Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones

But Words Will Stick Like Superglue

Photo Credit: Nigel Tadyanehondo

The language you use can be so telling.

It can be empowering or disempower you.

It can make you feel great, or crap about yourself.

And that’s just the self-talk.

You wouldn’t speak to your friends in the self-deprecating way you speak to yourself.

Becoming aware of the way you use language & choosing alternative words is an ongoing practice. Sometimes, you’ll slip back into old habits. In a moment of clumsiness, the harsh name calling has already left your lips, “You numpty!” or other less flattering remarks, as you drop a cup, stub your toe or hear that sickening crunch of your alloys scraping against the kerb as you park up.

If you believe the words that you were called in childhood, or any other point in your life, they stick, like cholesterol coating the inside of your veins. Silently clogging up your flow, until your lifeblood stagnates, leaving you feeling, kinda “Meh.”

So, here’s my list of words to eliminate from your vocabulary:

“Should” or “shouldn’t” — do it because you want to do it, or don’t. Should implies you feel obligated; a sense of duty to do something — now, where’s the fun in that?

“Can’t” — as in “You can’t do that!” That sounds more like something your friends would say, because they’re projecting their fears onto you, or your parents, and that may be rooted in disapproval from others; I mean, “What would the neighbours say?”

“I can’t do that,” suggests that you don’t believe that you have it in you to achieve your dreams, or that you don’t really want the dream anyway, so you’re simply making excuses.

“I feel powerless” — we can choose how we want to feel, so change your perspective about the situation in which you felt powerless. Did you give your power away? If so, darn it, reclaim it! The other reason to avoid using words like “powerless” and “helpless” is that your body and mind are connected; your body will mirror your mind. I’ve learned from working on healing my own health issues that my thyroid issue was connected to feeling powerless during significant life events.

Certain situations at work can leave you feeling powerless, such as the impact of organisational restructuring on your post or department, redeployment, the threat of redundancy, etc.

During those times, working on your mindset is especially beneficial, so you can explore possible reframes, for example, the opportunities your future job uncertainty has created to finally start that business you’ve been meaning to launch for years.

If you’re facing periods of instability at work, or home, you might want to up your meditation game, so you can detach from what’s happening around you, remain present and in doing so, you’ll be calmer, clearer and happier.

One thing I learned as a sign language interpreter, was when it comes to critiquing performance,it’s really useful to depersonalise it. You’re going to have days when you feel invincible, a superstar at what you do. Then there’s the days you wonder if they’re recruiting shelfstackers at your local supermarket, Hey, you’re human. And sometimes you’ll have bad hair days.

Before the training, when I ballsed up while interpreting — think conference interpreting with a couple thousand people watching the stage — afterwards, whenI talked about “My interpreting…” I’d need a friend to shovel me up off the floor. Devoid of self-compassion, I’d decimate my ability, reducing my years of awesome interpretations to a single “Well, you truly bleeped that one up.”

Taking about “The interpretation” gave the space to create distance between the person and the performance. Depersonalising the constructive criticism meant not only was it easier to receive from respected colleagues without becoming defensive, but it was ‘safe’ to deconstruct one’s work in a manner that enabled reflective learning and growth.

Depersonalisation is something that’s worth playing with, in any situation — work or personal, where feedback is invited.

Finally, so many people focus on what they don’t want, instead of what they do want. You hear it in the words people use. Parents will tell their children, “Don’t do that!” Or the football coach will urge players not to miss the penalty shot, instead of phrasing their encouragement in terms of scoring the goal. Have you ever focused so much on not screwing something up that you screw it up?

Your mind just draws a big fat cross through negation, so the intention you’re inadvertently setting is supporting the very thing you don’t want. You might as well focus on what you DO want to happen and state it in the positive so your language use supports that positive intention.

If you create a “word elimination” list and you find yourself using those banished words, you can always wear an elastic band on your wrist and ping yourself until your new way of self-talk sticks!

Tricia Mitchell is a mystic & healer guiding people to unlock their passion, purpose and live the life they came here to lead. If you’re looking for self-development tools to help you discover the gems that lie within, my Simple Practices to achieve inner dialoguing chapter in this new book of energy healing will help you uncover how to do you, but better.

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