If you had 15 seconds to tell someone about yourself, what would your story be?
At a recent yoga workshop we paired off into groups of two and our teacher timed us. The first 15 seconds one of us told our story, and the next 15 seconds the other person told theirs. Then we'd switch and do the same thing all over again with a new partner.
My first partner began telling her story by mentioning her profession. I was impressed when she said she'd been an intensive care nurse for the past 30 years! And she was a mom and the owner of two dogs... I'm a little embarrassed to admit that from that point forward my mind kind of wandered. Instead of giving her my undivided attention, the chatter in my own mind took over. What was I going to say when it was my turn?
When it was my turn I followed suit. "I'm an office manager," I began, "and I'm married to a great guy and I have one grown daughter. She's here in the workshop with me..." I added, and pointed proudly in Carrie's direction. I stammered...what next...what next... and then rattled off, "I'm a yoga teacher, a blogger, an artist, a seamstress..." Ding. Time's up. Switch partners and tell your story again.
With the next partner I said almost the exact same thing, but it felt different when I repeated it that time. I became keenly aware of how I was labeling myself, so by the time I made it to my third partner I dropped the office manager gig and went straight to, "I'm a yoga teacher and an artist. I've been married to an awesome guy for 10 years and my daughter is here in the workshop with me. I'm a blogger and photographer and I love to sew and make quilts, I love to bake..."
The words "I am" are such powerful words - they define who we believe we are, deep in our heart and soul. I thought about how I finish that sentence in my own mind about myself. Those statements are much different from the ones I tell the outside world about myself - beyond how I earn a living and what hobbies I love.
Here are some of my typical inner I am statements: "I am nervous and can't find the right words so I'll surely stutter." "I am not worthy - I could never be successful with that..." "I am afraid you won't like me." "I don't deserve to follow that dream." "I am fat." "I fall out of yoga poses and therefore I am weak." "I am SOOOOO busy." "I look old...ugh! These wrinkles..." But when I take a step back, really think about those things and take a close look at each of them...none of them really define who I am. In fact, none of those things are true at all. So why do I repeat them and own them with a deep sense of feeling and attachment? Why, indeed.
I realize that those negative beliefs about myself have been so stifling. Once I became aware of them, I was shocked to learn how many different stories I tell myself about me. Quite frankly, it was a bit overwhelming. Recognizing those thought patterns is the first step to being able to change them. Changing those thought patterns is the first step to being able to move forward on some things that I've been holding back on. It was overwhelming, but very liberating as well.
When we understand that thoughts that are connected to feelings become who we are, we can begin to work on changing those thoughts. We become more mindful about the stories we tell ourselves over and over, day after day, like a broken record.
What if we started paying attention to the little lies we tell ourselves? Just start to notice them. And what if we turned those unkind and untrue "I am" statements into more positive ones? Then we can begin to write new and more accurate stories about ourselves - ones that move us forward instead of holding us back. Stories that allow our light to shine like it was meant to do. True stories that help us to grow ourselves and in turn, inspire others. I am worthy. I am kind. I am generous. I deserve this. I deserve that...
I'm a blogger and a writer and a mandala lover.
I am joyous. I am peaceful. I am love.
I am working on believing in me.
"You are the way you are because you tell yourself you are that way."
~ Don Juan to Carlos Castaneda