Have you ever heard the phrase, "Wherever you go, there you are"?
The same could be said for our mentors.
This past week I spoke to a crowd of several hundred students at Truman State University. The topic? Body image and eating disorders.
The truth, as I shared with the students, is that most of us simply don't have time to stop and analyze all of the messages that come at us each day. Most of us don't even have time to stop and notice that those messages are there.
Yet they mentor us. They affect us. They sink into our awareness anyway -- whether we invited them to do so or not.
And once they get into our heads, it is very difficult to get them back out!
Wherever we go, our messages go with us. If our mind greets us in the morning with, "Hello, Beautiful!" and we capture and hang on to that thought, then that is the message we will carry with us throughout our day... or at least as long as it takes before our mind captures and claims another, equally compelling thought.
Which means that if our next captured thought happens to be, "You will never find someone to love you as you are," or "you're too fat to command respect at that meeting" then that will be our mentor for the next moments until yet another strong, attention-grabbing thought comes along.
Last week I attended an extremely moving talk by thought leader Byron Katie. Katie, as she is called, suffered from debilitating depression for 10 excruciating years before realizing that her depressed state was more in her control than she had perceived. Lying there in her bed, depressed to the point of suicide, she gathered up her last little bits of energy and courage and began to question her own thoughts.
One by one, she brought them up before the "Council of Katie," putting them through their paces with four simple questions.
The first question she would ask herself about a thought that was causing her pain (for example: "you're too fat to command respect at that meeting") would be, "Is it true?"
Then she would listen for her own answer. If her answer was "yes," she would then ask herself a second question: "Can you absolutely know that it is true?"
After which she would use all of her own thinking powers to reason that no, it probably couldn't be proven to be absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, true.
She would then continue on with a third question: "How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?" paying attention as she did so to how her behaviors and way of interacting with people and life changed as she allowed that thought to take a deeper hold in her awareness.
Finally, she would ask herself very simply: "Who would you be without that thought?" And she would imagine herself, in the exact same situation, only minus the thought that was causing her to feel so depressed, distressed, and distanced from life, other people, and herself.
In this way, Katie was able to free herself from the prison her inner thought-mentors had built around her. Today, she mentors thousands of students who aspire to the freedom of selecting their thought-mentors with such attention and care.
As often happens during one of my "Beauty Undressed" campus presentations, we spend a great deal of time dissecting the types of mentoring influences that pervade our daily lives. We look at advertising, at body image standards, at the economic and emotional impact of the "culture of thin" that surrounds us.
After which I take care to point out that our own state of being is always, nearly entirely, up to us. We may have disease in our body or in our brain. We may have circumstances that require some time to resolve. What life gifts us with may not always be what we hoped or prayed for, and may even be the exact opposite.
But how we approach life and the thoughts we have about our circumstances, and how we allow life and those thoughts to approach us, is in fact entirely up to us.
Wherever we go, there we are. And our mentors will go with us... both the mentors we consciously choose, and the mentors which we allow to choose us unconsciously.
Who are your mentors? Who goes with you when you get up to move, and greets you when you come back home again? Who guides you through life's triumphs and challenges?
What thoughts and messages are you allowing to take up residence within you? What images and impressions influence you, and how aware are you of their impact on your quality of life and your daily ability to achieve and evolve?
Who do you admire and look up to? Who do you want to be when you grow up? Do you really want to be that airbrushed model on the cover of the latest issue of Whatever Magazine, or are the folks who inspire you to reach for your best much more earthy, awesomely imperfect, and all-too-real?
These are questions, as Byron Katie might say, that are worth asking... and answering.
NOTE: For more information about Byron Katie and The Work, visit her here: www.thework.com
Follow Shannon Cutts on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shannoncutts