Lesson 3: Just Because You Say “I Am,” Doesn’t Mean You Are

“The words “I am” are potent words; be careful what you hitch them to. The thing you’re claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you” – A.L. Kitselman

Who are you?

What defines you?

How do others define you?

More importantly, how do you describe you?

Don’t answer those questions yet. First, I’m going to try a little fill-in-the-blank exercise with you to start this lesson.


Exercise 5: I Am

So, now, when I start the sentence, “I Am ___________________…” how do you fill in the blank? What do you say to complete the second half of that sentence? Here are some popular answers that I’ve heard clients respond with over the years:

  • “I am a father…”
  • “I am a mother…”
  • “I am a husband…”
  • “I am a wife…”
  • “I am a daughter…”
  • “I am a son…”
  • “I am a smoker…”
  • “I am an alcoholic…”
  • “I am a vegetarian…”
  • “I am an employee…”
  • “I am a boss…”
  • “I am a waitress…”
  • “I am an athlete…”
  • Etc.

There are many ways to describe ourselves and these several are but few of the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, the millions of ways you could choose to describe yourself. But you are unique, and I want you to feel involved in this lesson.

So, below, please answer this question with your own “I Am _________________” sentence:

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

“I Am _________________”

Now, here’s why this is important: When we say “I am this…” or “I am that…,” we aren’t just describing ourselves; we may actually be limiting ourselves. When we say “I am this…” or “I am that…,” we give our world structure; we place ourselves in a box. Many of us crave structure, and some of us may even appreciate the “protective” nature of a box.

The problem with putting ourselves in a box is that the longer we stay in there, the longer we say “I am this…” or “I am that…” and nothing more, the harder and harder it is to see the things that we are excluding that we might be or could be and one day fly beyond the confines.

Boxes are safe, but they don’t exactly offer a full range of movement.

Lives are meant to be lived to the fullest, enjoyed and cherished. When we begin labeling ourselves as one thing or another, we tend to cut off the possibilities that exist outside of our known environment.

Our identity starts to become defined much sooner than most of us realise. In many ways that is a good thing, it’s vital that we know where we live, who our mums and dads are and which school we go to. We need beliefs and values to enable us to navigate our way through the world, they are the very things that allow us to develop as individuals.

From the messages that are received early on in your life you begin to make decisions about what is right and wrong, what is achievable and what you consider to be out of your reach. It is this early decision making process that interests me because this is the area that your Saboteur will be resolutely and unflinchingly policing. Those decisions will, in turn, become your rules, your beliefs and values. Come what may, your Saboteur will make sure things are kept exactly as they have always been, safe, secure and unchanging even when you are all grown up and your circumstances have changed. Your Saboteur will be steadfast and unswerving!

Now, that is a fantastic resource to have, just so long as the rules that are being enforced are helping and supporting you, for example, “I am intelligent and can learn new things easily,” I enjoy meeting new people and make good friends easily. These are perfect rules for your Saboteur to impose, after all, you don’t want to have to wander through life, consciously needing to remind yourself every moment that you like meeting new people or you find it easy to learn. 

Difficulties arise when your Saboteur is hanging on to a rule that is no longer appropriate. “Don’t talk to strangers” is a great instruction when you are tiny and just beginning to explore the world, but it won’t serve you well when you want to make new friends, go out on a date, or find yourself a job.

In order to maintain the wall that your original decision making created, your Saboteur locks each brick shaped belief in place with a cement, mixed with fear. Some people never manage to break through or climb over their imaginary walls as the fear of the unknown that lies beyond that boundary wall seams so real. Many of my clients prefer to buy a break through day with me, committing to a coaching program for a whole day and working with their Saboteur to update those rules and liberate themselves, exciting stuff!

Peter had hit his boundary wall, time and time again throughout his career and now he had set up his own company, but for some reason, this “super star” business man was unable to make any progress or generate an income, his get up and go, had got up and gone! He contacted me for a break through session; he was desperate to move beyond this damaging behaviour.

I’ll put his career path to date into a sketch for you, imagine a Toblerone and you’ve got it. Peter would be employed by a company and within the first year he would prove to be such a shining star that promotions would come his way, his salary would increase, there would be a new company car and he and his family would take another step up the property ladder, everything would look rosy in the garden.

But then, disaster would strike, for some unknown reason, Peter would find himself sabotaging his career, so much so that his employers would let him go and he would find himself looking for another job, then, the whole process would start again. Now, you can see why when he described that series of peaks and troughs to me, I found myself thinking of Toblerone!

I could go into the details of the ups and downs but let’s just concentrate on the fact that Peter’s problem had hounded him for years and the reason he had set up his own company, was so that he couldn’t be sacked by himself, now could he?

Peter was now in a standoff with his unconscious mind because he knew that he was capable of earning zillions of pounds but he couldn’t make the first step.

“Who would you say are your role models?” I asked.

“I don’t have any” he replied unaffectedly.

“What about your father?” I offered.

“No, I am nothing like him!” he retorted sharply.

If you read the last statement again, and this time, take out the “nothing” you will see what I was looking at. A man who was like his father but was in conscious denial.

I grabbed a pen and began to create a graph of Peter’s Toblerone career, using his income levels to create the peaks and troughs, I figured that there might be something within his earning bracket that caused him to self-destruct!

Low and behold, every time he fell into the £80k plus bracket, within a year he would damage his career and tumble all the way back down to the bottom and have to start over in another company.

I concentrated on his I am statement “I am nothing like him.” (his father)

“What did your father do for a living?” I asked casually.

“I’ve told you!” he barked “This has got nothing to do with my father!”

“I know, I know, but humor me” I said, smiling back at him.

“He was a dentist” he retorted.

“His salary?” I questioned.

“This is ridiculous” he growled.

“Treat me like an idiot….” I jested “…and we’ll get on fine!”

“About £80k a year…” he said disdainfully “…but what on earth has that got to do with me?”

Then, I went on to coach him through the day, allowing him to see that by holding the belief that he was nothing like his father (“I am nothing like him”), unconsciously, he was putting a huge amount of energy into avoiding everything that, for him, represented his father. 

Peter’s father was successful in his career and had earned in the region of £80k per annum. Peter measured success by income. So, whenever Peter considered that he was becoming successful in his own career (earning something in the region of £80k), his system would implode. His Saboteur would find a way to uphold the rule that he was the black sheep of the family, a waster, and nothing like his father. To Peter, he was the prodigal son and that’s just how his Saboteur was going to keep things.

Now, Peter was self-employed, the Saboteur attacked his confidence, preventing him from making the sales calls because they would only result in Peter becoming more successful…….. just like his father!

By the end of that day Peter moved mountains (or is that Toblerones) and after a few follow up sessions he decided to let go of his childhood patterns and spend time with his father. He reported back to me that, in the beginning, “it wasn’t easy” as they both cried rivers, that can happen when the barriers come down and there is a shift in your “I am” and your “I am not”. It allows you to, not only see yourself differently, but also those around you, your nearest and dearest see you anew. Change one thing and everything changes!

I remember when I first told my dad that I loved him, probably the toughest three words that ever came out of my mouth. It transpired that my grandfather had waited until he was on his death bed to tell my dad that he loved him. Now my dad was obviously waiting to die before he could say it to me!

Luckily I got in there and began teaching my dad that it was okay for him to say it while he was still alive and full of life. He cried a lot for the first dozen or so times and then he got used to being able to say it, out loud and as John Overdurf and Julie Silverthorn put it “You never know how far a change can go!” Lot’s of adults continue in the child pattern and wait for their mother or father to say “I Love You” first, after all, they are the mum and dad so it’s their responsibility. The truth is that your mum and dad might have been brought up with the same “I am not allowed to mention emotions, or show my feelings rule” as my dad. In which case, let me remind you, there are two sides to a communication, so you know what to do.


Exercise 6: I Am, Part II

  • Now you know the power of “I am statements.”
  • Check back over your list of “I am” statements from the beginning of the lesson.
  • Write down any more that are cropping up for you now.
  • Notice if there are any, which might limit you or inhibit your development.
  • Check for any patterns.
  • Ask a friend to lend a hand, they will spot your Saboteur far more easily than you.

Exercise 7: Love Your Parents

  • Tell your mother and father that you love them; you never know when they won’t be here.
  • If, like me, you’re an orphan, imagine your mother and father to be in front of you, or sitting beside you, and tell them that you love them.
  • Tell them that you are sorry for “not forgiving them.”
  • Allow them to love you back and become whole again.
  • “It’s never to late for you to have a perfect childhood.”



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