Who Am I?
I was at work the other day talking with a customer, and as I went to say something to her son she said, “He won’t understand that, he’s an Asperger’s.” Lovely as this woman was, I became quite frustrated at her choice of words.
This teenager was a young, joyful, fun, young man; much more than the label of ‘Asperger’s’ let’s on. But still he was referred to as his diagnosis.
So many times in life I’ve heard people refer to themselves by their problems or struggles with sayings like “I’m a depressed person,” or, “I’ve got ADHD,” or “I’m just an anxious person.” This is an easy thing to do, and it’s hardly out of the ordinary to hear these things.
If we personally paid attention to it, I’m sure most of us would hear ourselves say things like, “That’s just the way I am,” or “I did this because I’m that kind of person.” We all have a tendency to use this sort of language, but I think we don’t realise the effect defining ourselves by our struggles can have on us.
I want to share about two areas that defining ourselves by our struggles can have on our day to day lives.
Effect 1: Motivation levels.
Let’s say we have person one. He struggles with anger management at times, and has found himself in counselling to try and sort out his life. He comes into his first session. The counsellor asks him about a recent outburst, asking “Why did you do such a thing?” He replies “I’m an angry person.”
Like it or not, who we think we are will be a motivator for our future behaviour. If I believe myself to be an angry person, I will likely store away that label in my mind and I will be more likely to exhibit the behaviours that are associated with being angry. I may inadvertently give myself permission to be angry, allow myself to follow thought patterns that add to my anger and in turn increase the likelihood of further anger outbursts. It sounds like a self-fulfilling prophesy, but it has merit. Who we think we are will determine in part how we behave.
Defining ourselves by our problems will also reduce our motivation to change. If I believe myself to be an angry person, I may allow this to be a core part of who I see myself as. I may think I am unable to change. “Well… I’ve been like this my whole life, people don’t change” or “it’s just the way I am” are thoughts that come to mind when we define ourselves by our struggles. Even if we have behaved a certain way for 10, 20 or 30 years, we are still able to change. To do this, we must learn to define ourselves by something other than by our struggles.
Effect 2: Defining ourselves by our struggle blinds us to our relationship with the Problem.
This effect is a bit more complex, so bear with me as I bring you up to speed. For example, if I have a problem with overspending and I take on the label of ‘money waster,’ I bring this problem inside of who I think I am. If we believe that our struggle is a part of us permanently, we will be blind ourselves to our relationship to the problem.
Take the person struggling with over spending; if they were to open up their perspective and look at their problem separate to them, this opens up the relationship with their overspending. By defining our problems externally we can start looking at how we interact with that problem in how that problem affects us in different circumstances; assessing the areas that the problem doesn’t affect us in, understanding exceptions to the problem, and then noting the strategies of the problem that get in our way. If we distance our problems from our self-concept even slightly, we may get a great insight into how we can reduce the problems influence over our life. If we look at our struggle from a different point of view we may be inspired, empowered into how we can take back our lives. But if we continue to see the problem as a part of ourselves, we may just take on blame and feel guilty instead of gaining insight.
You might have read this and find yourself saying, “I’ve got (insert illness or struggle here) and people don’t recover from that”. I would like to challenge you today. I dare you to look past your illness and look at yourself. You have potential to change your life (even if it’s a small change) and you have potential to positively affect the people around you (even if it’s the tiniest thing) because you are a brilliant person. You can beat the odds and your life may change when you start to see yourself as you really are.
You are not an illness! You are not a struggle! You are a human being and you can do some incredible things when you put your minds to it.
You are not your struggle! This is a message Hope Movement is committed to spreading. We do this because we want to see you motivated, free and able to see how you can move forward away from the things that are holding you back, and closer to your dreams and goals.
Take some time this week to write down 20 things you like about yourself. Then write down how the struggle you experience has tried to get in your way. Doing this simple activity can help you figure out how you can tackle what’s going in your life. You are not your struggle, you are so much more!