How Did I Get to Be Me?

CEDAR CITY, Utah, July 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- I believe the title of this blog is something that most of us wonder about from time to time. What many of us fail to realize, though, is just how fundamental our "beliefs about self" are to everything we are and do in life.

Let me give you an example.  Upon seeing a bad grade in math on my report card when I was in 7th grade, my Mom declared, "You are bad at math--just like me!" Coming from my Mom, I accepted her statement as fact--and proceeded to earn a series of bad math grades in a row as a result!

I teach a class in our programs called Personal Leadership, where I outline for our students a 6 step process that largely shapes our lives: (1) Event, (2) Belief, (3) Behavior, (4) Payoff, (5) Cost, and (6) Truth. To illustrate how this process works, I am going to use a real-life example from a girl that graduated from one of our programs a few years ago.  As a caveat, please understand that while this is a true story, everything I share here is what transpired from this girl's perspective.

While at a family reunion, our girl was swimming.  Her uncle passed by her, saw her in the swim suit, and blurted out, "You're fat." (Event). She felt shame and interpreted his statement as "You aren't good enough for me or this family. You are ugly. You don't belong."  Her belief about herself became, "You are fat and ugly and worthless." (Belief).

This girl knew of other girls around her that had eating disorders, particularly withholding of food or anorexia.  She tried that out (Behavior) and it "worked" for her.  She lost weight, garnered some attention, and significantly, felt some control over her life.  Although she didn't like hunger, she DID like what she got from this behavior more than she disliked not eating.  As she lost weight and got positive attention (Payoff) and a greater sense of control, the behavior reinforced itself.

It took her parents a while to catch on--to have their delight at their daughter losing some weight turn to fear as she went too far. As she lost pounds she didn't have, they turned to therapists and education to teach her about the dangers (Cost). Her eating disorder continued to spiral out of control until she found herself in our treatment center. It was here she came to understand the truth about herself: that she truly was amazing with many gifts and talents, that she was beautiful inside and out, and that she had so much to share with the world (Truth). She also came to realize her uncle's own issues, and how that played a role in his comment.

This simple example illustrates the process that every single one of us goes through endlessly.   In psychology we call this "learning."  Behaviorists will tell you that from literally the moment we are born (and I believe even before then) we are learning and making distinctions.   Significantly, what we learn combines with our genetics and personality to shape who we ultimately end up becoming.

So why do I choose to blog about this?  Because if we can LEARN something, we can also UNLEARN it!  The implications of the above is that I can change IF I choose, that while I may not be able to change what has happened to me (e.g. sexual abuse, adoption, death or illness, divorce, etc.), I can choose to change my perspective or "frame" of the event.  I can learn to see the good that comes even out of bad.   I can see the gifts that come even from tragedy and abuse.   Equally important is the fact that I can also choose my behavior about a belief--I can learn new healthier ways to cope with the events in my life. This is the heart of all therapy, no matter the modality, and is a powerful message of hope to all that struggle.

My math problems?  I returned in college home from living overseas for a year and had some extra time on my hands.  Feeling behind, I picked up a math text and began to study it.  What I "learned" is that I was actually quite good at math and that I enjoyed it!

What can you "learn" today? And if you have a loved one in crisis, what can you help them "unlearn?"   Feel free to visit my blog at and add your own perspective to this topic of hope.

Media Contact: Kent Tasso, CERTS, 801-755-8802,

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