You’ll Be Your Own Worst Enemy Until You Change This One Thing
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What can a story about two fish teach us about self-awareness?
Have you heard the story about the two fish swimming in a fishbowl?
One goes up to the other and asks, “How do you like the water?”
The fish responds: “What is water?”
The point is that the fish is so immersed (literally) in his environment that he doesn’t even notice it. Sort of like we humans don’t spend a lot of time thinking about air and oxygen. Unless, of course, it suddenly becomes lacking.
But here’s the thing about immersion: It can also come from within.
All day long, we are consumed by our thoughts. Our internal dialogue is narrating our lives for us, and for most, it’s reactive storytelling.
“Look at this fool without a turn signal on!”
“Yes, Chad, I already received your last 9 emails.”
“Ugh, I always mess that up.”
The quality of our self-talk plays a bigger role than we imagine.
Just like the water in the fishbowl, if it gets cloudy and mucky, it can be harmful to health.
I once coached a woman who said to me: “I always date men who are bad for me.”
Immediately we stopped the conversation to talk about re-framing these thoughts. By saying “I always…” do something, we are telling ourselves the story that this is a pattern we are victim to. In doing so, we reinforce the beliefs to our subconscious mind and make decisions that essentially continue a pattern of self-fulfilling prophecies.
If this is how you represent your reality to yourself, you’ll keep dating men who are bad for you.
Just like how you’ll keep repeating the same negative patterns in other areas of life, unless…
You take control of your self-talk.
The way we speak to ourselves when we’re by ourselves quite literally shapes our identities. We are telling ourselves who we are and what we’re capable of in those quiet moments.
“Ugh, I can never get this right” will prove itself to be accurate time and time again.
“I’m so stupid” will hinder your willingness to try and learn new things.
“I’ve always been bad at XYZ” will ensure that you remain bad at XYZ.
Consider how different it sounds to say things like:
“I’m working on improving my ability to — -”
“When I learn this new skill, I can successfully do — -”
“I’m gradually getting better at — -”
“I am someone who follows through on my commitments.”
Statements of ability and identity are the very cornerstone of what we can actually achieve — or not, depending on how we choose to speak to ourselves.
There’s an old adage about a circus elephant who was tied to a stake in the ground when it was small. No matter how hard it pulled, it could not get that stake out of the ground.
When it got older, it could’ve easily ripped the stake out given its size and strength, but, it didn’t even attempt it because it remembered all of the times it failed and accepted that as its permanent reality.
Its identity was that of an elephant who was incapable of pulling out the stake.
Yet, a completely different reality waits on the other side of trying just one more time.
As we advance in life, it’s important to continue checking in with ourselves and asking if we are really striving to improve, or if we are allowing a past narrative to continue dictating our lives for us.
A past narrative that is likely no longer even valid.
But we’ve spent so long accepting it as our reality that it almost feels painful to let it go.
Like we are fighting for our limitations.
Fighting against our own progress, because progress brings responsibility.
Responsibility to continue, to work harder, to keep improving, to meet higher standards.
Naturally, if we don’t truly and deeply believe in our abilities to rise to the occasion, we’ll avoid taking the risks and doing the tasks that would require us to do so. We’ll play it safe, think small, and stay inside of our comfort zones.
As Henry Ford famously said:
Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.
The next time you catch yourself having a negative or limiting thought to (or about) yourself, stop, and re-frame the statement in a more empowering way.
Getting into this habit will slowly change your actions, change your identity, and change your life.
Improvement doesn’t happen by accident, it happens through living with intention. Now is your time to create the reality around you rather than simply accepting your circumstances.
You only get one shot at this life. Make it count.
James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.
Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 38 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.
James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.
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