Updated: Jul 8, 2021
I am me is a statement regarding who I am; as opposed to who you are; or who others want me to be. In this context, I am giving a statement of fact regarding what I have accepted about myself.
In todays crazy world we are bombarded with messages regarding who others are or who people think we should be. Regardless of where we look we hear thousands of voices demanding to wear this, eat that, or believe what is being spoken. These divergent voices create confusion and with confusion an increase is adverse emotion. To be clear, not knowing who I am lies at the core of what can be called emotional dysfunction.
Emotional dysfunction is a concept where I am controlled by emotion. Or an existence where adverse emotion such a stress, fear, and frustration drive how I think and what I do. Meaning, the less I know, who I am, the more I am driven by what I think others want me to be.
Let’s look at fear for a moment. Fear is an emotion concerned with things outside my control. For example, I have a fear of heights. I am not sure where this fear came from; but it is real. At times, my fear causes me to avoid engaging in certain activities. One day, I was at an amusement park. A choice was made to ride a roller coaster lovingly called the “Cannibal”. This particular rollercoaster begins with a 208 foot elevator lift before the passenger cars move even an inch forward. Understanding I would be required to sit in an enclosed car, while it slowly ascended upward, filled me with anxiety.
Where I am not clear on what caused my fear of heights I do understand this fear is based on concerns of falling to my death. Naturally, amusement parks have safeguards in place to ensure safety; and let's face it, riding a roller coaster is not the most dangerous activity one can engage himself in.
I would say death while parachuting carries a much higher risk than death from a roller coaster. None-the-less, I was freaked out; mostly because I had agreed to go on this monstrosity of a ride.
Perhaps my willingness to engage in something, which causes me fear, needs a bit of exam-planning. In previous blog posts I have described my time as a police officer. When I look back on this career I can honestly say I did not feel fear once despite engaging in extremely dangerous circumstances.
For example, one evening I was called to assist in a search of two suspects who had run from a traffic stop. We found them in the backyard of a residence hiding in a window well. They were both arrested, without incident; and the red truck they had been driving was searched. Inside the truck was a loaded 9mm pistol stashed under the drivers seat. The men were found to be in possession of a large amount of crack cocaine; and the gun was stolen. For a moment, I felt an emotion I can only describe as being “spooky”. You know, like a haunted house—ghosts waiting to lurch from a hidden corner— an intrepadacious kind of feeling; a spooky feeling. It was spooky to discover two men delivering drugs armed with a loaded pistol. Why? Because those men could have chosen to use that gun to defend their cargo. This is the reason I was armed with my own pistol, a ballistics vest, and years of firearms training.
What could happen is the reason I spent so much time as an officer preparing myself mentally, emotionally, and physically; because the more I prepared the more control I had when things went bad.
For 10 years I served as a police officer and the closets thing I came to being scared can only be described as spooky. Because I was prepared to engage with men willing to use weapons to protect their illegal craft. This roller coaster proved to be more difficult because my fear was based within something I had no control; i.e. the integrity of the structure or the ability of gravity to crush human flesh after a 208 foot fall. Inside my mind I was engaged in a battle of wills. My emotion telling me to run from danger and my desire to control my emotion keeping me from getting on a “harmless” rollercoaster ride.
As I waited in line, for my turn on the Cannibal, I found my anxiety increasing in intensity. The only thing which kept me in the line was an internal strength which did not like to loose. Meaning, this stupid ride was not going to get the best of me; I was going to ride this damn thing even if it meant killing me; which I knew was such a minuscule risk as to make my fear irrational; but that did not change the fact I was terrified.
My dance with the Cannibal came much sooner than expected. I sat in the car next to my young niece. I made sure the shoulder harnesses and seat belts were in place and then I looked up; bad mistake. It looked like the top of the elevator was miles in the air. I slammed my eyes shut and leaned forward in the car. My niece thought my reaction was hilarious; which did not help. All I could do was focus my attention on the time it would take for the ride to be over. “It won’t be long” I said in my mind; “this will be over soon”.
The elevator car began to rise; I was in near panic. I opened my eyes and starred straight forward muttering brash curse words under my breath; my niece laughed even harder at this; I had not intended for her to hear what I was saying; fear can be difficult to control. Nevertheless, there I was, a grown man, terrified of a ride sitting next to a young girl elated by the experience. And then, without warning, I was starring at a huge door leading out of the elevator. The car stoped its upward accent and began moving froward onto the coster track. We shot shot forward like a bullet.
What’s interesting is what happened to my fear once the ride began its forward momentum; my fear left completely and I loved the ride. Strange as this may sound my experience is not that uncommon. If we broaden our scope from that of a rollercoaster, and a fear of heights, the concept of fear can be described as a feeling of trepidation over looming danger. Meaning, something bad is coming and there is nothing I can do about it. I would argue this last statement, of being able to do nothing about danger, depends largely on what we are willing to do.
For example, I spent six months in training before I was allowed to act as a police officer. During my 10 years of service I spent hundreds of hours in training preparing for what “might” happen. This concept can be summed by the following phrase; “knowledge mitigates uncertainty” (Dunlop & Radaelli, 2018, pg. 259); or the more we know the less we fear. By the time I chose to ride the Cannibal I knew how irrational my fear was; which is why I chose to face my fear; I wanted to show my mind there was nothing to fear.
Said differently, my experience as a police officer taught me what real danger is as opposed to perceived danger. My years as a police officer also caused an emotional dysfunction known as PTSD. On the day I sat terrified, waiting for a rollercoaster, I knew I was struggling with a PTSD trigger. I also knew my willingness to face my fear is what would help me overcome this disorder.
What then does fear, rollercoasters, police work, and PTSD have to do with understanding who I am? The answer is simple; who I am is a collection of how I think, how I feel, and what I do. In my own journey of life I have been dammed by fear such that what I wanted to do, and even what I needed to do, became impossible. My years as a police officer taught me the power of knowledge to control the unexpected. In fact, my years as a police officer afforded numerous examples of successfully controlling dynamically dangerous events. At the time I was a police officer I identified with the badge. And when my career was taken, because of PTSD, I sunk into emotional despair because my identity had been ripped from my chest. With time, and significant soul-searching, I found my identity has less to do with my chosen career and more to do with why I excel at any endeavor.
In short, “I am Me” is an identity statement which declares I know who I am, what I can do, and what I cannot do. I know my strengths and I know what limits me. And with this knowledge I choose to engage in the difficulties of life with confidence because I am better today than I was yesterday. This last outcome, forward progression to become my best, does not come easy and requires at my core an understanding of who I am.
Far too many waste time on what they think others want them to be. I choose to be me! I choose to accept my strengths along with my weakness! I choose to be defined by what I can do rather than what I cannot do. Therefore, with boldness I state; “I am Me” because I know my value and I know what I can do. Remember, knowledge mitigates uncertainty; remember the more we know the less we fear. In this, the first fear I must face requires a look inward to see what I can accomplish with the right effort. In this, I must accept my strengths along with my weakness. In reality, the first fear I must overcome is an understanding of who I am; because if we are terrified to discover who we really are we will never have the strength to stand for who we are.
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Dunlop, C. & Radaelli, C. (2018). The lessons of policy learning: types, triggers, hinderances
and pathologies. Policy & Politics. 46(2) 255-272