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You're Way More than What You Think You Are. Two Insightful Reinvention Coaches Guide Us to the Best Version of Ourselves

You're Way More than What You Think You Are. Two Insightful Reinvention Coaches Guide Us to the Best Version of Ourselves

By Wendy Perrotti & Dana Hilmer
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I am.

This two-word phrase is charged when it comes to describing ourselves. When asked about our identity, we jump to use it:

I am an artist, a surgeon, a mother.

I am a vegan, an avid reader, a tennis player.

I am a liberal, a conservative, a child of God, an atheist.

We even use these words to describe our qualities, real and imagined: I am strong, beautiful, ugly, pitiful, wild, smart, lazy.

"I am" is powerful. So powerful in fact, that we use it as a coaching tool to help people achieve their goals. If you’re working on a book, you’re more likely to finish it when you say, “I am an author.” Or if you’re aiming to stop eating meat, you’ll up your chances of success by saying “I am vegan.”

As powerful as this phrase is, though, it can be problematic. “I am” can be a trap. When we consistently use "I am" for our roles, emotions, beliefs, qualities, practices, actions, we come to believe that those things define us. And the truth is, what we are is so much more.

What happens to the surgeon who develops a tremor? Or the wife and mother, now divorced, whose kids leave the house? Are these women lesser versions of themselves? Of course not! But if they've identified with those roles, they may believe they are. And this is where identity may be getting in the way.

Roles and practices evolve. We evolve. If we had a word in the language that meant "I am currently," to describe them to ourselves and others, that evolution would likely feel more expansive—like the actual opportunity it is, rather than an incremental loss of self.

Our qualitative identities can be equally impairing. Our “I am” identities, even when positive, can also undermine our growth. While "I am beautiful" is an empowering identity, for the aging woman who attaches it to the specific beauty of youth, every crease or wrinkle threatens her confidence.

Identifying ourselves by our emotions is another potential trap. None of us IS anxious or stressed or sad. We simply FEEL those things. And those feelings are likely to pass more quickly when our subconscious mind doesn't associate them with our identity.

Attaching belief to identity is at the heart of the angry, polarized world we're living in today. I am (conservative, liberal, etc.) creates a finite state in the mind that has little room for critical thinking.

How can we remedy this? By shifting our language to "I believe in...” This phrase opens the mind to curiosity, empathy, and the potential for growth.

Our roles, feelings, practices, self-image and yes, even our beliefs, are ever-evolving. Yet we are forced, by the constraints of our language, to describe them in a way that pinions them to our identity, as if we we're frozen in time.

This of course, leaves us with the question: If we aren't our roles, feelings, beliefs, then who the hell are we?

Very simply, you are YOU. And that is always enough.

Now let's turn these insights into action.

To begin to identify how your identity might be holding you back, pause and consider the language you use to describe yourself. Notice any elements that feel heavy, old, or limiting. How might you alter them to be in alignment with your current goals and aspirations?

Remember, the language you use to describe yourself (both internally and to others) has power… Make it work for you!

Want to dive in deeper? Click here for our Identity Matters Workbook created exclusively for The Sunday Paper. In this workbook, you’ll uncover where your identity language may be holding you back and learn how to shift it to propel you forward.

Wendy Perrotti and Dana Hilmer are the Co-Creators of Camp Reinvention™—the only program of its kind for those with more than a few decades under their belts who are eager to create what's next in their lives. As master-level coaches, they have helped thousands of women successfully reinvent their lives. They have been featured on countless podcasts, television, and radio shows, and have reached over 2 million people on their own podcast. Learn more at