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Our sense of self is incredibly powerful. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are shape our beliefs, behaviors, and possibilities. The words that follow “I am…” hold tremendous weight.

When we attach an identity to ourselves, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We start acting in alignment with that identity, reinforcing it and making it real. This can work for or against us, depending on the identities we adopt. That’s why it’s so important to choose our identities (the I am statements that run through your mind) carefully.

The Impact of Negative Self-Talk

Many of us unknowingly identify with limiting stories about ourselves. We think thoughts like:

– I am lazy

– I am bad with money

– I am not smart enough

– I am awkward

– I am fat

– I am worthless

Neuroscience shows that repetitive negative thoughts actually rewire our brains in self-defeating ways. As neuropsychologist Rick Hanson explains,

“What fires together wires together.”

The more we think certain thoughts, the more ingrained they become in our neural pathways.

This helps explain why just telling yourself to “think positive” usually doesn’t work. Those well-worn negative pathways are still there, ready to be reactivated. It takes conscious effort to create and strengthen new neural patterns.

When we attach a limiting label to ourselves, it acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy. We start acting in alignment with that identity, often without realizing it. We seek out evidence that reinforces it and filter out evidence that contradicts it. It’s a vicious cycle.

For example, if you believe you’re bad with money, you might avoid budgeting, overspend to make yourself feel better, or cling to the belief that “saving is impossible.” The story becomes real.

If you believe, “I am fat,” you might subconsciously sabotage your efforts to lose weight — because our brains like to be right more than they like to be happy. Your brain will go out of its way to make sure what you believe is true.

These false identities hold us back from growth and happiness.

As author and speaker Trent Shelton explains,

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”

When we fill our minds with limiting stories about ourselves, we live in a smaller reality.

The Power of Positive “I Am”s

The good news is that we can also use the power of “I am” to our advantage. Just like negative self-talk, positive self-talk can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when we give it repeated focus.

Start paying attention to the dominant “I am” statements running through your mind. Are they supporting you or sabotaging you? Then, make a commitment to replace disempowering internal narratives with positive truths about yourself.

Here are some examples of empowering self-talk:

– I am blessed.

– I am creative.

– I am worthy of love.

– I am improving every day.

– I am patient and kind.

– I am capable of achieving my goals.

It may feel unrealistic or even uncomfortable at first. But with consistency, you can rewire your brain to back up these affirmations. Neuroplasticity allows us to form new neural pathways through repetition.

Nathaniel Branden, PhD, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, writes:

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

Bring conscious awareness to the stories your mind autonomously spins. Then, intentionally embrace truths that serve your highest self.

Keep affirming positive identities, and they will become ingrained. You’ll start automatically thinking and behaving in alignment with these empowering beliefs.

The Right Identities Can Give You Wings

Choosing “I am”s that stretch you into new territory is especially powerful for growth. If you want to become more courageous, keep thinking thoughts like “I am brave.” At first it may feel like a lie, but eventually your brain will catch up. You’ll gain the motivation and resources to align your life with the identity you’re affirming.

The iconic statue of David by Michelangelo provides a powerful metaphor for this concept. Before sculpting the figure, Michelangelo visualized David already inside the block of marble. As he chiseled away, he said his aim was to remove everything that was not David.

The master sculptor could see his desired creation in his mind’s eye, even when it wasn’t yet visible. This vision guided him as he slowly revealed the David known to the world today.

In the same way, we can use I Am statements to chip away at identities and stories that do not serve our highest self. If you believe deep down that you are thin or courageous or creative, keep chiseling away thoughts and actions that contradict that. Your desired identity already exists within; you simply need to remove what covers it up.

Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Your best self is already there, waiting to be freed. I Am statements and aligned actions help chip away everything that is not the real you. Eventually, your new identity — which is really your true identity — will be plain for all to see.

Your True Identity

You are a child of God, which means you have all the attributes of your Heavenly Parents. Let’s say you want to believe, “I am patient.” But your brain is showing you all the evidence that you’re not patient, making it hard to believe. God is patient. Therefore you, as His child, are also patient. It’s already who you are. You just need to chisel away what isn’t you to reveal who you really are.

Let’s say you currently believe “I am fat,” and based on the discussion we’ve been having, that belief is likely keeping extra fat on your body, so you really want to believe “I am thin” or “I am beautiful” or “I am attractive.” But when you look in the mirror, you see fat, so it feels impossible to believe anything else. Here’s the truth: You were created in God’s image > God is perfect > God has a perfect body > Therefore you have a perfect body. You may just need to chisel away what isn’t you.

Your North Star

It’s often easier to expand into a new identity than to try stopping an old one. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said,

“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.”

Focus on who you are becoming and/or who you really are rather than who you have been. The right “I am” statements act as a north star guiding you to your highest potential.

This concept is captured in the Native American story about the two wolves: One represents fear, anger, and other self-limiting beliefs. The other represents joy, peace, and empowering beliefs. The wolf that prevails is the one you feed. Whatever identity you give the most energy to will win out.

4 Steps to Upgrade Your “I Am”s

Here are some tips to break free of limiting identities and embrace empowering ones:

1. Bring awareness to your current I Am statements. Write them down. Don’t judge any as too small or irrelevant – write down anything that starts with “I am.”

2. Challenge them. Ask yourself:

  • Is this 100% true all the time?
  • What does _______ [lazy, failure, not enough, etc] even mean?
  • How might this story be distorted?
  • How is believing this about myself shaping my current reality?
  • How might this not represent who I really am?
  • How is this a choice I made rather than part of my identity?
  • How might the opposite be true?

3. Replace unhelpful “I am”s with positive truths. Even if they feel unrealistic, keep repeating them. Give yourself permission to believe them. Tell your brain to find evidence for what you want to believe. Think of the David.

4. Act as if. Visualize your new identity. Imagine yourself already being, doing, and having what you want. Be that person now. If you were ________, what would you be thinking? If you were _______, how would you feel about this? If you were ______, what would you do in this situation?

The words that follow “I am” are incredibly potent. They direct your focus, beliefs, and actions. As you master your self-talk, you master your reality. Limiting narratives lose their grip while empowering truths gain momentum. You create the story, so make it one worth living.

Live Free. Love Life.

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