Nope, I’m not telling you not to swear (anyone who knows me would think that was a bit of fucking liberty), but I would like to talk to you about the power of words.
Back in the mists of time – about five years ago but the sleep deprivation makes it feel much longer – I was a sub editor on a glossy magazine and a freelance writer. I’ve always always loved language. Words are important, they are powerful, they can stay with you forever. It’s not just the written word that has this impact though. What you say to others and, more importantly, what you tell yourself will shape your self-esteem and therefore your happiness.
Think for a moment about how you talk to the people in your life. Your friends, your parents, your partner, your children. I’m guessing it’s usually with kindness, compassion, interest, enthusiasm. Hey, not always, obviously. It’s hard to be consummately upbeat if you’re trying to watch Poldark/Love Island/Suits and someone is droning on about their new padded cycling shorts or a never ending work problem and ignoring your looks of ‘STFU I’m trying to work out if Aidan Turner is going to get his top off soon’. You may even snap a bit. Amiright?
But generally. You are pretty damn nice to people, I know you are. You love them, you want to make them feel good.
What about you? Are you kind to you? Do you make yourself feel good? Or are you a bit harsh? Do you give yourself a hard time when things didn’t go to plan that day? Berate yourself for getting it wrong even though you did all you could to keep your kids happy, fed, clothed and cared for? Are you being fair to yourself? Would you be that mean if you were talking to your best friend?
Do you appreciate what you see in the mirror? Or do you look at your amazing body that grew one/two/several children and think, ‘Wow, I am a wonder woman‘? Or do you focus on the mum tum and stretch marks, the emerging grey hairs, the new or deepening wrinkles, the rounder thighs or the muffin top/back fat/bingo wings or any of the other stuff that you wouldn’t even notice on your mates, let alone say it aloud.
Would you like to work for a boss who constantly put you down? Imagine that you turn up every day, put in long hours, do a bloody great job, your colleagues love you, you are the perfect person for the role and are pretty much irreplaceable. And yet. Your boss doesn’t seem to like you much. She tells you that you look rubbish, your hair could do with some attention, you’ve got crap dress sense, you’re a bit thick, all the food you cook is disgusting, you aren’t funny, never make good decisions, are a poor conversationalist and… well, you get the picture. But isn’t this sort of what we do to ourselves all the time?
Why is our internal narrative often so critical and negative? That’s a complex question and I don’t have all the answers. It could be because you were told negative things about yourself at a young age, or you took some criticism too much to heart or it could be to do with cultural stories so ingrained in society about women and what they are expected to be or how they are expected to look, it could also be because you fell into the trap, have done it for years and now it’s a habit. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
There’s a therapy called NLP (neuro linguistic programming) and one aspect of it is that it changes the way you act and feel through changing the way you view and talk about something. A brilliant example of this is Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Give Up Smoking.
It’s about turning the negative into a positive. The language about stopping smoking can be so negative: ‘I’ve given up’ implies you are missing something, you are losing out, you’re mourning a loss, you are a victim. Change it to ‘I’ve quit’ and it’s the total opposite. It’s powerful, it’s positive, you are in control, you have made this choice! This kind of simple rephrasing can make such a huge impact.
So if you don’t have anything nice to say (or think) to yourself, don’t say anything. Do just one thing, be kind to yourself and see where it leads you.
Join me on Instagram and Twitter this week for more about thinking and speaking positively. There may be affirmations involved. Trust me when I say they work – but saying them out loud will make you feel like a total dick at first.