A dear friend of mine recently shared a devotional from the website DaySpring entitled, Flushing Out Emotional Toxins. The article provides a helpful spin on something we often say to define our emotions. Think about how often you describe how you are feeling by saying, “I am…” and insert a feeling there.
The author of this article shared the following, “Instead of saying, ‘I am sad,’ say, ‘I feel sad.’ Instead of saying, ‘I am depressed,’ say, ‘I feel depressed.’” In changing your words, you prevent temporary emotions from latching on as permanent identities.”
The holidays are a time that evokes many feelings in all of us: joy, hope, excitement, disappointment, frustration, to name a few. The article suggests we shift from defining ourselves with any one of these words to acknowledging that they are feelings, not a statement about our identity.
Remember the song, “Who are you? from the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation? How well do each of us know ourselves? How do we identify ourselves? We often think about ourselves as a certain sex, age, race, member of a specific group, or as someone with a history with our families and friends.
The author recommends we keep our identity separate from the specific feelings we are having at any given moment. A feeling is not our identity, but rather something transient that can change as our life goes on, moment by moment, day by day, experience by experience.
I invite you to consider how differently you may be feeling today than yesterday or last week. You might take some time to consider your identity, the things that make you you that are relatively permanent. Some of them can change over time, but many do not. Our emotions are constantly changing.
As you experience the holidays, think about how you’re feeling and how your feelings are not your identity. I think of the lyrics from the Lauren Daigle song Rescue Me in which she lovingly proclaims that “You are not broken.” I think when we shift from saying, “I am…” to “I feel,” then insert an emotional word, we’re being more fair and accurate. Doing that makes it clear we’re having a feeling that does not define us. We aren’t broken even if we feel broken.
Part of what makes us human is the many feelings we experience. Recognizing how frequently we shift from one feeling, or even set of feelings, to another can help us better understand how we’re responding or reacting to what happens in our lives and what happens in our minds. We can notice our feelings and decide how fair, reasonable, and accurate they are.
We have the power to reconsider feelings which can free us from feelings that are hurting us or someone else. Meanwhile, we can embrace our identity; those qualities about each of us that answers the question, “Who Are You?”
As you experience the many feelings of the holiday season, consider how it might help you to differentiate between the things you feel and what the components of your identity are. There may be components of your identity you want to work on that are changeable. For example, you cannot change your race or your age, but you could change your identity in terms of how much you value outward appearances or how well you manage finances.
I hope you can embrace the subtleties of shifting from “I am…” to “I feel…” as a kind of gift you give yourself that can enhance how you live your life, how you nurture yourself, and how you grow as a human being; free to be yourself.
Invitation for Reflection:
- Can you recall recently saying something like, “I am mad,” and now recognize that that statement more identifies you than it describes your feeling of being angry? Can you see how changing that to “I feel mad” is more accurate and does not somehow define you?
- How do you identify yourself? How many features of your identity are permanent and which do you have the power to change?
- How can you apply this information to yourself in the future? How might that impact you in terms of your feelings and your identity?