I am a personal trainer. I train people individually and in groups. A while back I had the opportunity to train a group of middle and high schoolers. We came to a part of the training where we had to perform push-ups. When we got to that part of the routine I noticed one child not participating. I asked him why he was not participating. He said he could not do many and that he was embarrassed to try to do them.
I immediately stopped everyone and told them all to listen to me. I hope my reply changed his life and the lives of the other students.
I said to him, “Embarrassment is a state of mind, not a state of being. You are the only one who decides if you are embarrassed or not. No one can take this thing called ’embarrassment’ and place it on you. Embarrassment is something you take up and place on yourself. If you do not want to be embarrassed, then you do not have to be. No one controls whether or not you are embarrassed except yourself alone. You can overcome the feeling of embarrassment by an act of your will, your mind, because embarrassment is a state of mind. Decide right now to not take up the feeling of embarrassment, and you will never be embarrassed.”
There is a big difference between a state of being and a state of mind.
State of being
A state of being is something that you physically are and you may or may not always be that way. For instance, one of my states of being is a Massachusetts resident. No matter how hard I try, I cannot change my residence by mental exertion alone. If I were to claim that I am not a Massachusetts resident, that would be either denial or lying. The only way I can change my state of being as a Massachusetts resident is to physically move. While my state of being is a Massachusetts resident, my state of mind is definitely Texan.
We can give a host of other examples for states of being. For instance, someone can look at me and say, “You are bleeding.” If I look at my arm and see that I am bleeding, then I have to accept that I am indeed in a state of bleeding. I cannot mentally heal my wound. There is nothing I can do about that but to go get a band-aid and start the repair process. Someone can also make me bleed. If someone were to cut me, I could not say, “You cannot make me bleed.” Well, yes they can.
State of mind
However, a state of mind can be changed with mental exertion alone. For instance, are you frustrated? You do not have to do anything physically to change your state of frustration – a state of mind. All you have to do is mentally decide that you will not remain frustrated. It may take a little bit of time to finally remove frustration from your mind, but it can be accomplished with mental effort alone because frustration is a mental state, a state of mind. This is not denial, this is changing the problem at the locus.
No one can make you maintain a state of mind. A state of mind is solely up to you. Someone may try to make you feel embarrassment, but whether or not you do feel embarrassment is ultimately up to you. If someone were to try to embarrass me, I could say, “You cannot make me feel embarrassed.” Or at the very least I can end the feeling of embarrassment as quickly as I put my mind to it.
Now, you do create a physical response when you perform mental exertion. When you mentally decide to not be frustrated anymore, you may have to think positive thoughts. When you think these positive thoughts, a physical response is triggered that releases neurotransmitters that help the body catch up to the mind.
The mind and the body are intimately linked, but there is a difference. There is a great phrase that I recently read that was penned by the apostle Peter, a follower and eye-witness of Christ. The phrase is found in his second letter (for you theologians: II Peter 2:11). Peter encourages his audience to resist “desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.”
Wait. Did you read that? “… desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.” What this shows us is that the flesh (material) and the soul or mind (immaterial) are intimately linked. That means that your mind or soul can affect your body and vice versa. (For all you nerds, yes there may be a technical difference between the soul and the mind and even partly in the way I am using “mind” here, but my point is that the material and the immaterial can affect each other.)
You can counter anything your body may be telling you. To be sure your body is affected by immaterial words. Words like, “You are fat”, “You are a loser”, “You are worthless”, “You will never amount to anything”, “You are ugly”, “You are dumb”, and a host of other negative messages. Those words do not have to affect you in a negative way. When you feel yourself responding to them in a negative way, you can counter those feelings by realizing that you control your state of mind. Do not let other people dictate what your state of mind should be. You and only you ultimately control that.
There can be a thin line between a state of being and a state of mind. For instance, a state of being is being overweight, but a state of mind is believing you are fat. It may be true that you have more storage than your body frame is intended to hold, but describing yourself as fat carries a lot more mental and emotional baggage. Being overweight is a state of being, being fat can be a state of mind. (If you do not know, every body has a different frame and some frames are built to carry more storage or to look as if they have more in storage. Do not worry if you have one of these body frames. Our culture has imposed unrealistic body images on the masses, so do not buy into the unrealism. Be honest with yourself and start a diet and exercise routine if you feel as if you may be carrying more storage than you think you should, but do not place expectations on yourself that God did not design for you to meet.)
The best method to having a strong state of mind
If we allow other people or our circumstances to define who we are and how we feel, then we will always be in flux and at the mercy of those around us.
How do we counter the temptation to allow others to dictate our state of mind? We can try a bunch of self-help books and listen to self-worth podcasts and try to conjure up a reality for ourselves. This method is certainly effective, but it is not grounded in anything concrete. Ultimately this method is just placing our feet firmly in mid-air. All it will take for us to go falling down is one little knock to our foundationless conjuring.
I believe the best method is one that takes mental exertion but is also supported by actual truthful positions. God has given each of us an identity. God has given each of us an inherent worth. Since God has given each of us these things, believing that you are valuable, loved, special, and worthy of respect is not a fabrication, but a statement based on reality.
If you are struggling with self-worth, remember that God has designated your worth as priceless. No one can take that away from you. If someone calls you worthless, they are lying; their statement is not one that is accurate, but is based off conjecture. Do not believe conjecture. Instead, plant yourself in the truth of how God defines you. Your identity should be found in your Designer, not in your accusers. Your identity should be found in the One who truly knows you, not those who do not even know themselves.
Do you feel broken, judged, worthless, lost, inadequate, scarred, damaged, abandoned? Our sinful selves and this sinful world can do a number to our identity. But that is where God steps in. When we are lost, He finds us. When we are broken, He mends us. When we are inadequate, He gives us strength. When we are abandoned, He never leaves our side. He gives peace to the weary mind.
Even when we are rightly labeled “sinner”, God says He still loves us and has provided a way for us to be labeled “holy” and “righteous”. Christ makes all things new. Your old self may be broken, judged, inadequate …, but Christ makes us whole, innocent, and strong. Christ changed the state of being for a number of people when He healed them of their diseases. He will ultimately one day eternally repair our state of being. How much more does He give us concrete reasons to have a strong state of mind.
God gives us a way for our identity to be forgiven, holy, righteous, loved, admirable, pure … and all without any guilt.