I am ____________.

I Am GraphicHumans label things. It’s part of what makes us unique. We name and classify, create taxonomies, and categorize the world around us to better understand it.

Unfortunately, we also allow labels to limit our understanding of others and ourselves. When helping others with their writing, I counsel them to eliminate as many “be” verbs as possible. Is, Be, Am, Are, Was, and Were often signify lazy writing. They slow down prose and take the place of more descriptive verbs conveying action and emotion.

For example, “The dishes are dirty and the sink is full ,” reads flatter than “The dirty dishes filled up the sink.”

Just as be-verbs slow down our writing, they also slow down and negatively shape our thoughts and feelings. This happens most on challenging days when we feel tired, stressed and otherwise overwhelmed.

I’d bet at least one of the following thoughts popped into your head in the last week. They pop into everyone’s head.

  • I’m old.
  • I’m tired.
  • I’m too fat/too thin (or substitute any other body critical description.)
  • I’m stupid for missing the appointment.

How would your perspective change with a simple shift in language?

  • I work with a lot of young people.
  • I stayed up too late last night.
  • I don’t like the way these clothes fit.
  • I double-booked my schedule and missed the meeting.

Shifting our thoughts from passive mode to active moves us into a more compassionate mindset to accept ourselves as we are today while also taking the small steps that can lead to big changes tomorrow.

  • I work with a lot of young people. I bet we have a lot to learn from each other.
  • I stayed up too late last night. I’ll stay aware of my energy limits today and get to bed earlier tonight.
  • I dislike the way these clothes fit. Perhaps I should rethink my wardrobe or alter my exercise plan.
  • I double-booked my schedule and missed the meeting. I will check my calendar further in advance to avoid this in the future.

The next time you hear yourself say, “I’m ________,” consider the impact of those words.

Cut yourself a break and try to remember that you ARE more than any one word can describe.