“One day a scorpion was trying to cross a stream. He saw a frog and said, “What a good way to cross the stream.” He called out to the frog, ‘Mr. frog, I’m a scorpion, and I need to get across to my family on the other side. Would you be willing to let me ride on your back across to the other side. It’s the only way I can get across.’ The frog looked at him and said, ‘Well, uh, I don’t think so.’ The scorpion said, ‘How come?’ The frog replied, ‘Well, you’re a scorpion. Scorpions sting frogs. I’d get halfway across there, and you’d sting me, and I’d die.’
The scorpion looked at him and said, ‘Oh, Mr. frog, you’re not thinking with your little frog brain. If I stung you, I’d kill you, but I’d drown too. I wouldn’t do that — I’d be killing myself.’ The frog looked at him and said, ‘That is true…okay.’ The frog let the scorpion on his back and started making his way across the stream, and, about halfway across, sure enough, the scorpion stings him.
The frog can’t believe it! As they’re both going down, the frog turns to the scorpion and says, ‘I can’t believe you did this! Why’d you do this? I’m dying, but you’re going to die, too! Why!?’ And the scorpion said, ‘Because I’m a scorpion, and that’s what scorpions do — they sting frogs.’”
This story is great because it represents how self-perceived identities must remain consistent with the behavior of the individual. If, deep down, someone sees himself or herself as a person who doesn’t take risks, doesn’t try new things, or doesn’t feel confident, do you think his or her behavior will be affected by those beliefs?
Of course, it will. That person will rarely take risks, rarely try to experience new things, and rarely be confident enough to ever accomplish anything worthwhile. We all make mistakes. It’s okay to feel stupid at times, do something outrageous, not always feel completely confident, or to procrastinate. No one’s perfect.
But when you start thinking you can’t do anything right, you’ll never get the job, the career, or the life you really want. When you allow your beliefs about who you are affect your behavior, you will find it nearly impossible to change your set ways.
Once you define yourself as being a certain way, your behavior will reflect that identity.
So the tough kid on campus has to always act and talk tough because he sees himself as being tough, and so does everyone else. If, all of a sudden, he started acting like a shy and timid child, the other kids would be confused. “That’s the tough kid. He’s supposed to act tough, talk tough, be tough.” His behavior would no longer match his identity, and, eventually, he will lose that identity. We all have self-perceived identities — how we see ourselves — and identities that are given to us from our peers.
This is how stereotypes are created. When someone describes you in a way that is not how you perceive yourself, you should ask yourself why. Perhaps your behavior is not matching how you see yourself. You must go from wanting to be a certain way to actually being who you want to be. It’s all in your head.
If you are a drug addict, an alcoholic, a smoker, or an unhealthy, overweight person, more than likely, you define yourself that way. When you try to stop, you are trying to stop the behavior, but you have not changed your identity. So you will always be a drug addict, an alcoholic, a smoker, or an overweight person who is simply trying to stop. Your identity will always conflict with your behavior because you’re trying to be someone you’re not.
“Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true.”
— Brian Tracy