Creating an Alter Ego to Boost Your Self-Confidence

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Alter Ego Effect" by Todd Herman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you go about creating an alter ego? What traits should your alter ego have?

In The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman says you should construct an alter ego that will rise to the challenge in high-stakes moments. There are four steps to doing this, including giving your alter ego an origin story and a powerful name.

Find out how to create an alter ego so you can live out a better version of yourself.

Step 1: Decide on an Alter Ego

By creating an alter ego, you decide which traits you want to bring to bear in the high-stakes moments of your chosen realm of life. These can be strengths, skills, behaviors, beliefs, values, attitudes, posture, style of speech, mannerisms, and so on. If you struggle to pinpoint traits, you can also ask yourself: “Who do I look up to in this realm of my life and what qualities do they possess?” 

Then, ask yourself who has these traits, continues Herman. This will be your alter ego. It can be a superhero, human (alive or dead, real or fictional, stranger or familiar), animal, object, machine, or anything else you feel an emotional connection to. You can even create a composite alter ego, drawing on the qualities you admire in various people or things. For instance, if you want to display the traits of generosity, strength, and honesty in your business life, you might choose the alter ego of Eleanor Roosevelt. If you want to be a speedy, inexhaustible force in your life as a marathon runner, your alter ego might be a cheetah.

Herman adds that the most important aspect of your alter ego is your emotional connection to it. If you don’t feel deeply and emotionally attached to it, it won’t have the power to propel you to the next level in high-stakes moments, warns Herman. 

Step 2: Name Your Alter Ego

Your next job of creating an alter ego is naming it, writes Herman. Again, the most important thing is that the name has emotional resonance for you and reflects the qualities in your alter ego. Consider incorporating a descriptor into your name (for instance, “Sharon Lightning”) or a reference to the real person, animal, or object your alter ego is based on (“Daenerys,” “The Red Panda,” or “Lucy ‘Fighter Jet’ Smith”). 

Step 3: Give Your Alter Ego an Origin Story

Now, give your alter ego an origin story that explains how they acquired their exceptional traits and the purpose and values that motivate them, writes Herman. You must give your alter ego a story, values, and purpose that drives them forward because knowing this strengthens your emotional investment in them.  

You can create an origin story from scratch or you can draw on existing stories of real or fictional people which are emotionally resonant to you, says Herman. For instance, if you’ve always found Vito Corleone’s (of The Godfather trilogy) origin story compelling, adapt that to your own alter ego. When creating the origin story, be sure it explains how the alter ego came to have its purpose and values. For instance, Vito Corleone developed the purpose of becoming powerful and wealthy and the values of honor and family because as a youth, he was often the victim of others’ illegal or extortionary behavior.)

Step 4: Attach an Object to Trigger Your Alter Ego

The final step of creating your alter ego is to find a physical object that triggers it, writes Herman. You need this because an object focuses your attention on who the alter ego is and what traits they possess, so you can take them on as an identity. A physical object also forces you to become intentional about when you bring the alter ego to the fore because you must have the object on hand and can’t simply slip into your alter ego without forethought. 

Herman adds that humans naturally attach meaning to objects, which is what makes them great triggers for slipping into your alter ego. For instance, because many adults feel teddy bears signify childishness, when you hold a teddy bear, you likely feel childish. 

The right trigger object is something that represents your alter ego and what they stand for, advises Herman. There are three types of objects for you to consider: objects that have historical significance (an inherited trophy, for example), objects that you either wear or carry with you (a special t-shirt or a photo, for instance), or something that exists in your chosen realm of life (for instance, your standing desk or a car steering wheel). 

Creating an Alter Ego to Boost Your Self-Confidence

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Alter Ego Effect summary :

  • What an alter ego is and why you should use one
  • The steps of building, shaping, and unleashing your alter ego
  • Why your alter ego is still authentically you

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

One thought on “Creating an Alter Ego to Boost Your Self-Confidence

  • September 28, 2023 at 9:43 pm

    Travel as Vikingman, the ability to travel the world with no strings attached armed with a camera / video recorder a digital sound recorder …work for for a Norwegian Company in the summer months and use their strong currency to subsidise my travels.
    It could be scaling Code fish in the stunning Lofoten Islands or as a tour guide when it gets colder elsewhere.
    Spend summer in Australia Autumn and Summer elsewhere the weather is good.
    Instead I wasted my life as a Electrician / Technician because that’s what society and my parents expected me to do…why was I not more selfish…could have written books learned to play guitar…traveled far.


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