Who You "Thnk" You Are Matters

In Fact, It Matters A Lot

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“What were you thinking!” shouts the angry parent as their child stands before them crestfallen. They had just discovered their child doing something foolish and now comes the third-degree interrogation.

“You weren’t thinking, right? Because if you were you wouldn’t have done something so stupid”

And so punishment is handed out and the child is sent to their room to “think” about what they did. And so there they sit trying to figure out what they were “thinking” but drawing a blank because they’re a kid and by definition, they often don’t think before they act.

Which begs the question; does thought proceed action? Are there some actions where thinking is not a prerequisite? It sure feels that way when we make a mistake or succumb to a “knee-jerk” reaction.

But it is a proven medical fact that thought proceeds all actions, even if these thoughts are unconscious.

For example, a solder on leave from the battlefield is walking down the street, he hears a car backfire and dives to the ground. Is he conscious of his thought at the time? No, he is reacting and his reactions are a logical consequence of the unconscious belief that he is in danger. Even though he is not aware of the thought it is still there. If you asked him he would say he did not choose to fall on his face in the middle of the sidewalk, still the thought of danger proceeded the action. Over time as he is exposed to the sounds of the city he will become more aware that no real danger exists and have a greater ability to choose so when he hears a similar sound he can ignore it.

Therefore our thoughts control our actions. Some thoughts promote health and cause us to act in a way that produces such emotions love, joy, and peace, and some thoughts produce anxiety, fear, and anger. Some thoughts propel us toward success and some are toxic and lead us toward failure and frustration. The challenge is these toxic thoughts often feel like they are a part of us – they become our dysfunctional normal. We are blind to them as they become the “operating system” that controls our everyday lives. Therefore it is critical that we make them visible so we can replace them with what will ultimately produce a more productive and happy life.

How do we know if our unconscious thoughts about ourselves are toxic? There are two ways:

  1. We experience toxic emotions – anxiety, phobia, depression, unreasonable fear and uncontrolled anger are examples of toxic emotions that are the result of toxic thoughts

  2. We experience repeated unwanted experiences – you have heard the old saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. When we continually experience failure in certain areas of our life it is a good indication that we have a toxic belief that is sabotaging our success.

A client once described to me a long series of failed relationships that she had experienced. At the end of her story of heartache and brokenness, I asked her this questions: “What do all those men in your life have in common?” She thought for a while and named a few of their worse attributes but then stopped and grew quiet. Finally, she said, “me”.

“Yes, that’s right” I responded, “so if you ever want to make a difference in your relationships you will need to make a difference in how you see yourself and how you understand healthy relationships”

Our actions and our emotions will lead us to our core beliefs as surely as a drug-sniffing dog leads its handler to a stash of illegal drugs. Follow the trail of toxic emotions and shattered dreams and they will lead to the doorstep of a toxic belief about ourselves and the world. The more you understand your core beliefs about yourself the more control you will have in the way you act. Your actions follow our thinking just as day follows night. And this is how we acquire our identity.

Our Identity is the sum total of our beliefs about ourselves that are confirmed and reinforced by our experience.

When believe something is true about ourselves, we act on that belief and that action then confirms and reinforces that belief. This becomes a powerful “feedback loop” that us gives us our identity.

Identity Feedback Loop

Identity Feedback Loop

So the question is what do you believe about yourself? Because that belief will ultimately determine your destiny.

Recently I met with a client who was struggling with what he called an addictive personality. He said he was susceptible to being addicted to pretty much everything, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, gambling, he even said that he could be addicted to jeeps. So I went to the whiteboard and drew this illustration.

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I pointed to the middle circle and asked, who are you? He couldn’t answer that. So I explained that nature (and our psyche) abhors a vacuum. If we are unsure about our identity then we will fill it with whatever distracts us from the pain of living with that vacuum. The outer circles represent all the areas of our life and these too will be defined by the inner circle. So if we have labeled our self an addict then these other areas will be contorted to reflect that definition. The inner circle thinking will be expressed through the outer circles.

If you want to change your experience of life you must change the way you think about yourself.

So what beliefs should fill that inner circle? What is ultimately true of me? This depends on where you find your authority. If what you believe about yourself is solely a product of your own invention then you can pretty much make up any “truth” and put it in that inner circle. The problem with this method is we have no real assurance that what we are saying about ourselves is true and functional. In essence, we are making it up as we go along with no confidence that it will ultimately lead to a meaningful life. Another challenge is that many of us have been “programmed” with beliefs about ourselves that are decidedly dysfunctional and cause us a lot of pain. Separating ourselves from these toxic beliefs is very hard and made even more difficult if we don’t have an objective reference point to work from.

It is like the man said at the end of his life; “I have spent my whole life climbing the ladder of success only to find out it was leaning on the wrong building”.

An authoritative reference point is essential for developing an identity that will produce the best possible life. But what reference point should we choose? There are many religions and philosophies vying to become the prophet of truth to our generation but I propose that there is really only two at the present time that has risen to the top and is presently locked in mortal combat. This is the Judaeo Christian World View and the Humanistic/Autonomous World View. The latter worldview is grounded in Darwin’s theory and taught in our public schools and universities while the former worldview is the foundation for our nation and western culture. Let me briefly compare and contrast the two.

The Humanistic model is derived from Darwin’s theory and assigns value to an individual in proportion to their ability to adapt to their environment and successfully propagate. (Survival of the fittest) Success is measured by the ability to pass our DNA to another generation and therefore overcome rivals. If we lose this ability to adapt or help others adapt we decrease in value. There is no higher purpose or authority to which we can appeal and find our worth beyond the “law of the jungle”. Therefore, compassion, kindness, and empathy are not preferred traits unless they in some way serve to further the species and can be argued (and often is) a weakness that must be eliminated. (see Nietzsche) We ultimately are left to scratch and claw to the top of the value heap and hope we can remain there. But this is a tenuous philosophy because inevitably, someone stronger (and therefore with greater utilitarian value) comes up the other side to knock us off.

In contrast, the Judaeo Christian view is that worth is intrinsic to man because we were made in “God’s image” and therefore our value is independent of our utilitarian purpose. The smallest and weakest of us has as much value as the greatest and strongest. Our performance does not define our value, rather our performance is an expression of our value. If our performance ceases due to injury, mental incapacity, or any other circumstance it does not diminish our value one iota. Our country was founded on this premise – “All men are created equal”. It is the foundation of our jurist prudence and the cornerstone of our culture. Is it perfectly enforced? No. But it is the ideal with which we built a great and beautiful society. I believe it works because it is true, not it is true because it works. For there are times and places where the powerful seem to have greater value and societies have relegated groups of people to inferior status simply because they don’t conform to group norms or have the necessary qualifications for being a benefit to the community.

With what do I fill the inner circle?

If you accept the Judaeo Christian view of a human’s worth then that circle must be filled with truths that are derived from the revelation given to us by our Creator – the Bible. This is the only reliable and authoritative source for creating a true identity and it must supersede all other opinions, beliefs, feelings, thoughts or ideas. There are many “Christians” and “Jews” who give lip service to the Scriptures and choose to base their identities on other things such as money, power, public opinion, attractiveness, and a myriad of other qualities but all of these fail the most critical test. Do you still have value when they are gone? If you lose value when you grow old or become incapacitated then that is not a true foundation to derive your worth. If you cease to appreciate yourself if you become bankrupt then you have placed your worth in the wrong thing. Why is this important? Because of the first principle I referenced which is your actions will reflect your beliefs. If you think you think these external things are the basis for your worth then you will live in constant fear of losing them and desperately seek happiness in the pursuit of them. We were made for so much more! We were made to find our hope in the eternal unconditional love of God and experience ultimate security in the joy of being in a relationship with him. Every other pleasure pales in comparison with this great purpose.

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.
— Blaise Pascal


So who do you think you are … really?

It is a hard battle to secure your identity in absolute truth. Our present culture has sold out to relative truth evidenced by emotions carrying more weight than facts and opinions based simply on feelings. We have all been infected by these lies that want to mold us into thinking we are lesser than we were meant to be. Our culture tells us if we don’t have this, possess that or are following the latest popular craze then something is wrong with us. Many of us grew up in homes where appreciation was only given to us when certain performance standards were met – or in some cases never at all. Maybe you were in a relationship where you were loved only when you met the other person’s needs. All of these examples are insidious lies undermining the absolute truth that you are worthy of being loved for who you are, regardless of performance or conformity to a set of standards. When this truth is absorbed into the fabric of our soul it changes us from the inside out and endues us with a power that not only transforms our thinking but also our actions.

I have created some affirmations that you can use to begin bringing about change in the way you think about yourself. All these affirmations are biblically based with Scriptural references that you can look up. If they don’t “feel” right that’s okay. Often the last bastion of the lies in our life is our emotions. Don’t make truth conform to your feelings. Rather, make your feelings conform to the truth.


Click here to download a 30 day affirmation calendar

If there is anything we at Total Wellness Resource Center can do for you don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

12 Declarations for Becoming More Assertive

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Many of our clients struggle with low self-esteem which leads to troubled relationships, career problems, depression and high levels of stress. They usually come to us complaining of one or more of these symptoms but it is soon discovered that at the root of their problem is an unhealthy belief about their value, significance, and worth. The usual cause is that they have based their value, significance, and worth on someone else's standards. These standards are external to them and are contingent on the approval of others, their looks, performance and/or social status. In short, they have been working so hard to meet these standards they have lost their own true identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is healthy to set high standards for oneself. This is a necessary component of a successful and productive life. The problem occurs when these standards become the basis for  our worth. When this happens our worth rises and falls with the tide of our performance. So let me give you three foundational principles that lead to a healthy self-image and helps us achieve our highest performance and satisfaction.


The first and most important principle is that we ground our identity on a foundation of intrinsic worth. Our value cannot be contingent upon anything external to ourselves. This is fundamental to a good self-image because it gives us a platform for taking risks and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also makes us resilient when we do fail - because everyone fails!

So how do we hold on to this belief when seemingly everything and everyone places human value on something external to ourselves? The only logical way is to appeal to an authority that transcends our own limited judgments. We need to appeal to our Creator. The framers of our government knew this and that is why they made the fact that we were created by God a basis for all our human rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
— Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

 

If we lose this understanding of the absolute worth of man then we are susceptible to choosing one standard over another and creating a hierarchy of value based upon; race, economic condition, attractiveness, intelligence, religion or a myriad of other factors. That doesn’t work for nations (consider Nazi Germany) and it doesn’t work for individuals.


Secondly, we need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. You may say, “I certainly know I’m not perfect”, but how do you deal with your imperfections? If you recoil from them and put up defenses everytime they are exposed then that is evidence that you are still basing your value, worth and significance on your ability to keep an external set of standards.

Please hear me on this, I am not saying you should somehow feel good about your failures. What I am saying is if your value, worth, and significance is given to you by your Creator then your identity is not diminished by your failures and you are free to make adjustments, grow and learn from them.


Lastly, you now have the ability to revel in your strengths and accomplish great things with your abilities without comparisons, pride or judgments. You can do this because you know that they don’t make you better or worse than anyone else it is just a part of who you are.

Those that struggle with low self-esteem usually also struggle with feeling they can be free to be who they truly are. This self-imposed limitation is often learned at a very early age and reinforced by countless interaction over the years. For many, just to speak up for themselves is a traumatic experience.

That is why I have written the Assertive Persons Declaration of Rights. The best way to use this is to review these rights every day (especially the ones that are most difficult to declare) Gradually your brain will adjust to this new way of thinking about yourself through a process called cognitive dissonance. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember you have probably held these false beliefs about yourself for decades so give yourself time to rewire your brain.

12 Declaration of Rights For the Assertive Person

  1. I have the right to be wrong without experiencing shame, criticism or rejection.
  2. I have the right to my ideas, values, and dreams without criticism or judgment.
  3. I have the right to ask questions without being shamed.
  4. I have a right to say no without giving a reason that makes sense to other people.
  5. I have a right to my own feelings and not explain them to someone else’s satisfaction.
  6. I have a right to make decisions on my own time schedule.
  7. I have a right to feel good about my accomplishments.
  8. I have a right to make mistakes and not have these mistakes devalue me.
  9. I have a right not to be in a relationship if I believe it is wrong for me.
  10. I have a right to always be treated with respect.
  11. I have a right to respectfully disagree.
  12. I have a right to like what I like and not give a reason for it.  

If there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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5 Healthy Habits You Can't Live Without

REGARDLES OF AGE

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Although some chronic illnesses are genetic, many debilitating ones are caused by lifestyle choices.  Poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, overuse of alcohol, poor diet, lack of physical activity and inadequate relief of chronic stress are key contributors in the development and progression of preventable chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. 

The challenge with lifestyle health issues is that they can be extremely difficult to turn around.  At Total Wellness Resource Centerwe see many individuals who desire change but will attempt to change everything all at once, which is extremely difficult to accomplish - especially if trying this on their own. As a result, they often feel overwhelmed and quickly return to the comfort of their old habits.  But the good news is, healthy lifestyle modifications are possible with appropriate interventions, which include nutritional counseling, exercise training, and stress management techniques to improve outcomes for patients at risk and those who already have common chronic diseases.  Even though  Medical studies show that adults with common chronic conditions who participate in comprehensive lifestyle modification programs experience rapid, significant, clinically meaningful and sustainable improvements in biometric, laboratory and psychosocial outcomes. Not everybody body is willing or able to join such programs, so we encourage you to begin by taking baby steps - one habit at a time.  

5 HEALTHY HABITS

1. Start Your Day Out with  a Healthy Breakfast 

It sounds so flippant to make this step the number one health habit, but scientific studies show us that the way we start our day can effect every minute that follows.  Starting each morning with whole healthy nutrition is like screaming from a mountain top, "I value me and am worth investing in.Not to mention the impact of fueling your brain and body to operate at optimum performance.  

2. Breathe .  Yes, I said Breathe. 

Did you know that by practicing deep breathing meditation for 5 minutes a day you can improve your longevity?    Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazur and her team conducted a study which showed that meditation changes the brain after only eight weeks. A scanned image showed increased thickening of four brain regions in the non-meditators after just eight weeks of participating in the meditation program.

3.. Drink plenty of water. 

Something as simple as drinking plenty of water can have life-changing health benefits.  The human body is made up of between 55-75% water so imagine the effects of limited water intake.  I tell my clients to visualize a plant that hasn't been watered properly for four weeks - now think of your body lacking adequate water for years.   Yes, we can experience so many benefits, such as Increases Energy & Relieves Fatigue, Promotes Weight Loss, Flushes Out Toxins, Improves Skin Complexion,  Maintains Regularity, Boosts Immune System, Natural Headache Remedy,  Prevents Cramps & Sprains, simply by drinking plenty of water. 

4. Get Active

Being active does not necessarily mean trips to the gym or heart pounding aerobic runs around the block.  But it can mean things as simple as choosing stairs over the elevator, standing vs. sitting,  parking a few parking spots further from the door.  Every extra step/stretch you do each day has benefits.  I have clients who choose to turn on the music while cleaning ( a faster beat can create faster movement resulting in more calorie burn)  the truth is we must keep moving if we want to keep moving.  It's Newton's first law of motion - sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion.   

 5. Sleep

As much as our body requires movement to stay healthy, it also requires time to rest and repair.  A group of experts from anatomy and physiology, as well as pediatrics, neurology, gerontology, and gynecology reached a consensus that most adults need 7- 9 hours a day ( varies from age group).  It has been proven that inadequate sleep effects weight, mental clarity, enhanced chronic illnesses, depression, and many other negative health factors.  By tying nutrition, exercise, and mental relaxation, you will see improvement on your ability to have a good nights sleep and your overall health.

Sounds pretty simple huh?  Well, unfortunately all change is hard and sustainable change can be even harder. We are committed to help sowe invite you to reach out to one of our health specialists to assist you with outlining your specific goals to get you started on your "Better Health - Better Life"  Journey.  YOU DESERVE IT 

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