Mental Health Thinking

Published on January 14th, 2014 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles

Learning You, Like A Language

by Ray Cook

It was an ordinary day…getting ready for my flight as I listened to a podcast in German, about a musician who composed a song in French. As I primped in front of the mirror, I realized that I had listened to both German and French, with full comprehension, but without differentiating their segues into each other. I suddenly got choked up…it all made sense to me like the English thoughts in my head that couldn’t tell the difference. I silently cried in gratitude, tears of joy-proud of myself, yet humbled by the process it took to get there.

This satisfaction feels the same when I conquer self-defeating thoughts, behaviors and beliefs. These personal mini-victories empower my sense of self-worth and authenticity. Fine and dandy for me to say, but what if this is all Greek to you? Well, like a foreign language, the skillful art of you is a cumulative process. I understand how daunting it may seem to hear a language as just noise, and ever expect to make sense out of it, yet alone reproduce it yourself.

Such was the case for me with self-empowerment. Foreign concepts like: authentic self, purpose and calling, personal power, self-confidence and self-worth all seemed like hopeless noise. I didn’t know where to start. I hope that the following three basics will help you start your own second language.

Kapitel/Chapitre 1:

As with any language, the first building blocks are nouns and verbs. English is rich in vocabulary which enables colorful detail, but verbs give it its “je ne sais quoi”-its structural foundation and active conceptualization. I learned that although German nouns are for the most part derivatives of their verbs, often in French, verbs don’t have a noun equivalent. So, when in doubt, learn the verbs (this will help with Kapitel/Chapitre 2).

The nouns and verbs of you are like all of your thoughts and intentions about who you are now and what you envision for yourself. Everything begins with a thought, which eventually becomes a “thing” (tangible or not)-of self-created reality. What do you represent? Instead of a noun being a person/place/thing, who are you? What are your core values/beliefs? How do you esteem yourself? Your “being” influences those around you…are you aware of the energy you emit into your sphere of influence?

If your self-worth seems non-existent or insignificant like mine did, recognize the common denominator (regardless external validation or lack thereof)-you. Start with you…with the hope that “better” is possible. You see, all of those thoughts/beliefs/ideas I had about myself…I had to change, because the energy I was bringing into my life was perpetuating more of the same. My nouns and verbs weren’t creating the sentences I envisioned for my life.

Kapitel/Chapitre 2:

After the familiarity of nouns/verbs, comes the hard work of conjugating the verbs. This requires constant analysis of context (who is doing what). Generally, the pattern is consistent, however, there are always exceptions to the rules. Irregular verbs juxtapose the “normal” flow of regular verbs. Some students try to avoid irregular verbs because they are few and do pose an extra obstacle, but don’t be fooled…they will show up, and they will demand your attention. I like to think of them as nuances rather than nuisances. They do add harmony to the ear, and a good command of them as a foreigner is impressive to the natives.

What are your personal verb challenges in your life? The sum of your actions will make up the composite of your life-will define your character-will determine your destiny/fate. It’s up to you! Are you going to stick with the mundane, mediocre verbs, or will you dare greatly with the irregular flare and panache that elevates your life? I’m personally rooting for you to choose the latter. What does that look like for you? It could be many things: moving abroad, moving home, staying put, physical fitness, seeking professional help, mending relationships, leaving relationships, baby-stepping towards personal goals/passions and fulfilling dreams-ultimately, taking care of you!

The most rewarding verb you can “do” is to love yourself!

Kapitel/Chapitre 3:

Now that you’ve done your work, it’s play time! … Okay, maybe “connectors” aren’t as fun for some as for others, but these “tinker toys” personalize and detail the meaning of any sentence…and it’s up to you (personal preference). These connectors are words that connect two or more independent ideas. In your personal life, this could be your panoply of experience all coming together symbiotically, reinforcing one another.

How can you connect your accumulated, independent ideas/experiences to accentuate and enrich all aspects of yourself? You’ll see…you’ll improve your proficiency in no time. It’s so worth it! Plus, want to know what will really make it jackpot? … Using you and your own polished gems of refinement to serve others. That, my friend, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Have fun tinkering with you-creating your own mosaic masterpiece-authentic you.

You can do it! Ohren steif! Bon courage!


Ray Cook, an Idaho native, came of age in Germany as an excommunicated Mormon. He lives with his partner in Boston, where he graduated with a BA in modern languages and works as a flight attendant. Ray is also the author of the book Reclaimed


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