Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (go read it if you haven’t already—it’s a fantastic book) discusses why wrapping up your behavior into your identity and then consequently trying to change yourself can be very detrimental.
Here’s the problem with using the word “change:” it gets your identity involved. And when you get your identity involved, you become really emotionally attached to imaginary things. You throw fits and beat yourself up and blame others and decide that you are, in fact, a worthless piece of shit who has no hope in this world.
I have definitely fallen into this trap (probably more often and regularly than I want to admit). But the solution is simple: stop trying to reinvent “who you are” and just change your actions, one at a time.
The trick to quitting smoking (or to changing any habit) is to recognize that your identity—that elaborate mental framework you devised in your mind and labeled “me”—doesn’t actually exist. It is arbitrary. It is a facade. And it can be raised or dropped at will. You are not a smoker. You are a person who chooses to smoke. You are not a night person. You are a person who chooses to be active at night and sleep through the morning. You are not unproductive. You are a person who currently chooses to do things that do not feel useful. You are not unloveable. You are a person who currently feels unloved.
And changing these actions is as simple as... changing your actions. One action at a time. Forget labeling it. Forget social accountability (in fact, research has found that sharing goals with others can often backfire). Forget making a big hoo-ha-ha about who you are or what you are or what the fucking Pope thinks about you.