The Power of I

The Power of I

We were videotaping a segment of the online version of Beneath the Weight – here’s what happened.

“My customary eating style is Late Night Snacker. You know how at night while you’re watching TV and . . .“

“Cut. That was good but use the word “I” instead of “you.”

“Okay.“ said Alex. “My customary eating style is Late Night Snacker. I like to watch TV at night and you like something salty like potatoes chips. Next thing you know . . .”

“Cut. Good, but you said ‘you’ again. I need you to say “I”.

“Crap! I did it again? Wow! I can’t believe I did that?

“It’s okay. It’s common. If you’re like all the other people we videotaped, it will happen many more times.”

“Okay. My customary eating style is Late Night Snacker. You know how at night while you are watching TV and . . .“


“I heard myself say it this time,” said a frustrated Alex. “What is this? I can’t believe I’m having so much trouble remembering to say I.”

But the problem wasn’t with his memory. Alex, like the other people on our Facebook videos, was instructed to ad-lib and give honest answers. The problem wasn’t with remembering to say “I”, it was how Alex saw himself in relation to what he was doing.

When you use the “impersonal you”, meaning all of us, or this particular group of people, it allows you to put distance between yourself and the emotions caused by what you are doing. Rather than experiencing the feelings associated with eating a bag of potatoes chips, Alex thought in terms of the “impersonal you” and now he told himself that he was doing what we all do when we watch TV. Right?

As the videotaping session with each participant continued and the word “you” began to be replaced with the word “I”, there was a clear change in emotion. Some people nervously laughed, others became more serious. One participant was moved to tears and said, “This just got real.”

Alex became introspective. “I ate an entire bag of potatoes chips while I watched TV. I did that,” he said in disbelieve. It was as if it was the first time he saw what he was doing, and he was experiencing the emotions that can go along with eating a bag of chips in one sitting.

Can a single word be that powerful? Do our words define us and create our reality? Yes, they do.

Can words help us bury an emotion and cause us stress rather than experiencing the emotion and benefiting from that experience? Yes.

So, try using the word "I". What does it feel like to own what you say? If you own it, you can change it.

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