How to Be Your Best Self: Bring Out Your Alter Ego

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.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

What’s the key to being your best self? How can you use an alter ego to be more confident and successful?

An alter ego is a science-backed tool that lets you adopt the traits, behaviors, and demeanor of a person who excels in a particular realm of your life. In The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman gives a step-by-step guide to bringing out your alter ego so you can live to your fullest potential.

Continue reading to learn how to be your best self.

Step 1: Decide How You Want to Change

The first step of learning how to be your best self is to determine what behavioral and mental changes you want to make in a particular realm of your life. This larger step is broken down into three sub-steps:

  1. Choose a realm of your life to focus on
  2. Set three types of goals
  3. Determine your motivating purpose

Step 2: Identify Your Inner Nemesis and Its Forms

Now that you’ve set your purpose-driven goals, your next step is to identify the inner nemesis preventing you from achieving them, writes Herman. Your inner nemesis is a cluster of negative thoughts and beliefs that keep you from rising to the challenge in high-stakes moments. 

(Shortform note: Both Herman and Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass, frequently personify mental states and processes. For Herman, your “inner nemesis” consists of negative thoughts, and for Sincero, negative thoughts are created by “the Big Snooze” (the part of you that needs validation to tame your insecurities). Both authors’ use of personification to explain otherwise complicated and unwieldy principles is effective because humans tend to naturally personify things anyway.)

Your inner nemesis can appear in a single form or in a combination of forms to prevent you from doing your best: imposter syndrome, inner wounds, and self-created stories.

Step 3: Build Your Alter Ego

Now that you’ve identified the inner nemesis that currently prevents you from rising to the challenge in high-stakes moments, let’s move on to constructing the alter ego that will rise to the challenge in high-stakes moments. There are four sub-steps to doing this:

  1. Decide on an alter ego
  2. Name your alter ego
  3. Give your alter ego an origin story
  4. Attach an object to trigger your alter ego

Step 4: Turn on Your Alter Ego

To use your alter ego, determine how specifically you’ll wield your trigger object to turn on your alter ego. You must have a simple, repeatable action that officially signals the assumption of your alternate identity. 

You’re best served by finding an action that, for you, “releases” your alter ego, proposes Herman. This might be donning the object if it’s wearable, touching or opening the object, or a more elaborate action (many athletes have multi-step routines that enable them to trigger their alter ego). 

Step 5: Give Your Alter Ego a Hidden Weapon

You’ve just learned how to turn on your alter ego. Now, let’s discuss what to do when even your alter ego faces unforeseen challenges: Give your alter ego a hidden weapon. According to Herman, your inner nemesis may even attack your alter ego, leading to doubt and the resurfacing of negative self-created stories. For example, if, when you’re giving a speech, your audience protests what you’re saying, even your alter ego Michelle Obama might allow the inner nemesis to sow seeds of doubt in her abilities. 

When this happens, use your hidden weapon: Reaffirm your best self’s strengths, values, and abilities, insists Herman. Do this as yourself or as your alter ego, either by 1) talking back to your inner nemesis, which allows you to dismiss the critical self-talk and return to the activity, or 2) by saying a self-affirming phrase that reinforces that you deserve to be doing what you’re doing. 

In the case of your speech, you might tell your inner nemesis: “You don’t get to tell me I’m not good at this. Go bother someone else (talking back). I’m a competent orator, and I can hold an audience’s attention (self-affirming phrase).”

Step 6: Practice Using Your Alter Ego

Now, put all the pieces of alter-ego creation together and practice using your alter ego in low-stakes situations, recommends Herman. Do this in familiar public settings (a restaurant, the grocery store, or the library, for example), when meditating, or when playing a game.

How to Be Your Best Self: Bring Out Your Alter Ego

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Todd Herman's "The Alter Ego Effect" at Shortform .

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.