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We Are What We Say We Are

We are what we think and more so we are what we say.  If we say out loud to ourselves “I am so fat or I am so stupid” some part of us believes that.  It sinks in. Why would you want to work on that new project when you are telling yourself how stupid you are?  Why would you want to take the risk to try something new when you are constantly telling yourself how fat you are?

How we talk has a profound effect on our relationship with ourselves and other people.  Be careful what you say to yourself or to other people.

Here are some common examples of dangerous speech patterns I have found:

Always and Never:  As my nearest and dearest frequently reminds me “always and never are strong words”. These words keep us stuck.  A common phrase you will hear to explain something is “it has ALWAYS been like that” So does that mean it ALWAYS needs to stay like that?  Or saying I never do that or I am never going to do that again doesn’t allow room for learning or growth. Mentality like that sticks in our heads.  When we get stuck in the absolutes of always and never, we don’t create space for growth or change.

But vs. And: When we use the term ‘but’, we in essence negate everything we said before ‘the but’.  For example, I really want to workout today BUT I have to get this report done.  What that is saying is I am not going to work out. When you add ‘the but’ only one of the items can be true.  In essence, ‘the but’ negates everything said after it.
Just notice how it changes when you say I really want to workout today AND I have to get this report done. By adding the ‘and’ both items are true. When we use the term ‘and’ you give the possibility for both to happen.  Another example: “I think your hair looks great BUT I liked it better long” Which sounds like a veiled insult versus “I think your hair looks great AND I liked it better long”. Both are statements are true. Using the AND puts a natural pause in the sentence and allows both statements to have their space.

Yet:  Usually when we are talking about something we haven’t done (and want to do) or a goal we want to accomplish we say I can’t run 3 miles or I am not a successful attorney or I am not good at writing. When we add the term yet to these phrases it gives them hope, it gives them wings. So even if we aren’t doing it now, in the future we will accomplish these goals. I can’t run 3 miles yet (I will be able to in 6 months) I am not a successful attorney yet (I will be in if I keep working at it) I am not a good writer yet (I will be after I practice more).

You make me feel: This one happens a lot because we tend to externalize our internal voices on to other people.  I am guilty of doing this with my nearest and dearest.  He (my biggest fan and cheerleader) becomes the personified voice of my fear monger.   I want to say to him  ‘you make me feel anxious’ when in reality he can’t MAKE me feel anything. It is my own anxiety being forced on to him. We are all guilty of this one and need to continually build awareness of our own tendency to personify our internal voice on to our loved ones.

When we use the phrase “you make me feel” a certain way–we are taking away our own power, our responsibility, our emotions. We are basically saying we have no control over how we feel and that someone else can manipulate our feelings. In reality, no one can make us feel a certain way–we have control over how we feel and how we react. We can take responsibility for how we feel by saying “I feel anxious because I didn’t go to the party”. Using I statements takes away the blame and puts the responsibility back on us as individuals to understand and care for our emotions.

Living Happier is an intentional choice and one of the ways we can be intentional is in how we choose to speak.

What are some word choices or phrases that you find limiting?  Do you have any examples of how language use has made a difference in your life?

Photo Credit:  DullHunk via Flickr

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