Ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut, where you can hear your voice describing yourself with the same words day after day: I’m stressed. I’m too busy. I’m tired…. and even though you’d love it to be different, talking about it just makes it all the more real, almost like a self-fulfilling prophesy?
They say “You are what you eat”. I think often “You are what you say you are”.
I don’t know about you but I find that I’m very hot at picking this up with my kids. I refuse to let a phrase like “I’m useless…” , “I can’t…” or “I’m stupid” lie.
On the other hand it takes a bit of prompting sometimes to notice it in myself. In a recent conversation, a friend pointed out that I had said “I’m rubbish when it comes to memory” several times. Now whether my memory is rubbish or not, I’m sure telling myself how rubbish I am isn’t going to help (perhaps there’s hope that I might completely forget…?)
So what can you do about that? Well here’s one simple tweak that can make a massive difference.
Swap “I am…” to “I am doing”
You see, “I am” speaks to our identity. It feels permanent, it’s part of who we are.
“I am doing” describes something we are taking part in, at this moment in time, but it’s not a part of us. It’s temporary and detachable.
Notice how “I’m doing stress” feels different from “I’m stressed”? And taking it a step further, saying “I’m doing stress today” or “I’m doing stress right now” makes it even more transient.
Another example I’ve come across in parenting is to be wary of saying “You’re naughty”, “You’re being naughty” or “You’re a naughty boy/girl”, as on some level you’re telling them this is who you are – naughty. My son’s current favourite film Megamind sums this up beautifully:
“No matter what happened, I was always… the bad boy. Was this my destiny?… Wait. Maybe it WAS! Being bad is the one thing I’m good at! Then it hit me: if I was the bad boy, then I was going to be the baddest boy of them ALL!”
So instead I’ve decided to be more deliberate in saying “that was a naughty thing to do.”
I love this tweak because it also gives me plenty of permission to be imperfect – I can do grumpy, do forgetfulness and do mistakes without being a failure. I can do scared, do confused and do crazy and then go on to be confident, clear and (mostly) sane!
Notice the tweak?
What about you? What do you say to yourself, that’s maybe just something you’re doing rather than who you are? I’d love to know what difference you notice when you play with this simple tweak. Leave me a comment with your thoughts.