You Are What You Think You Are

I was born choking.

This isn’t a metaphor. I came out of the womb with my own umbilical cord wrapped tightly around my neck like a thick scarf. I couldn’t breathe for my first few moments alive on this Earth. Obviously, I can’t remember this, but I imagine it was filled with panic. But also maybe not. After all, I wouldn’t have had any knowledge that I shouldn’t be choking, so perhaps I believed it to be what life was. You wake up, you choke for a bit, and then you go back to sleep. There’s no way to say for sure that I was panicking.

I imagine my poor mother was freaking out though, which is totally reasonable given the situation. Seeing your own child choking and having no ability to stop it must feel terrifying. The doctor had no doubt seen this happen at least one time before. He probably dealt with it by cutting the cord from around my neck, thus releasing me from a very early retirement.

Nobody would question me if I used this event to suggest that I was born in the struggle – but this is not true. My childhood was anything but a struggle. It was near perfect, with just the right amount of trauma to create a sort of well-rounded person. I fought with my older brother a lot because that is what brothers do, especially when they are young and quite stupid (Now we are older and quite stupid, but we know better.)

When I was 8 years old, I ran into a pebble-dash wall in the strange cul-de-sac arm of my primary school building, and I split my head right open. I didn’t even cry either which is a mystery because I was quite fond of crying the year before that. I walked quietly from the yard to the nearest teacher, with the whole school staring at me in silence as I bled all over the concrete.

Two years later in the same school, I managed to stab the middle finger of my right hand with a lead pencil. Getting the bit of lead that broke off out of my finger was tricky, but I managed it before I arrived to the nurse. She was clearly impressed. I still have the scar, and clearly some of the memory.

If I wanted to I could continue to look at my life through this lens. I could recount to you all of the awful things that have happened. I could tell you about each and every traumatic experience, and every heartbreak and every time I got knocked down. And then I could tell myself that this is the narrative of my life. I could begin to view myself through this lens alone, and suddenly I will see myself as a person hard-done by, rather than as a resilient, and well-adjusted one. I could quite literally change my perception of myself and have it become quite negative if I allowed myself to.

This is an incredibly powerful ability we possess. I think a lot of us do this every day without realising, and it only works to compound negative emotions. I think how we frame ourselves changes who we think ourselves to be. You are who you think you are, after all.

You are what you believe yourself to be. If you believe yourself to be the victim, or the person who is always at fault, or the one who is sad and helpless, then you will become this person. You have a direct impact on how you view yourself. If you continue to frame your life in negative ways, your life will be a sad and difficult one.

It is so easy for us to use our traumas as excuses to stop trying, to just give up. It is so remarkably easy to use our struggles as excuses for not being better. We all have struggles, and traumas and hardships. We’ve all been through our own hellish battles. Using these experiences as an excuse to throw in the towel is common, and understandable, but it is not good. It doesn’t serve any of us to allow what has happened to us in the past to determine who we are now.

How do you frame your life? How do you frame yourself? These questions are important. How you see yourself directly impacts how you feel on a day to day basis. If you feel you are a bad person then you will feel shame and guilt and terror. Imagine how you’d feel if you began to believe you were a good person? Imagine if you actually treated yourself like you treat your friends, rather than giving yourself abuse day after day for simply existing.

I imagine life would be an entirely different thing, so it’s worth trying.

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