The Power of Words

For MaryG's blog post

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

I heard that a lot when I was growing up when someone called me names. Today we call that bullying and encourage our children to tell someone so we can hopefully stop it.

I remember repeating that phrase hoping to make it true. It never became true.

As an adult, I realize it is one of the biggest lie I was ever told.

Words don’t just hurt you, they have the power to destroy you.  They can cripple your motivation, creativity, and emotional wellbeing. Families have parted ways, friendships have been destroyed, marriages ended, jobs lost, and careers ruined all because of words.  Heck, wars have been started because of words.

We all understand that words are a powerful weapon.  So, who are these enemies that use words against us?

One of them would be the person you talk to the most, right?  And who is the person you talk to the most…yourself.

We talk to ourselves more than anyone else every day.  We are often our worst critic.

We don’t really set out to harm ourselves. Maybe we just repeat what someone said to us at some point in our life and we’ve internalized the words over time. Sometimes these negative words are born from an unnamed fear.

Everyone has said “I can’t do ___” at some point in their lives. At least, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t said it to themselves or even out loud.

Okay, so I really can’t stand on my head. I know adults who can, but I’m not one of them. But frankly, I’m not willing to put the effort into practicing standing on my head until I’m able to do it. So, the real truth isn’t that “I can’t stand on my head”, it’s “I don’t want to stand on my head.”  There is a big difference.

What we say to ourselves can be so toxic that we defeat any good that is in our lives.

If we say we can’t do something, pretty soon we are convinced that we can’t do it, and then we give up before we ever try. All because we believed what we’ve told ourselves.

“I’m stupid.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t measure up.”  The list is endless.  Some of those things may keep people in very unhealthy relationships and keep us repeating bad habits.

As a writer I fight my Evil Internal Editor (EIE) every time I sit down to write. Sometimes I begin fighting my EIE when I start thinking about sitting down to write.  “I’m tired.” “I’ll do it later,” “I’m not motivated.” Or my favorite.  “I’ll do it after I get X, Y and Z done.”

Do you KNOW how many Xs, Ys and Zs I can come up with?

There are books written about the power of words. I’m not even going to try to list them here. But visit a self-help section of a bookstore or online and you’ll find plenty of resources. There are so many books written because turning negative words into positive ones isn’t easy.

It takes five positive words to replace one negative word.

The first step is to acknowledge the negative things we think or say. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

Second, take every one that comes to your mind and turn it into a positive. Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.

At first you may be tempted to say “I can’t ___” and turn it into “I can ___” followed immediately by “Who are YOU kidding?

Every time I catch myself saying “I can’t write this book” I stop myself because “I can write this book.”  If you catch yourself saying “I don’t know how to write this book” turn it around to “I am learning more about writing every day.”

It takes daily effort to turn our negative self-talk into positive self-talk. It’s not a quick or easy fix. Remember that it takes five positives to erase one negative.

While words can be negative they can also be life giving.  If you’ve had a parent, teacher, friend or family member say, “you look nice” or “you did a great job” then you know it made you feel good.

As your words become positive, your attitude will grow more positive, and soon you will be able to accomplish the things that are important to you.

Good luck on your journey of changing your self-talk.

It will be worth it!

Mary's Bio picture

Mary Gardner wears many hats as a Christian, mother, grandmother, writer, reader and manager of her homeowner’s association. She writes romance and romantic women’s fiction with small town settings. Although she is not yet published, she has been a finalist in several contests and won her category in a few. She was a 2007 RWA Golden Hearts finalist and the 2nd runner up in the 2008 – Harlequin Superromance® Conflict of Interest Contest. Mary is a member of RWA and is a RWA PRO. She lives with her cat near her family in a small town in Indiana.Her website: www.maryrosegardner.com

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12 thoughts on “The Power of Words

  1. Thanks so much for this piece. Self-talk is probably the most important use of words for good or ill. We writers are good at discouraging ourselves–we have to be on guard for sure. All the best with your writing! Thanks again for the reminder.

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  2. What a beautiful and motivating post! I am so guilty of the negative talk. Sometimes affirmations help and listening to other writers, like you, really helps. Loved this post and thank you for your wonderful work as the RWF Secretary.

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  3. You’re right on target with how powerful words can be. We tend to focus on the negatives in life, the tragedies and catastrophes, rather than the positives, the joys and achievements. One phrase I picked up decades ago has stood by me and others I’ve shared it with: You’re the best you can be right now. Sure you can work to improve over time, but you can’t change who/what you are right now. Go with confidence as a result. In other words, even though I’d like to weigh less, or have nicer clothes, or speak a foreign language, I can’t immediately have any of those. Not without some planning and effort which is not going to happen right now, but over time. Thanks for your inspiring post, Mary!

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    1. So true, Betty!
      I don’t know about others but it seems easier to believe the negatives!

      I like your comments about being the best you can be for right now! I think I may frame that for over my desk!

      Thanks for your positive feedback!

      Mary

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  4. Such a welcome reminder of many important points! I, too, was raised on the “sticks and stones” concept. I’ve come to see that it falls short because words are powerful and painful words can be so damaging. Often, what we hear in our heads are voices from when we were young, both good and bad. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. I find many of my negative voices have been with me for years repeating the same things! Even as I work to replace them they return again and again!

      I’m glad my post was a positive reminder!

      Mary

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  5. Thank you for this motivating and inspirational post. I especially appreciated all the reasons that keep us from sitting down at our computers. That’s me! I felt like you’d put your hand on my shoulder and said, “Sit down. You can do it.” I’m trying to get negativity out of my life right now, and this is a piece I’ve printed out and posted on my bulletin board. Again, thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Anne!

      Sounds like we are working on the same thing… getting the negativity out of our lives! It seems to creep in no matter what I do. But I’m working on it and that’s better than it once was when I gave up and said the heck with it all.

      So sit Dow and write, Anne! You CAN do it!
      Mary

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  6. This post gave me life! Really like how you broke down the ‘I can’t’ with ‘I don’t want to’ – a very good way to explain it from a slightly different angle. Thanks for the Saturday motivation! 🙂

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    1. Thank you!

      I often find myself saying “I can’t” when the truth is “I don’t want to.” Some how “I can’t” seems easier. I try to call myself out when I use it though because it really is important to be honest with yourself.

      I’m glad you found the post motivational!

      Mary Gardner

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