WORD POWER: CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE
‘Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind’, wrote Rudyard Kipling. Drugs can heal a person or harm them, they can anaesthetise or stimulate, they can be used responsibly or carelessly. So, as we are careful with our use of medicines, so must we be careful with our use of words.
Words have the power of creation held within them. They are more than just marks on paper and ink scratchings on a page. Every word carries a meaning, a definition, and it is the meaning of a word that carries its power. When we read or hear a word, we feel the attached emotional weight of it. For example, read the following words slowly and think about how they make you feel: Hate. Love. War. Peace. Joy. Sadness. So many images and thoughts and feelings run through our minds when we read or hear a word.
And when we think of the internal monologue that plays in our head every day, we should ask how much of what we tell ourselves is positive. We need to become more aware of our thoughts and if what we are telling our self is true and kind and helpful. Because our thoughts and beliefs influence our mood and actions, and our actions shape our life and the world around us.
Personal Branding: What are your labels?
We need to become conscious of how we label ourselves, how we have been labelled and how we label others. Since we were a child, we have learned different things about who we are from others’ observations of us. We have also learned who other people are and about the world around us. Perhaps we believe that we are intelligent and studious or that we are a slow learner; we excel at certain subjects and are not very good at others; that we are shy and quiet or too loud and badly behaved; that we are destined for greatness or that we will never amount to anything.
When we are a child, we are like a sponge. Ideas take root, sometimes deeply, and if we are taught (or believe that we have been taught) negative, limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world we live in, these beliefs can shape our thoughts, feelings and actions. They can help us or hinder us. But labels tell us nothing about who we truly are. The human mind just seeks to categorise and understand things better, and that is why people label. But unlike a pantry where a jar of flour can be labelled simply a jar of flour, we are an individual - multi-layered, complex, evolving, and rich in our own inner diversity. The ‘shy’ person can be bold and confident; the ‘goody goody’ can be naughty; the ‘bad’ person can do good things.
Labels are limiting and are only there to provide a method of sorting and an organisational system. Humans like to categorise and understand, and labelling offers some comfort in an at times chaotic world. But we are all more than our labels. I am more than my label. I am me. I am Rebecca. And so are you. You are expansive and unique, and a label could never do you justice, so become aware of how you have been labelled, challenge them and rip off any labels that don’t serve you. Rewrite your own story and re-brand yourself authentically.
C.B.T: How do your thoughts affect your behaviour?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (C.B.T) is a popular and effective talking therapy, commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, that understands the chain-like process and power of language to affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. As a therapy, it is very aware that the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we can achieve can often be untrue and hold us back. Based on the cause and effect concept that our actions link back to the thoughts we had beforehand, C.B.T can help us to manage problems by focusing on our ability to change, enabling us to grow and develop a more positive and empowering mindset that breaks any pattern of negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviour.
So even in the world of science and medicine, we can see that the power of language to create change, good and bad, is very real. Words have power, and we need only look at the world of marketing to show us how real this is. How many times have you seen an advert for something that you didn’t need or want only to find yourself later going out to buy the product? This is because we are seduced by the often hollow promise of products that sell us a lifestyle rather than an item and the suggestion that if you buy this item, you will be as beautiful, happy and confident as the model is on the billboard. So, let’s harness our words for our own good.
Ways to motivate yourself with the right words
We all know that feeling when we read an inspirational and empowering quote which buoys us up and gives us a boost, making us feel motivated, energised and sometimes invincible. The popularity of framed images of quotes, or of pinning up posters with inspiring slogans on, shows us that we are moved and inspired by the words that we read and hear. They act as a tonic for our flagging spirits and administer a jolt of energy to us so that we can take that first step or push ourselves across the finish line. Words have magic in them. They shift our thoughts and mood, creating change in us and thus the world around us.
Think first about how you feel when someone tells you that you can’t do something or that you won’t be able to achieve the thing that you most want to accomplish. How do you feel if someone (even if that someone is you) tells you that your dreams are impossible, that you should just give up, whispering limiting untruths in your ear: ‘there’s no way you will be able to do that’, ‘stop daydreaming and get in the real world’, ‘that’s too hard for someone like you to achieve’, ‘better to just quit while you’re ahead’.
Often, when people say that you can’t or won’t be able to achieve your dreams - even if it is your own inner voice telling yourself these things – it is only fear that is talking. Other people may be afraid that you will achieve your dreams. Why? Because they have dreams of their own, but they may fear that they will never achieve them, and if others do, it makes them feel hopeless. Perhaps you are afraid that you won’t achieve your dreams, so it’s easier not to try. Or perhaps you fear what will happen if you do achieve your wildest desires. Maybe you believe you are not truly capable, or worthy, or worry how to keep up a momentum when success rolls in on the tide. Maybe you are afraid of how your life will change when you believe that what you want is truly possible. Fear makes people say and do stupid things. But we should be stirred to action by others’ success – don’t envy it, don’t hate it; use it as inspiration, as rocket fuel. Live happily in the present moment, live your dream, and as Susan Jeffers’ book urges us, ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’.
Now, consider how good it feels when someone tells you that you can do something, that your vision can become a reality. Think how the language used in the following literary quotes make you feel:
‘I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship’
– Louisa M. Alcott
‘I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will’
– Charlotte Bronte
‘Though she be but little, she is fierce!’
They conjure up images of empowered women living in the real world but not being weighed down by negativity. They rise above it and carry on in the pursuit of their passions and what lights them up. We must do the same. Think of the power of those two little words: ‘I am…’, because whatever you put after them truly does shape your life. Start to use language that is positive and motivating and see the change in your life. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, use daily affirmations and tell yourself:
I can, and I will
I believe in myself
I can do it
I deserve it
I believe I will get it
Always be mindful of the language that you use and hear. They are words and they have power, so listen consciously and only choose to allow in the positive words, the words that lift you and empower you. Negative language makes you feel negative, think negatively and act negatively. Become mindful of life-limiting language and don’t allow it to take root in you. Focus instead on choosing to use and hear positive language, and either ignore or flip anything negative to something that is affirmative and encouraging.
Reflect on how you feel if someone says to you: you are more than capable of realising each and every one of your ambitions; you will do it. Reader, I am telling you now that you can. When others believe in us, it makes us feel as if we have cheerleaders at our back, but we should never come to rely on the approval and support of others to see us through. That must always come from within. So, encourage yourself as you would encourage your best friends. We are our own cheerleader, and through harnessing the power of our words, we can create our dream and live with more power and positivity in the present moment.
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