How I found my true self by spending time as someone else.

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In my last post I mentioned that I struggled academically during my earlier years at school.

I was at an English private boarding school from age 8 to 12. Not a fun place to be, particularly if you’re shy and have zero self-confidence.

At that particular school, after the first couple of years, they divided everyone between three academic streams.

At the very top was the scholarship stream, followed by an academically competent stream, and at the bottom was the “don’t even bother to try harder” stream.

I was in that last stream.

I was also miles away from ever being on a school sports team. Nor was I ever going to hold any role of responsibility in the school.

I was one of those quiet, timid, underachieving, invisible kids.

That’s how my teachers saw me. It’s how my parents saw me. It’s how the other kids saw me.

That’s how I saw myself.

That was my story.

Then something happened…

Each year the school put on a Shakespeare play. Not a scene from the play. The full, complete version. So if you had a major role, you had to learn hundreds of lines. Quite the task for a bunch of kids aged 12 and under.

Anyway, when I was 11 or 12 – I can’t remember which – the play for the year was Julius Caesar.

For some reason I kept raising my hand to audition for one of the major roles. I don’t remember what motivated me to do that… because playing a big role in the annual school play was not consistent with my “story”. I was meant to be invisible.

But I’m pretty sure there was a part of me that was rebelling against that version of my story.

And the headmaster, who put on these plays each year, must have sensed something too, because he said he’d give me a try in the role of Cassius.

Shakespeare’s Cassius is a strong, powerful man. The absolute opposite of who I was back then.

And I do remember almost getting dumped from the role during the early rehearsals. I was being me instead of being him. Too timid, too invisible.

Something else I remember is that the big breakthrough came when I changed what I was doing physically; when I stopped stooping, and keeping my hands and arms close to my body.

Everything changed when I stood up tall, held my arms out wide and used my body with confidence. My body became the body of Cassius.

As soon as that happened, all talk of dumping me from the role ended.

Then came the first of three performances.

My parents came to watch on the first night.

They came on the second night too. And on the third.

They were more than a little surprised by the transformation they were seeing. Same with my teachers. Same with all the other pupils in the school.

Same with me.

By stepping into the role of Cassius for a while, I had found a part of him that resonated with an important but hidden part inside of myself.

Playing that role in a play was the trigger that enabled me to ditch the old story of me and create a new one.

And the transformation wasn’t just about how I felt about myself.

Within months I was in the top academic stream at the school, the scholarship stream.

I got a spot on the school’s rugby football team.

I took on roles of responsibility within the school.

The negative power of my old story had held me back.

The positive power of my new story changed everything.

I was still the same person. I hadn’t received an injection of extra brain cells or muscles.

I had simply changed my story. And in my case, I changed my story by stepping into the shoes of a character who was a great deal more powerful and confident than the old me.

That’s not the only way you can change your story for the better, but it certainly worked for me. It utterly changed my life.

Here’s the big takeaway…

Playing the role of Cassius is how I changed my story from one of underachieving to something much better.

How this happens for you will likely be very different.

But the point is, you CAN change your story.

In fact you can deliberately sit down and write out a description of the new story of you.

You can rewrite your future.

It doesn’t matter where you are at in your life right now. It doesn’t matter what age you are.

All you need do is look inside yourself and find a spot where you think, “I can do more than this!”

Take that thought and use it to rewrite the story of your own future as a freelancer.

NOTE: If you’d like some help or guidance in unpacking your past and creating a better story for yourself, check out my one-on-one coaching program for freelancers… “The New Story of You”


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5 thoughts on “How I found my true self by spending time as someone else.

  1. Nick, Good for you and for all of us. The world is being populated with great web writers because of that day. Damn, very powerful. I have changed my story but I fell back into the old role several times, too. This time it is different though. I know this is the best version of me.
    Thanks Nick!

  2. Hi Nick,

    Your story really resonated with me.

    Here’s how I changed my story.

    I went to an elite all girls school in New York. It was a day school with the same competitive atmosphere as your school.

    But I went there for 12 years, not 5.

    As I grew into my teens, I was very much the unathletic, introverted person that you were. I had few friends. Teachers and students alike had pretty much written me off.

    My release was finding the guitar at age 14. Too shy to perform, I stuck to woodshedding.

    Desperately unhappy, I was determined to change things, though I had to wait until I graduated to do that. Over a couple of years, I completely changed my personality and my appearance.

    When I waked into my twentieth reunion party, no one knew who I was. One gal, who’d been one of the “in” crowd, said “You’re beautiful!” Everyone wanted to talk with me.

    My transformation was complete.

    You CAN change your story.

  3. I’d be happy to.

    Senior year in high school was the worst. I was completely miserable, and, like you, I knew deep down I wasn’t the person that everybody thought I was.

    In addition, my parents were older and very protective. Protective to the point where it was easier to stay home and play guitar rather than explain why I wanted to go off with my friends.

    This home situation didn’t exactly make me the life of the party. No one wants to be friends with someone who can’t go places and do stuff.

    To change, I had to change my self image as well as my surroundings.

    Graduation day was the most liberating day of my life.

    After that day I knew I could be the person I wanted to be since I would no longer be held back by the girls I had known at school. I was going off to a college where no one knew me.

    It took willpower and determination – not psychologists, psychiatrists or counselors – to get over my shyness and transform myself.

    Not an easy task, to be sure, but, for me, it was a matter of survival.

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