“I think; therefore I am.” Seventeenth-century French philosopher, Rene Descartes, made this conclusive statement about his own existence once he realized that doubting his existence was not possible since he was the one doing the doubting. Right. That’s not confusing at all.
I have a slightly different, less confusing take on his little philosophical mind bender. Ready? Here it is: How we think of ourselves is what we believe. Mind blowing, isn’t it?
All right, so my statement may not be as profound as Monsieur Descartes, but it is nonetheless true. Let me explain.
We all probably know of at least one person who is very critical of themselves. They tend to beat themselves up with a lot of negative self-talk and use self-defeating expressions like can’t, won’t, and never. Their view of life is pessimistic at best. For them there is little to no hope for a better outcome regardless of their situation. They’re resigned to thinking that this is their lot in life; it’s not a lot but it’s their life. Consequently, they’re an emotional or psychological wreck. Even their outward behavior or appearance may show signs of their self-deprecating talk.
More than likely, somewhere in their life, someone used awful, demeaning words on them like stupid, idiot, dummy or @#!$%@# (you get the picture). Ergo they have doubted their self-worth. Ergo they believe that they are a stupid idiot. Ergo they have developed a self-deprecating (even destructive) mindset. Why? Because words have power.
Remember that annoying little saying from elementary school that kids would shout at each other when someone ridiculed them? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” LIE!! Names, words can and do hurt. They have the power to build up or tear down. They can be enriching or soul crushing.
I witnessed an exchange between a brother and sister one time, who were probably 12 and 10 years old respectively. The sister apparently said something that her brother didn’t like. He immediately rounded on her and unleashed such expletives that he could have only learned from someone else. As he berated her with such hate and venom, she just stood there, physically wilting, taking in the onslaught of his rant, tears streaming down her face.
Words have power.
OK, so now that I’ve completely depressed you, let’s switch gears! Who have you known that just exudes confidence? I mean, they have a certain Je ne sais quoi. When they enter the room, everyone sits up and takes notice. They have a particular calm too; almost warm and fuzzy. They’re always upbeat and positive even when their situation is difficult. Others instinctively look to them for leadership. They rarely, if ever, give in to negativity. And, what’s most important, they’re genuine. You just can’t help but want to be around them.
I know someone like that. Every time I see her, she’s smiling. She always has a kind word. Hugs everyone. People are drawn to her like moths to a flame. There’s this irresistible urge to be around her just to glean some of that sparkle she always gives off. The few times she’s had to address something that wasn’t going well, she’s chosen her words very carefully and has never thrown anyone under the bus. She speaks the truth – always. You know you’re safe with her, that she sees your worth. You leave feeling good about yourself after talking with her.
So what is it about someone like that that makes them different from the self-doubters, the lot-in-lifers, the negative self-talkers? Why is it those demeaning labels and criticisms from others don’t stick? Why is it they still believe in themselves even when things go south? It’s one simple truth. They don’t admit to something they’re not.
They don’t admit to being stupid, dumb or an idiot – or worse. Instead, they’ve decided to admit to being smart, competent, worthy, valuable…all those great things. Why? Because those words – the right words – have power.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not to say these people are oblivious to their shortcomings. They’re not. They just refuse to accept criticism for the sake of critisim. They have no trouble admitting to their deficiencies. On the contrary, they tend to possess a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ). They’ll own their faults but won’t allow someone else to tear down their self-worth. And they aren’t afraid to work on bettering themselves.
So how can the rest of us glean some of that sparkle, exude that certain Je ne sais quoi? How can we deflect the impugning word darts from the gainsayers? What can we do to keep from admitting to something we’re not?
Well, to quote one of my favorite authors, Dr. Brene Brown, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
Remember, words have power. If you truly love someone, are you going to call them a stupid idiot, berate them or worse? No, you’re going to say kind, loving things to them. Why? Because you love them and they have value in your eyes.
Same holds true for you. If tell yourself you’re stupid, then you’re going to believe and act like you’re stupid. But if you tell yourself you’re smart and competent, then you’re going to believe and act with smarts and competence. How you think of yourself is what you believe.
Now if you’re not so sure about that, try this little exercise. Find at least one thing you like about yourself, everyday. It can be anything. You’re smile, your eyes, your wit- whatever. Just find that one thing and then say it out loud to yourself. I like ___________ about myself (you fill in the blank). Pretty soon you’ll discover you like yourself a lot and your attitude towards yourself will change. Attitude is key.
Then surround yourself with like minded, positive people. Remember that adage, you are what you eat? Same holds true to those whom you associate. Who you surround yourself with, you become. I have a friend whose father once said to her, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” True that.
Pastor and author, Andy Stanley put it this way, “Friends determine the direction and quality of your life.”
If you want a better direction and quality for your life, then find people who will help determine that. Positivity begets positivity. Negativity begets negativity. Run away from negative people; run towards positive ones. If you don’t have positive people in your life, start with you. Resist the urge to be negative! Say and do things that are uplifting and positive. Smile! That’s not only easy to do but it’s actually good for your health.
Then a couple of things will begin to happen: like-minded people will be drawn to you, and the negative ones will either change or fade into the distance. Simple as that.
How we think of ourselves is what we believe, so don’t admit to something you’re not.
So let’s recap:
- Don’t admit to something you’re not
- Love and accept yourself (positive self-talk and a positive attitude)
- Surround yourself with like-minded people
- Lather, rinse, repeat
Some final suggestions: If you want/need help getting started or staying on track, consider finding a mentor or counselor; someone safe to talk to who can help you work through things.
Also check out authors/speakers who address the issues you want to work on. Some of my personal favorites (these are not paid endorsements) are Dr. Brene Brown, Andy Stanley, Dr. Travis Bradberry, Joseph Grenny, and Dr. Henry Cloud.
Lastly consider this, [you are] fearfully and wonderfully made…. Psalm 139:14