Uncle Teddy: Because, Maxwell, what you do defines who you are.
Max: No, Uncle Teddy. Who you are, defines what you do.
- Across the Universe, right before bursting out into “I’ve just seen a face”.
So what does that quote have anything to do with anything? Because either way you look at it, your identity is defined by your actions and reinforced by how you represent yourself.
Human thought process works like this: you have the circumstance, what’s happening in front of you, which leads to your thought about that circumstance, which leads to a feeling you have about that thought, which leads to the action you choose, which leads directly to the result of the situation.
All very nice and tidy when you describe it like that right? But in reality, our thoughts look more like,
“GodDAMNEDit is it time to get up already? Ugh, I wish I could sleep ten more minutes - too bad my partner snores, that’s annoying. I guess I have to pee anyway. Why is outside the bed so cold? OHMYGOD is that what I look like. I’m a mess, I really should go on that diet. I wonder what I should have for breakfast? Coffee. Obviously. Look at my sink, I have to clean that. Let’s see, what’s on the agenda for today?”
And so on.
Not so easy to catch the negative thoughts when they’re strung together like that? In this scenario we’ve casually thought:
“I’m a mess.” << reinforced by a messy counter
“I need to go on a diet” << telling yourself that you’re not worthy as you are (or whatever your reason for wanting to be smaller would mean for you.)
My point is this: we think things about ourselves all the time without even noticing it.
We also say things like,
“I am a mother.”
“I am a girlfriend.”
“I’m a workaholic.”
“I am a hot mess.” - I HAVE FULL ON SEEN THIS ON T-SHIRTS! not cool fash-un.
“I’m a gym rat.”
We label ourselves because our brains have been designed to work best when we know what our job is, what or who we’re supposed to be.
This is why “I am” affirmations are both the easiest and the most powerful affirmations to use. By repeating phrases like, “I am unstoppable” and truly believing them, you can begin to rewire your brain! You’ll start to look for evidence that this is true - taking that same morning routine that you do every day and using that as evidence that you always get your kids to school. Or that you always get your work done.
This is called the “Act As If” Approach. It’s where psychologists will prescribe a form of the “I am” affirmation to clients who are looking to change their lives in some way. They aren’t faking it (it won’t work to fake it - you’re smarter than that) but simply practising for the experience you’re looking for.
The more you repeat this phrase the more your brain will weave this belief throughout your life. You’re not looking for this mantra to instantly change your life, but repeating the affirmation without getting caught up in the outcome. This is especially effective when you say this mantra out loud while looking in a mirror.
Here’s what you’re not going to do: pick a mantra that you can rip apart. We all do this. It’s called your “neuroplastic response.”
Prof. Google: Neuroplastic Response: Neuroplasticity can be viewed as a general umbrella term that refers to the brain's ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience.
It’s that face you make when you look in the mirror and go “ugh.” or when you subconsciously pull at your face. Our default thinking is to focus on what’s wrong. Meaning if we choose an affirmation where we instantly think, “oh, well that’s bull shit.” then it’s not going to work. But we can choose our wording carefully so that we can make it true.
Taking “I am worthy as I am.” to “I am learning to love myself as I am.”
*which is part of the beauty of the Affirmation Sweater! You’ll start to read these phrases more every time you see them, which adds to your repetition.*
Once you know what you want to say to yourself about yourself take it one step further and ask yourself what that would look like for you.
“I am worthy.” looks like what? Getting your nails done? Because it would mean that you spent both time and money on yourself? That you’re worthy of this luxury? Would it look like taking ten minutes in the morning to do your makeup instead of making your partner breakfast?
Think about the words you use to describe yourself, which do you like and which do you not? Be honest with yourself and if you find yourself saying things like, “I’m dumb.” or “I’m a mess.” ask what it would take for you to change those thoughts into something productive?
I guarantee that you are not a mess, but maybe you did something messy - I did, this morning! But I’m not a mess either, the choice I made was poorly thought out. When we label ourselves, we limit ourselves.
When we see things visually it helps translates those abstract words into reality. Seeing can help you believe.
The questions to ponder:
What phrases do I use to describe myself now?
Which phrases do I want to believe about myself?
Then, using a phrase from Mel Robins, 5-4-3-2-1 and go.
Quick Link to Affirmation Sweater