“That’s just the way I am”. Have you ever heard someone say this? Or, have you ever said this yourself? I think most of us have said some variation of this. We use it to explain why we are shy, loud, angry, etc. But what are we really saying? Whether consciously aware of it or not, this phrase basically says, “I have no control over who I am or my behavior, and I cannot change.” Is this true? Is our nature and actions bound by something we have no control over? By genetic expression, culture, or the past? Absolutely not!
First, let’s look at common versions of “that’s just the way I am”. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m big boned”? Or “It’s just in my genes”? What are they really saying? I can’t change because of my genetics. But is that true? Do genes determine how your life goes? Absolutely not! Other versions of this are, “I’m like this because I’m…(Latino, African, Irish, Asian, etc).” “I’m just a shy person” or “I’m angry because my dad was always angry”; “I drink because I come from a line of alcoholics”.
Can you see how saying and believing these phrases puts the blame on someone or something else? You see, there is a power that many people are either afraid of or don’t understand- the power of choice. It’s the power to choose to change yourself; to not allow yourself to be a victim of circumstance. This same power allows us to act on our thoughts and intentions. Of course, it’s much easier to say that you have no control over your life or how you act. Believing you control who you are and who you become puts all the responsibility on yourself. You can no longer blame your parents, upbringing, genetics, or anything else. You are 100% responsible for you.
When I first understood this, I was blown away. Despite being initially apprehensive about realizing I was 100% responsible for me and my life, I felt a sense of power. I felt liberated from a prison of self-pity and blame. I realized I could really work toward achieving the goals I had and become a new person. This God-given endowment allows us to change, to progress and become better spouses, parents, children, workers, and achievers. It means we are not trapped or imprisoned by genetics, upbringing, etc. You can change your life into what you want it to be.
After my realization I didn’t change overnight. It has taken much intentional effort to change how I think and behave, but the difference is that I knew I could transform my life. I knew that I could become better. What’s more, I know I can keep on improving. I’m not anywhere near what I want to become, but that’s ok because I can see what I want to become; and I can move toward it. So long as we’re making continual progress then we’re on the right track. I’m in no way perfect. I still have times when I feel down or discouraged, but I’ve found that it happens a lot less; another sign that I’m changing.
Someone might say, “Well, you don’t understand MY situation.” And that may be true. Countless people out there have been born into severe poverty, had a spouse cheat on them, been divorced, born with a genetic disorder, abused as a child, become disabled by an accident. These are all things I have never experienced. No matter what we do, there are certain events we cannot control. However, (and this is the exciting part) we can control how we react to any given event. We decide what happens next. Where will you take the next part of your story?
While it’s true I never experienced any of the situations I mentioned earlier, there are people who have experienced those same situations, and worse, and rose above them, becoming someone better and doing things others thought were impossible. Names that come to mind are Oprah, Stephen Hawking, Mother Teresa, Tony Robbins, Hal Elrod, J.K. Rowling, Sylvester Stallone, and Nelson Mandela. Of course, some of the best stories are the ones we’ll never read about in a book or hear about on the news. The ones of single mothers pushing through for their children; the addict becoming clean and serving others; the father overcoming obesity or a health challenge and lives happily an extra 20 years enjoying his children; married couples turning aside resentments and refueling their love and respect for each other; and so many other scenarios.
On a final note, when I speak of being able to change, I’m not talking philosophy; I’m talking about physiology and biology. Our brains are literally designed to change. Plasticity in our brains allows us to make new associations and recondition our mind; we can change our personality, character, attitude, skills, etc. We can learn, we can improve. In short, we can change who we are. Progression is a joyful experience. And our brains are designed for it. The first step, though, is taking 100% responsibility for your life and your future.
So the next time you find yourself saying, “that’s just the way I am”, ask yourself, “Is this who I want to be?” If the answer is “no”, then remember, you can change. Know what you want to become, then go to work. I know you can do it. Whatever we at Phytotherapi can do to support you in that change, we are here for you.