Talking to Yourself: The Power of I AM

July 14, 2016

Quickly, without thinking it through, complete the following sentence: I am ­­­­­­­­­­­_____. Do it again and keep it up until you run out of quick answers.

Now think back over your answers. If you’re like most people, you likely stated what you do for a living and your place in your family, and then described your physical, emotional, and intellectual attributes. And you probably weren’t all that kind to yourself.

We often speak of ourselves in unflattering ways. Sometimes the things we say are downright mean. Most of us would never be so cruel to loved ones, coworkers, or even strangers, yet we berate ourselves right out loud. Worse, we run a continual loop of internal dialogue admonishing ourselves for what we perceive as our shortcomings. We’re not this enough. We’re too that.

Why do we do that, what impact does it have, and most importantly, how can we change it?

Like many of our habits, negative self-talk often begins in childhood. Well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) adults often guide children to look outside themselves for approval and send subtle (and not so subtle) messages that surface stuff is what defines us. Being this way is favored over being that. Some of those thises and thats aren’t even within the control of the child, yet the messages are clear: there are beautiful and ugly physical types, impressive and practically worthless talents and skills, and more and less favorable ways to be in this world. We take those early messages and build on them. Over time, many of us fill in the blank at the end of I am with all the ways we see ourselves falling short.

Sounds rather abusive, doesn’t it? If we married someone or worked for someone who constantly put us down, we’d leave. We’d recognize the cruelty and rail against it. When we do it to ourselves, though, we not only take it, we constantly reaffirm these abusive ‘truths’ until we’ve worn ourselves down and out.

Clearly, this is not okay. What we think, say, and feel after the words I am determines the experiences we have. That’s not an understatement or woo-woo nonsense; it’s science. When we say I am unattractive, I am poor, I am ill, I am unlucky, I am not very smart, and I am underappreciated, we draw exactly those things. What we believe deep down and what we dwell on grows. We all like to be right. So much so that we create lives that reflect out innermost beliefs. So much so that we’d rather be right than happy. See, we think, looking over our lives, I knew it.

Here’s the good news from the above paragraph: What we believe deep down and what we dwell on grows. So let’s go back to the beginning, only this time, fill in the blank with good stuff. List all the wonderful things about yourself and add in those which you would like to be true, but don’t yet believe.

We have the ability to rewrite our programming to better serve us. Because it is a new practice to many, speaking well of and thinking good thoughts about ourselves might feel awkward and fake in the beginning. It might even feel wrong, as if nice people don’t toot their own horns. Keep at it. I’d be willing to bet that in the early days of our negative programming, something inside us said No! I am not stupid or bad or ugly or unlovable. I am good and I am meant for great things. Yet over time, through sheer repetition, we internalized those beliefs and then reflected them out into our lives. We can do the very same to make ourselves and our lives happy, abundant, and beautiful. Start today. Start right now. Because you are all sorts of worth it.

Warmly~

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11 Comments

  1. Reply

    Julie

    I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am good, I am smart, I am loving! These are things I had to make myself stand in front of the mirror and say in order to wash away the you are a dumb broad, you are so ugly. you are so stupid. Took years to de-program my mind and heart as a young lady. My dad wasn’t the kindest person in dealing with me, a lot of it was because as a young child I required so many surgeries that it took away from what the rest had so much so that I was cut off from all of them, and sadly I still am. No, it wasn’t my fault, nor is it now. I had to choose to care and love myself. I so get this, deep within my soul. Great write Beth. <3

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Jul, you truly are all those wonderful things, and more. I’ve known you for years and I have never–not even once–seen you be unkind. Not even snarky, really. I’m sorry you had to work to see your own beauty, but glad you did the work. Because you did, you are able to share all that goodness with everyone you touch, which snowballs. All who know you benefit from the love you give, which makes each of us that much more capable of passing along love to others. I think you’re just fabulous.

  2. Reply

    Jo Heroux

    For many years this would have been a very negative list. Now, not so much. I like me now and I like many things about myself that have developed with age and acceptance. I am the woman I used to hope I would be and I am still a work in progress. I am patient, I am enough. I am happy and more often than not, I am kind. I love unconditionally and most often forever.
    This exercise would have saved me a lot of lost friendships had I done it back in my thirties. But it’s never too late to become. And it’s never to late to improve. I am and I am.
    I really love how you laid this out. Excellently done.

    1. Reply

      Jo Heroux

      Oops! I messed up the http AGAIN.

      1. Reply

        Beth

        Jo, I love this: “I am the woman I used to hope I would be and I am still a work in progress.” When people ask about my kids, I tell them my oldest is the women I hope to be when I grow up. 😉

        You are kind and accepting. You listen with an open mind and an open heart. You see the good in people. How wonderful is all that?!

        Oh, and the http? Copy and paste, Jo. Copy and paste. 🙂

  3. Reply

    Malcolm Campbell

    Sometimes people spend time saying affirmations for 15 minutes every morning and again before going to sleep. This is good. What’s not good is spending the rest of the day with the kind of negative chatter you’re talking about here. When they wonder why the affirmations are bringing them perfect health, riches, etc., they need to consider that those affirmations have been canceled out by the way they are thinking about themselves 99% of the time.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Absolutely, Malcolm. That’s kind of like eating a nice salad for dinner but snacking on junk all day long and then wondering why your jeans are still tight. Not that I’d know anything about that. 😀

  4. Reply

    Tammy Minnis

    I can relate to this.

    I radiate how I feel about myself good or bad.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Me, too. The other day, a friend commented on my profile pic. “You’re beautiful,” she said.

      I started to type my reply: “Thank you. I’ve chopped off the locks and am in the process of growing my hair back, Right now, I’m sporting kind of an elderly librarian look.” Before I hit enter, I backspaced and kept just the first sentence. “Thank you.”

      Why is it we (I’m sure it’s not just me) sometimes respond to compliments with an explanation of how we’re not really that smart, talented, pretty, or capable? Crazy. I’m glad I backed up before I sent it and both accepted and expressed my gratitude for her kind words.

      1. Reply

        Tammy Minnis

        I think sometimes we do that because we like the idea of change more and are looking forward to it? And sometimes we are doing it to down play a nice complement. Like when I man says he likes your dress and you say, “Why this old thing?”

        1. Reply

          Beth

          I think it’s most often the second one–we play down compliments. Maybe we were just raised to be “nice girls” and mistook that to mean that we shouldn’t seem prideful or self-centered. In any case, I think it’s healthy to see the best in ourselves. What we focus on grows, so knowing that, we surely shouldn’t pretend we don’t have blessings and gifts.

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