Prison Lesson 1 – Identity

I have been given the opportunity to teach classes to the inmates at Utah State Prison. It is an amazing, sacred, experience. Below are what we gave to the inmates as material for the first class. I have realized in working with hundreds of people, that a person will live up to what they believe to be the truth about themselves. For a person to change, they need to let go of the lies about who they are, and accept their true God-given identity as children of God. 


How we define ourselves is very important.  What we believe about ourselves becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, people who believe they are stupid create more evidence that they are stupid by struggling in school, employment, and in other areas of their life. People who believe they are unloved or unimportant will find that they easily feel rejected. People who believe they are bad, end up doing more bad things to prove they are right. Once we accept something as our truth, we find and create evidence that seems to prove that the assumed identity is correct. It becomes the lens through which we see ourselves, others, and the world around us. It shapes our expectations in life. 
The problem is that none of us have a correct understanding of our true identity. We have so completely bought into our false identities that we have forgotten who we really are, and what our true potential is. It’s like we put on a Halloween mask years ago, and then we forgot it was a mask and just thought that was how we really were. It may seem preposterous to us that we are someone other than who we have been. 

Each of you are a child of God with divine worth and potential. Each of you have within you the seeds of greatness, and the capacity to do amazing things. I want to help you discover who you really are and live up to the highest truth within you. 

We can be defined by:
­čö╣Possessions – clothes, car, jewelry, home, etc.
­čö╣Profession – doctor, plumber, teacher, factory worker, etc.
­čö╣Reputation – what others think of us
­čö╣How other people treat us. We often define ourselves by how others are treating us: We may be ignored, abused, encouraged, loved, hated, etc. – and we allow their treatment of us to define us.
­čö╣Failures – often a person thinks their biggest mistake shows the most truth about them. 
­čö╣Success – using our success to show we are better than others
­čö╣Money – using the amount of money we have to define ourselves as wealthy, middle income or poor. 
­čö╣Thinking – Ultimately we are defined by our thinking, what we accept as true about ourselves and the world we live in. 
















We are each born into imperfect families with a unique family culture, in a community with its own culture. Depending on the family and community we are born into, there are certain assumptions and expectations. For instance, I heard a story about a boy who grew up in a coal mining community. His father and grandfather, brothers, uncles and cousins were all coal miners. That was what the people in that family and community did. But he wanted to be a scientist, he wanted to go to college and work for NASA in the space program. This didn’t go over too well with his family, because they all saw themselves as coal miners and nothing else. Some families have the expectation that their children will be lawyers, doctors, mechanics, gang members, artists, and many other possibilities. The question is what are you meant to be? Of course it is not bad to be a coal miner. Coal miners are not inferior human beings. But that young man had a God-given desire in his heart to be something else. Most people have a desire to be something different, something better, but they are so accustomed to what always has been that they can’t believe there is anything better for them. Most have given up on their dreams of being who they are meant to be. 
Our identity is also influenced by our schools, TV, radio, movies, books, music, church, and last but not least, our friends. Who we spend time with has a huge impact on how we see things. 
Our subconscious mind is so powerful, that once we adopt a belief as part of our identity, it will move mountains to prove that it is right. That works against us, sabotages us, when we buy into a false identity. And it can help us succeed when we align ourselves with the truth of who we really are. 
On a personal note, I allowed my identity to be shaped by other kids on the playground in elementary school. I had bright red hair and freckles, and for some reason I became the kid everyone picked on. I was teased, and heard many times the taunting, “You are such a retard… you are the stupidest kid in the class … Red head freckle face freak, etc” But what they said only hurt me because I accepted their judgments as true. Without realizing it, I began telling myself a story that went something like this:


“I guess I must be stupid, I guess I am just ugly, I guess no one likes me. Bummer. That’s not fair that no one likes me, but I guess there must be something wrong with me.”


With this disempowering story I hurt myself much more than the other kids did. Another part of me knew I was meant to be better, and that I was good and intelligent and likeable, but that part of me got squashed, and I didn’t know how to let it out, and I stopped believing I could succeed. I just accepted “I am stupid and inferior,” and told myself a self-pity story that reinforced it thousands of times. Later in life I worked hard to change my identity, but it was an uphill battle because I had already locked in the false identity. I remember being in college and having a conversation with a friend who also had bright red hair. He had also been teased as a child. But he was doing excellent in college, while I was really struggling to get passing grades. He said to me, “the difference between you and me is that when they told you that you were stupid, you believed them. When they told me I was stupid I said, ‘I am going to prove you wrong.’ I didn’t understand the truth of what he said, so I replied, ‘That isn’t the difference between you and me, the difference is you are really smart and I’m not.’ The idea that I was stupid was so ingrained I couldn’t see me any other way. It turns out my friend was right. He had been telling himself a different story than mine. The same type of thing happened to both of us. He came away with a story that empowered him, helped him perform closer to his potential. I created a disempowering story that kept me stuck as a victim for years and years. Once I finally learned correct principles and began telling myself a new story, my life totally changed. I am intelligent and capable. That is not bragging, it isn’t putting anyone else down, it is just the truth about me, and is the truth about you as well!



How we define ourselves usually is usually found in phrases that begin with “I Am …” For instance:

Am stupid,                     I Am unwanted                 I Am a problem

I Am stuck                       I Am a convict                  I Ama horrible person                

Am guilty                        I Am an addict                  I Am stressed                             

Am a failure                    I Am hopeless                  I Am broken

I Am unloved                    I Am unheard                   I Am unforgivable 

Am unhappy                   I Am miserable                 I Am depressed 

I Am a victim                     I Am abused                    I Am unsafe

I am poor                           I am a grunt worker        I am a lawyer 

I am discouraged              I am disappointed             I am irreparable 

I am a mistake                  I am at a disadvantage     It’s not safe to be the real me



There could be others. Another type of identity statement can be found in “I Can’t” statements, like:


I can’t succeed        I can’t get ahead          I can’t win 
I can’t do it…            I can’t be happy
I can’t be more successful than my mom (or someone else you are close to)
I can’t change

Another type of identity statement is found in how we define life. For example:
Life is unfair                  Life is miserable                   

Life is hard and then you die

Life is overwhelming     Life is stressful                   

Life is painful
Life is depressing          Life’s a bummer

Another type of identity belief that is very powerful, is how we define love. For instance:

Love is unsafe                 Love is painful                  

Love leads to abandonment
Love betrayed me            Love doesn’t exist           

There is no love
Love hurts too much        Love is too risky               

 I’ll never love again 

These and other ideas define us. You may have an identity statement I haven’t listed here. Look at your life. How do you define yourself? You may need to spend some quiet time reflecting on this, because most people are not consciously aware of how they have defined themselves. It can be like asking a fish to describe water – he doesn’t know life without it, he can’t get out of the water to see his world from a different perspective. You may need some help from someone else to help you uncover layers of false identity that are holding you back. 
Once you have identified a false identity, it is important to find a new belief to replace it with. For instance, “Life is stressful” could be replaced with, “Life has its challenges, but I’m going to get through this, it’s going to be ok.
“I am depressed,” can be replaced with, “I am full of hope.
“I am unhappy,” can be replaced with, “I am so blessed!”

Find a replacement that is compelling to you, that pulls on your heart strings. Create an alternative that you would love to have as your reality. Find something that gives a spark of hope, and motivates you to be better.

To help reprogram your identity, lightly tap on your chest as you focus on the false identity for about 30 seconds, and then focus on the positive replacement for about two minutes. If you will do this daily for about a month, you can align your identity with the truth of who you really are.


About Arden Compton

I love helping people be the best that they can be. Addiction, stress, limiting beliefs & emotions, and bothersome memories are my specialties. I am happily married to my wife Cheryl, we have 7 robust, growing children. I like to ballroom dance, play volleyball, and enjoy the beauty of nature!
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