“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is a saying that many of us remember form our childhoods. It is interesting that when I was around sixteen I wrote a whole long report on the power of words, and the impact they can have on us. It was a report I was extremely passionate about and poured endless hours and dedication into. I guess that without knowing I was already paving my path for the future back then. Contrary to then vs. now, we now know all too well that words hurt, and it’s a phrase used much less these days. Today we know not only that they hurt, but words can do harm that can shape a person into adulthood, brainwash them or even make them act on things they wouldn’t normally do.
When I was eighteen I remember sitting for the first time in a therapist office with my parents. I remember the therapist ask my father if he loved me. He was enraged and thought the question was futile and silly. He didn’t want to answer it. But the therapist kept pushing (I think she figured out who my father was), and he finally responded: “Of course I love her, what kind of stupid question is that?”. She then proceeded: “do you ever tell her?”, he replied, “she knows I do, there is no need for that”.
As I am sure you can imagine, I craved to hear those three simple words “I love you” throughout my childhood. I desperately wanted to know he loves me, but it was something that was hard for him to do, and I think that in that session it was one of the very few times I heard him say something loving and kind.
Words are very powerful, and choosing your words wisely in any situation, both on a personal and professional level can have significant impact. Both positively and negatively.
Below I have mentioned some common scenarios where words can penetrate the mind of any human being and how powerful they can be in all stages of life.
These words and examples aren’t just meant for you to recognize “red flags,” for yourself, but can also be used as a tool to remind yourself when your words are cutting too deep. It’s easy to get angry and say things we don’t mean, but we fail to realize the significance of the words we use, how we use them and when we let them out.
When someone says:
“I Love You,” – This is not a phrase that should be taken lightly, but also a phrase that can never be said enough. These 3 words are meaningful and it’s always a good idea to remind your loved ones of this. Showing your love is just as important, so don’t forget that part! It is one I learned to use a lot (I didn’t want my children to feel what I felt), so they hear it all the time!
“I Hate You,” – These 3 words are just as powerful as saying “I Love You,” backwards. In fact saying “I hate you,” is so strong of a word, that many families forbid the word in their homes. To “hate” someone or something, is equivalent to wanting that someone “dead.” so think about that next time you use that “h” word.
“I’m Proud of You,” – No, you don’t have to be 5 years old learning to ride a bike without training wheels to hear this phrase, but that’s the feeling you will have when you hear it! Tell your spouse you’re proud of them for something they did at work, or that you’re proud of them for doing something good for someone, or even proud of them for achieving small micro goals. It’s a simple phrase that play so much weight into feeding confidence, so say it proudly!
“You’re Stupid,” You can only tell someone they are stupid before they too will start to believe it. And what do you think happens once they start to believe it? They become a fraction of the person that they could become due to lack of confidence and self esteem. They settle for less in life and allow negative opinions shape them as a person. This “S” word probably made it’s debut early in life if you have siblings. You may remember saying such things to your brothers/sisters and it just felt natural, as it was a way to defend yourself from the “picking” they might have been doing to you. We aren’t kids anymore though, and it’s important to brake this childish habit. Instead, just don’t say anything at all.
If you had a reaction to any of the words listed above take a moment and check in with yourself. Do they sound familiar? Are they perhaps some of the things you heard while growing up? I often talk about “affirmations” and how important they are. The thing is that most of us don’t realize that we actually use affirmations all the time automatically. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. For example, do you sometimes say “I am so stupid”, “I am such an idiot” to yourself? Even if you messed up with something these aren’t words you should be using towards yourself. They are abusive, and debilitating. They won’t help inspire or motivate you in any way.
It’s never too late to un-shape your past, so if you were raised in an emotionally abusive environment or suffered from mental abuse from an ex-spouse, know that you can heal, and start being mindful of the words you use with yourself and others. The way to fight through this negative self-talk, is to consistently practice healing within yourself and recognize where any damaging talk is coming from and eliminate it! It’s work, but anything that you learned can be unlearned and re-programmed. I know that if I could do it so can you!