Renew Your Mind
Every morning, without fall, you’ll see me with a piece of paper where the folds are like well traveled paths. It’s been well over seven months of mornings that I have read this paper, and the habit hasn’t gotten old. Daily reading of my positive personal declarations has been life changing. That’s a good thing, because before that I was literally paralyzed in my ability to make and maintain friendships, among other things.
I was at a conference and remember seeing a group of girls hug one another. It was clear they’ve been friends for years. Inside jokes were rampant and laughs were tossed frivolously at each other. I was jealous. Once I entered into the workforce, I struggled to reach out to people. Crippling thoughts plagued me.
They won’t like you. You have nothing in common. You’ll do something to hurt them and they won’t forgive you. You are just a bad friend. Don’t try.
And so I didn’t. For years… for a decade. Really. I didn’t have friends, thought I was too different and incapable. It doesn’t stop there - my negative thought patterns inhibited me at work too.
I recall a conversation with my boss. “I understand my value as a project manager, but I don’t see the value of me as a photographer. I’m not worth it. Why would you even pay me?” Towards the end I was crying. I was so certain that I didn’t have the skills needed to elevate their brand with photography. Outside of employment, collaborators would knock and I would agree then cancel shoots because I was scared to fail. Leads would come in and I would pass them along, afraid I’d fall short.
Our thoughts shape our future. We can either be led by our thoughts, or we can lead them.
I wish we had a different nature, one that’s not hard-wired for negativity, or “negativity bias” as scholars label it. While there’s no shortage of research of why humans have this tendency and how to counterbalance it - I’d like to share the way I’ve combatted it: Personal Declarations.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Taking a cue from Romans 12:2, I start each day with filling my mind with truths that oppose the natural negative pattern of this world. With my paper unfolded, I speak aloud the sentences written in green ink:
I am who I am, and that’s who I’m meant to be.
Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.
The Holy Spirit within me is able to pull off whatever I’ve been called to do.
I’m inseparable from Christ’s love.
Your positive statements will look different, as they should - because they reflect your personal fears, insecurities.
In the 7 or so months I’ve been practicing Personal Declarations, I’ve become more aware of my negative thoughts. When they start sneaking in, I now have memorized statements to immediately replace them. Before I was at my negativity’s mercy - driven to wherever it’s whims took me. Now, I continually push forward, past previous roadblocks into unknown potential of friends and craft.
Case in point, my iceberg papercraft.
Generally it takes me 6-8 hours from sketch to final image to create a papercraft image. However, this simple iceberg image took around took 20+ hours. In past cases I’ve found an executable direction within the first 2-3 iterations, this time it took 5. By the time I landed on the final style, I was fatigued and mentally drained. Feeling guilty that it took longer than expected, questioning my skill, struggling with staying emotionally afloat - I broke and cried, sharing with my husband that I feel like a failure. “But I’m not,” I said immediately after, “I can do this. I will do this.” I cleaned my desk of all the failed iterations and started a fresh.
The failure didn’t stop. It continued to be a slow trudge forward, because math. Angles, barf. After each failed step, I would repeat one of my personal declarations, and try again.
Soon I was out of paper. Literally.
The temptation to throw in the towel came back full force. NO, I can do this, I thought. Repeating personal declarations I reviewed the scraps of paper and failed triangles. How can I salvage this?
By never allowing myself to follow the slow decline into negativity, I was able to push past these obstacles that would have previously ended progress.
I know this can work for you too. Name your fears, don’t ignore them. Label your insecurities, don’t look the other way. Then boldly declare, daily, the truth in direct opposition to them. It’s hard. Tiring, at first. It will get easier, all the while transforming you from the inside out.