Today’s columnist, Dr Mary Wren: How we see ourselves

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One of the things I really notice is how people talk about things, themselves and their illnesses.

I remember sitting in a consultation with a lady where several times she told me how stupid she was.

I stopped her in the end and pointed out what I had noticed.

I explained that if she said she was stupid so many times, then she probably felt stupid most of the time and this would affect how she saw herself and behaved. I don’t think she had considered it before.

I think we often don’t notice what we say and what effect it can have.

It’s a bit like when we speak negative things to ourselves and then over time we become what we have been saying.

Sometimes it is good to stop and notice what we speak or ask other people what they hear us saying.

So thinking is really important.

Have you noticed what you think about? I know I think all sorts of thoughts that are actually lies, they just feel true.

Then there are people who define themselves by their illness.

For example, the man who described himself as a depressed alcoholic, or the lady who described herself as an arthritic cripple.

Now we don’t want to pretend we are well when we are not, or hide truth from people.

But at the same time it is important not to get our identity from our illness.

So instead of the man seeing himself as a depressed alcoholic, it would be more healthy to see himself as a unique man, who happens to have episodes when he feels depressed and who struggles with alcohol.

Or the lady could see herself as a bright, gifted woman who happens to have a body that doesn’t always work well.

It can seem very subtle, but actually it’s huge. Suddenly our identity shifts and is not based on the outward things but rather on who we are inside.

And then the outside things are easier to cope with.

So take a moment to think about how you see yourself.

Maybe it’s something a parent said or a doctor said to you that defines how you see yourself.

Maybe it’s something that has crept in and moulded you a certain way.

No illness or disease or disability can change the person you really are inside, but knowing who you are inside can change everything on the outside.