I was watching Disney’s The Princess Diaries with my daughters the other night. I have two young daughters and Julie Andrews is worth watching in almost anything. The best part of the movie is towards the end (spoilers ahead, skip to next paragraph if concerned) when the main character stands up and gives a speech about why she is accepting the crown. She starts talking about how often the word “I” comes out of her mouth in a day and maybe the world would be a better place if she started focusing on using “I” less and we and us more.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the word/letter “I” in itself, but how often it is used in our speech matters. This is true for most people including myself. Writing blogs, recording podcasts, and YouTube videos and other media you start to notice and scrutinize your own speech patterns. Because of the editing process you get an in your face review of exactly what you say and how often you use certain words and connections like “umm”. Unfortunately “I” gets used way more often that I would like to admit; so “I” am writing this for me and you.
I am not much of a linguist, but I did manage to do pretty well with 3 years of high school Spanish. Most of which has completely escaped me except for some of the basics for survival, words like bathroom and beer. One thing I did retain is the fact that Spanish as a language has separate words for “I am” (fact) as opposed to “I feel” (opinion/emotion). Now for all you who are truly gifted with language or happen to speak Spanish natively you can feel free to correct my understanding or lack thereof in the comments.
I is frequently used as a selfish word in our language; less often for factual purposes. For example
“I want,” “I think,” and “I like” are all fine statements when made in reasonable context to a relevant conversation or topic; however that is not the way most of us use them, is it?
With two young children (let me get some love from the parents in the comments below if you understand) I hear this word followed with selfish requests all the time. Children are inherently selfish, but not in a “they are horrible people” kind of way. Children are born unable to provide for themselves and just like a litter of pups will fight to nurse to make sure they don’t starve, children constantly ask for all the things they can’t do for themselves. It is only with time, education, and growth that they become less selfish as they can fend for themselves.
We can grow out of it, but society has engineered itself to reinforce our selfishness. Social media started around the idea and grew into bigger proportions of it. Think about it, all social media starts with a celebration of you. You have a dedicated site or shrine to you and your life and thoughts. You are front and center, you dominate the conversation and control what you see. You can block things you don’t like for any reason and just have an echo chamber of things you like and that affirm you. They grow on our own vanity.
“I” dominates the conversation until it becomes the other side of the sword.
Try these statements to understand what I mean here:
“I broke it”
“I am wrong”
“I ate too much”
“I screwed up my diet” (this one is hitting close to home today)
“I botched the job, boss”
“I failed to deliver (fill in the blank) on time”
“I spent too much and can’t pay my bill because I played with my money”
“I did it wrong”
Do I need to continue, are you getting the gist of the other side of the sword? “I” is the most empowering word in the world and we all fear that side of it. Jocko Willink covered this well in Extreme Ownership (I will link it on Amazon) if you want to read further on this and I highly recommend you do. “I” can set you free! You just have to be willing to let it.
“I” puts the power back in your hands; if it is the world's fault that I ate too much and blew my diet then I am powerless to do anything about it. However if “I ate too much” then that is something that can be learned from and adjusted to be more successful.
“I can fix it” starts with “I own that I am responsible for doing so.”
Sorry if the last statement was a little much but you get the point. I can be used as the most incredibly selfish word in the English language or it can be used to empower you to be the man you are meant to be. Think about how it comes out of your mouth and adjust; using it responsibly puts it all on your shoulders, but it also puts it all in your hands.
[walks over and looks at Falco with disgust] Winners always want the ball... when the game is on the line. - Jimmy McGinty from The Replacments
Thanks for joining me,
The Fallible Man
Be better tomorrow because of what you do today!