The tendency to see what you expect to see, to project your core beliefs outward, is very powerfully manifest in what you say, in your words. So, if you’re walking around believing, “I am a mess” or “I am a loser,” or “I am unattractive,” then chances are you will also say these things, in one way or another. And the very act of verbalizing this false belief reinforces those fundamental lies about who and what you are. And of course, from there, the tendency is to seek relief in all types of detrimental external behaviors. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the power of language, specifically the power of the “I am.” What you attach your “I am” to is quite powerful. Every time you say (or think), “I am _______ (a drunk, boring, stupid, etc.),” you reinforce a lie about yourself. In my counseling work, when I can help someone move from “I am” to “I have,” there is often a powerful shift.
For example, some years ago my friend Gavin told me that he had been saying “I am depressed” for a long time and had recently come to realize what he was saying. Once he noticed this, he also realized that the more he continued to believe and express the belief, “I am depressed,” the more depressed he felt. But when he shifted to saying, “I have depression” or “I feel depressed,” everything began to change. He was able draw the important distinction between being depressed and having the experience of depression. Saying “I have depression” allowed him to start to see the depression as something nonessential and changeable, rather than as something fundamental to his identity. This opened him up to his essential self, his true self, which wasn’t depressed. This true self was beyond the symptoms of depression.
Gavin’s story had a profound impact on me and dramatically shifted the way I work. I started to work on helping people shift from statements like: “I am an addict,” “I am broken,” “I am damaged in some way,” to “I have these things about myself that want to be healed.” A profound healing realization can happen when we make that shift because, for the first time, we have identified the truth of who and what we are not as brokenness, but as something else, something more positive and powerful.
In other words, when we can finally shine some light on our inner dialogue and witness that these seemingly broken portions of ourselves are not essential, but are changeable, then we can start to open to the possibility that our true self is something much more profoundly beautiful and whole.
My invitation to you today is to take a moment and really ask yourself, “How am I speaking to myself? What am I attaching my ‘I am’ to?” My hope is that it will be possible to shift that language to something that’s more accurate and that the distinction that this creates will make further room for what you genuinely are: “I am whole and perfect; I am love; I am lovable.” Just imagine what might happen if you were to shift this focus from something that seems broken about yourself into something that supports your wholeness and healing.