How do you define yourself?
One of my clients was having a really tough time a few weeks ago, and she peppered our whole coaching call with statements like, “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just not a every positive person,” “See? I’m so negative all the time and I hate it,” and “I’m just a really negative person, and I’m starting to question whether I can even do coaching.”
This coaching call prompted a discussion on growth and fixed mindset and how the words “I am” is a self-declaration of how we define ourselves. So I wanted to take some time to share this with you.
Every time you say or think something that starts with “I am,” you are defining yourself.
Every single time you finish a sentence with “I am” you are telling yourself and others who you think you are. You’re also telling other people how they can choose to think of you as well.
My client has many stories about how other people treat her with disrespect, and I gently pointed out to her that she also disrespects herself by calling herself a negative person and believing it. It’s no wonder that other people also treat her as someone who is a “negative person.”
When you define yourself a certain way, it shows through your verbal and nonverbal communication. A woman who often calls herself “a negative person” is going to speak and act differently from someone who tells herself, “I am a loving person.”
It’s easy for other people to adopt your self-definition and think of you how you think of yourself.
Other people usually just follow suit and think about you how you think about yourself because it’s easy. All relationships are relative - everyone’s first priority in every single situation in life is to figure out how they fit relative to what’s going on and who they’re meeting.
Each of us are always deciding how we want to respond to our environment and don’t like to waste time guessing. So we love it when someone has a very clear definition of themselves because we can easily figure out what to think of them and what kind of person we want to be in response.
Have you ever met someone new at a party and immediately didn’t like them? Only to find out later that they’re actually a lovely person and were just having a bad day when you met them the first time?
When you first met them, they were defining themselves as “someone who is frustrated and having a horrible day.” Your mind took that information through the filter of your own experiences from the past with frustrated people, and it decided, “I’m a happy person and I don’t want to be around grumpy people” so you chose to excuse yourself to the bathroom and then later joined a discussion with different people.
Then when you meet them the second time, maybe their self-definition was “someone who is open and friendly” and your mind decided, “Oh, maybe our first impression was wrong.”
Can you see how your self-definition not only affects your own energy and how you think of yourself, but it also affects how other people think of and respond to you. It directly dictates what your experiences in life are like.
Your self-expression and self-definition also tell your brain and body what to do.
Your thoughts are really just neurons in your brain firing electrical signals to each other. When they’re sent all over your brain, they create more thought. These thoughts are usually in the same line as the original thought. This is why it’s easy to escalate from, “I am feeling really shitty today” to “I’m just a shitty person.”
These electrical signals in your brain are also sent to organs in your body that release chemicals you interpret as feelings. Other signals might go to the muscles in your body and tell your body how to move.
So your thoughts have the power to tell your body what other thoughts to think, how to feel, and what to move. This is why your self-definition does not just come through your words, which are a reflection of your thoughts, but also your nonverbal expressions.
So going back to my client, because she had so many thoughts about herself being negative, she continued to think more and more thoughts about herself being negative, which showed up in her emotions and the way she acted. Other people saw and sensed this and decided she was indeed a negative person and didn’t want anything to do with her. She interpreted their words and actions as them being rude to her. Her mind then created more of the same thoughts, e.g. “People are just not kind. It’s really hard for me to believe that people are inherently kind and good.” And this perpetuates the original “I’m just a negative person” thoughts and beliefs.
The good news is that you are NOT your thoughts.
Wait…but I just told you that your thoughts about yourself define who you are. So let me back up…
So you, the “real you” is actually the one that observes the thoughts. Your thoughts are just neurons firing around in your brain, and its firing patterns are dictated by what was fired in the past. If you can separate yourself from your thoughts, you can effectively change the thoughts that you choose think.
If you can choose the way you think, you can also change the way you act and the way you feel, and this means that you CAN change who you are.
This is different from “positive thinking”.
When you change your thoughts, you are choosing to think more positive, more empowering thoughts. But this process I’m teaching you today is different from the popular idea of “positive thinking.”
Positive thinking posits that you should be thinking positively all the time. And if you’re not, you’re just not doing a very good job at personal development. The process of changing who you are and effectively changing your entire life is about detaching the “real you,” the “inner self,” from your thoughts. It’s about allowing whatever thoughts and emotions that come up to flow through and consciously choosing other ones you want to experience instead of fighting, resisting, and stopping yourself from ever feeling the “negative” ones
To learn more about why resisting anything, whether positive or negative,” can lead to illness, I invite you to check out this article.
Exercise: How do you define yourself?
Remember that the only way your life will change is if you choose to define yourself differently. If you’re a broke “wantrepreneur,” you will continue to experience this reality until you change your self-definition and live, think, feel, and act in alignment with the new definition. I have a little exercise for you so you can begin to detach yourself from your thoughts and choose a new way of defining yourself.
Step 1: Finish this sentence for me: “I am….” and list all the things you like about yourself. Give yourself 2 minutes and list as many things as you can to finish that sentence with.
Step 2: Now finish the same sentence “I am…” and list all the things you DON’T like so much about yourself. Give yourself 2 minutes again and list as many as you can.
Step 3: Now finish the sentence with “I am…” and list the things that you’re feeling right now in this moment.
Step 4: Think of a few examples in your life and business of things happening that upset you. Which of your “I am” thoughts from steps 1-3 were they reflecting back to you? How can you choose differently?
Share your insights and discoveries in the comments below!
PS: In a few weeks, I’ll be opening to the public a new FREE 5-Day Challenge to help you overcome overwhelm (“I am overwhelmed”) and get focused on a business idea that feels fully soul-aligned so you can finally see more success. But for my blog readers, I wanted to share it with you now so you get first dibs on virtual seats! Go to https://jessicamaytang.lpages.co/clarity-for-freedom-5-day-challenge/ to sign up!