“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 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