I started writing as a teenager. As an adult, many of my jobs involved writing, but I never thought of myself as a writer. Writing was something I did, not who I was. That changed about five years ago when I realized writing was an ongoing thread in my life. I had been a writer for a long time but had never verbalized it. Though I had to force myself to say it, I eventually croaked out the words, “I am a writer.”
When speaking at writers conferences, at some point I lead new writers in saying, “I am a writer.” They smile. We do this a few times, each time louder and with more confidence than the time before. By the end, many are grinning. For some it is sweet confirmation of their identity, while for others it’s the first time they’ve ever voiced their unspoken dream. At that moment they take their first step in becoming writers. They are affirmed.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; we become who we say we are.
However, I am more than a writer; I am other things, too. I am also a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a volunteer, a magazine publisher, an editor, and more. But my most important identity is as a follower of Jesus. Saying each of these labels, affirms me in those roles, cementing my self-image through positive identification.
There is also the opposite of this. Though unintentional, many of us cause ourselves pain with the negative labels we heap on ourselves. Perhaps you’ve said or heard someone say some of them: “I am dumb,” “I am lazy,” “I’ll never amount to anything,” “I’m a failure,” “I can’t lose weight,” “I’ll never get out of debt,” “I’m a victim,” “I’m unlovable,” and so on.
Whether this is a dip into self-pity, an attempt to gain attention, or an admission with a sliver of reality, these statements are damaging. With negative talk such as this, we inadvertently move ourselves closer to becoming what we say, whether we believe it or not, whether it’s true or not. Who we think we are is what we become.
Let’s use our words to become our very best. Although being a writer is laudable, my identity starts with “I am a follower of Jesus, a child of the king.”
Who are you?
[This is from the March 2015 issue of Peter DeHaan’s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]
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