levels You
“It’s like a mannequin. ‘I call her Vicious Bitch.‘” – Andrea Owen
I was listening to a hilarious audiobook, 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life, when I heard the narrator say those lines. I immediately perked up. I don’t know if it was the overt language or because I have known a few of those in my life that caused me to listen to this particular section of the audio five or six times. Something about what Andrea describes struck a nerve in me.
I couldn’t let it go for a few days. I stopped listening to the audio while I chewed on this fat meat for a bit.
She was referencing perfectionism and how it robs you of the good you can do in your life. As she states
My sabotuer is a vicious bitch to me. In my mind she looks like a manequin would, perfect hair, skin, and make up, perfectly thin with no flaws. On display. She is also empty inside. She tells me my world will fall apart at any moment, and to brace myself for it. She wears a smug expression. She tells me I need to be thinner, stronger, younger, in better shape, a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, a better everything. And never, ever, let them see you cry. She used to tell me I’m not good at anything, so why try?
What struck me is that the saboteur is a construct of your mind. It is your ego trying to protect you from doing something dangerous like break free of mediocrity, start your own coaching business, or tell your boss his services are no longer needed. This is also the voice that pops up to tell you that you are an impostor.
It’s hard to look people in the face and tell them that you can help them change their life when you have that nagging voice of your father telling you that you won’t amount to crap. Or that counselor in junior high that told you that you should focus on getting a vocational skill.
In essence, you have created an evil alter ego. Yes, your brain is designed for survival. It doesn’t want you to rock the status quo boat. (See what I did there?) It typically isn’t strong enough to stop you from doing what you want to do, though. Does it?
It’s only when it’s something that’s way outside of the status quo that you hear another voice that is loud and rude. It says, “No! No! No!” to everything. And, it’s a voice that you have created. Whether you consciously created it or allowed to be created from negligence doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is there and it is pushing you down to a level that your heart is telling you that you’ve graduated from.
The good news is that the same strategy is a route to your success. You have to purposely do it, though. You must create a super alter ego. (The word ‘super’ is for effect and not necessary.) An article from Athletics Weekly provides an example of the before and after of another alter ego user. “Assuming the role of McGinty allowed me to get out of my own way and to be the athlete I knew I could be,” Lesley Paterson says.
Get out of your own way and be. That sounds like a great idea but how do you do it? Well, let’s take a look…
A Creation of Your Own Making
As if I didn’t have enough issues finding myself in high school, it was my father’s grand idea to get some more culture into me by sending me by convincing me to go to an HBCU (Historically Black College and University). It was a great idea! I really didn’t know who I was. And, it was there that I found another piece of my identity puzzle. Until I graduated…
Then, I became another black male with a head full of book knowledge, a desire to become something great, and no idea of who I was to the world. My identity up to that point was collegiate-athlete. I left that on the stage when I took a pic in front of my peers with my left hand holding my diploma and my right loosely grasping the dean’s hand.
If I was no longer a college student and I was no longer an athlete, then who am I?
I began my journey while working for the government as a staff accountant. I enjoyed the job and the people. Eventually, the job became a bore and I came for the people. Then, my new supervisor made it her mission to have me work at my job and not socialize. The nerve of some people! I mean, what the hell?!
There’s one more detail I want to share with you before introducing you to “Arlando”, my first alter ego. In the shelf above my desk were three books: Webster’s Dictionary, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), and Success Runs in Our Race (George Fraser). I read the third book and it changed my perspective on working for someone. (I eventually met George Fraser at an event for Black CEO’s.) I had to change my image but I didn’t know how.
A few years later and a lot of run-ins with the police for alcohol or drug-related stuff, I find myself back in Indy trying to rebuild my life. I took a job serving at Maggiano’s Little Italy. It is here that where I created my first alter ego. I couldn’t take the brash-I’m-more-intelligent-than-you ego into the restaurant and serve people. So, I created “Arlando” to represent me.
“Arlando” was a cool sounding name for an Italian restaurant (and it was easier for my Spanish speaking peers to pronounce). “Arlando” was fun, entertaining, and easy to talk to. He loved everything about the restaurant and hospitality. His uniform was always pressed. His shoes shined. And, his smile broad. He was a little flirtatious and grateful for all gratuity. He knew how to sell food and alcohol and made a habit of giving all guests in the restaurant a ‘dining experience’ they would enjoy.
“Arlando” made me a lot of money. Dwight was still ambitious, though. I wanted more. When I left the restaurant, I hustled. There were moves to make and properties to buy. Dwight took over when I walked out the door and during slow hours in the restaurant. I’d talk about personal development and getting wealthy with anyone willing to listen. As I focused more on my real estate hustle, I spent less time as “Arlando” and put him to rest when I left.
For the next decade, I was lost. I would be all types of things to all types of people. I became more of a chameleon than a person. The day I decided that I was a druggie was the day that I adopted the alter ego “Fortune”. It started as a cool name for street hustles. And, evolved into a full persona.
“Fortune” could lie, cheat, and steal. He could manipulate and con. He wasn’t afraid of going into dope houses and talking directly to the main man. He was okay with having women trade favors for money, dope, and whatever else was needed. He wore suits even when he was hustling to appear as a high-class hustler. He trusted no one and everyone. He did what he said he would do. He was a gentleman and ruthless if needed.
“Fortune” served my needs on the streets until he landed me in jail. That’s when “The Profess’rr” emerged. “The Profess’rr” was a name given to me by some of the younger inmates who sought me out to help them with ‘smart’ stuff. There were math problems that needed solving and papers to write. Then, there were passages of scripture that needed translating.
“The Profess’rr” is all about self-study and teaching. He studies himself so that he can give more to others. He reads and he writes. He speaks and he trains. He is kind but not nice. And, he always answers when called. “This sounds like a job for… THE PROFESS’RR!!” (Yes, that’s how they called me.)
My first couple of alter egos began as ways of fitting in and keeping my true self hidden. They morphed over time – changing and adapting to my circumstances. When I started coaching, I purposely created an alter ego to overcome my fear of failure and impostor syndrome. (More on the new and improved version in a bit.)
I wanted to make it a process that I was in control of and that served me. I had to be intentional. You know that overly critical voice in your head that tries to sabotage all of your hard work? You created it. At least, you allowed it to take residence in your head and take control of your behavior. Today, you create a version of true self that will #makeithappen!
These are the five steps to creating your alter ego as I’ve noticed from my research and my own experience:
- Attributes – what characteristics do you want to embody? what about yourself do you want to accentuate and make stronger?
- Look-alike – how does it behave and look? how does it walk and talk? how does think and interact with people?
- Title & Tale – give it a name that befits it. create a backstory that helped shape it.
- Elicit – choose a trigger for your transition into its identity. choose a word/phrase, object, article of clothing/jewelry.
- Repeat – use it in the situations that you designed it for until you embody it
Fake It Until You Take It
“Fake it until you make it. Act is if you had all the confidence you require until it becomes your reality.” – Brian Tracy
I still go by “Fortune” in my business. It’s how I introduce myself. If you think about the original version of “Fortune”, you’re probably wondering why. My reason is that he has all of the qualities that I need to be successful in business… minus the manipulation and deceit. The point here is that your alter ego can evolve.
I took “Fortune” through my process and refocused his intentions, ambitions, and behaviors. He is the one that allows me to be outgoing and outspoken without being timid. I don’t have much trouble speaking with people. My challenge is with voicing my opinion, not being a pushover, and letting people use me. “Fortune” does not let that happen. He loves people, is kind, and doesn’t take people’s crap.
Ahh, the joys of being the person that I was designed to be. The new and improved “Fortune” is an example of the Goldilocks Theory. He is not too brash. He is not a wimp. He’s juuust enough of each. And, the best part… over time I have begun to take on more of his personality like my own.
When you create your alter ego, remember that you don’t necessarily make up a new character. You already have these abilities within you or you wouldn’t be able to act them out and, eventually, possess them wholly. Your alter ego fleshes out the extraordinary characteristics and personality that you were given at birth. You were born a king/queen.
Just as Beyonce ‘killed off’ Sasha Fierce (“the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage”), you will eventually diminish and possibly do the same with your alter ego as you begin to incorporate what you need into your own personality.
Take what you need. Leave the rest. This is your choice. Who do you want to be? What areas of your personality or behavior do you want to change for the bettering of your life?f It’s not about what others want.
You have to be in control of your alter ego. Pay attention to how it affects your life and your relationships. Lesley Paterson’s husband said his wife’s alter ego is hard to live with and scary as hell. When he spoke with her about it, she made a point of transitioning out of her alter ego into herself as wife and mom before she arrives home.
CALL TO ACTION:
The idea of an alter ego is not new. We all wear different hats. This is a similar concept. Often, we haven’t decided how we are going to act when we change hats. Those ‘characters’ morph with time. Now, you have a simple process that gives you control of how you show up in the different areas of your life.
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