As a therapist one of the first things I say to people in a first session is that they can talk however they want with me including swearing (just not at me, please). The words that I want them to get rid of are not those dirty words that their mothers told them never to say. Mine are words and phrases that cut a person down or give messages that hold them back. Language is more powerful than we often give it credit for.
If you use words like “strong,” “powerful,” “permission” or “validation” you may start to feel like a strong, powerful woman who has permission to validate herself for who she is. If you use some of the language that I talk about below you will feel pressured and anxious and like a person who just isn’t ever good enough.
Always/Never. How often are things truly always or never? I could say that I will never eat liver (I truly hate the stuff), but do I really know the circumstances of every meal I will have for the rest of my life? I could also say that I always wear a certain color, but even Elle Woods managed to wear colors other than Pink. So is it really truthful to say I always wear that color? No. We have to leave room for the unknown factors of life.
When you use those words with other people it can leave them feeling boxed into a corner or judged, which can close them off to hearing the message you want them to hear. Be willing to give them wiggle-room so that they can be less defensive and truly listen to you.
Should (Supposed to, Ought to). When you say you should be a certain way you put an expectation on yourself that is not based in fact. Who says I should eat that liver? Sure it may be chock full of vitamins or a hostess may have made it for me, but I still get to make my own decisions. It’s like saying that if you do not do this thing then you are a failure.
Do not let arbitrary expectations dictate your life. Do things because they are beneficial to you, they will really help someone else out or they will help you to feel good. Try saying “it would be good for me to…” or “I would like to…” instead of should. This small change will lift unimaginable weight off your shoulders.
I wish. Once we are too old to be wishing on stars we need to let wishes go. While they are fun when used whimsically, they are devastating when used seriously. When you wish that you were thinner, didn’t have anxiety or had a more loving spouse, you are saying that you do not accept the reality of what your life currently is.
So long as you are wishing things were different you will be stalled out in trying to change them. Once you acknowledge and accept the way that things are, you can begin to take charge and change what doesn’t benefit you.
Stupid (and other negative labels). Even if you have clinical proof that you are less intelligent than anyone else on the planet, I still can't accept this kind of label. It doesn’t help you or motivate you or encourage you to strive for more. All it does is tell you that you are useless, worthless and that there is no sense in trying because you will fail anyways.
Give yourself a fighting chance by leaving off the negative labels and try to find something more motivating to see in yourself.