19 Nov The Deadly Words You Live By
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
― George Orwell,
Words are powerful. They can and will shape your life in its entirety. An interesting fact about words is that although they are created in our minds, they end up influencing the mind itself. In other words, what we say comes from what we think but will ultimately bounce back and change the way we think. That means if the words I use on a regular basis are positive, my thinking will become more positive as well. On the other hand, if my words are always negative, my thinking will become more and more negative. Through the words we speak we have the power to change and improve our thinking.
Words have power in them, but sometimes it is not just the words we speak that alter our thinking, but the words others have used when talking to us. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of the negative (and positive) speech we use on a regular basis is actually what we’ve heard from others, especially during our childhood: from parents, at school, mass-media and other sources. I have shared below a few examples of negative and unhealthy talking that is rooted in words like always, never, everyone, nobody – mostly generalisations that have stopped people from living happy lives and unlocking their true potential. Negative talk is far more complex than this, but here are some examples:
You always do that! / You always end up failing. / We’ve always done it this way, there’s not need for your ‘great’ ideas. / Always obey your leaders.
You will never be better than your father/mother/brother/sister/them. / But… we’ve never done that before – I think we should just stick to what we already know. / Never dream and never expect anything great, unless you want to end up disappointed.
Everyone says he/she is weird – you should definitely avoid him/her. / Everyone thinks we should do it this way. / Not everyone is meant for greatness – you should know your limits. / But… everyone says it’s true, so it must be true!
Nobody could do it, so stop thinking you’ll be the first one. / You’re a disgrace, you’re a nobody to me! / But… nobody warned me about those things… / I have nobody to help me…
Do these examples sound familiar? Words like these end up shaping our minds and our views on life and ourselves. It’s important to break free from the cycle of negative speech and create a habit of saying positive things on purpose, making sure you don’t let your your mouth ruin your life.
There’s another interesting topic I’d like to share regarding the power of spoken words. Have you noticed that sometimes the same words used in different situations have different effects? Not every time someone says something negative to you will you be affected. And just because your parents shared their ideas with you as a kid, that doesn’t mean all those ideas have ended up influencing your thinking and your behaviour. Then when and how do spoken words have power over us?
I’ve noticed there are two ways in which negative words end up affecting our lives:
Negative words spoken to us while we are in a vulnerable state.
Let’s say I’m in a park and having a great day. It’s summer, not one cloud on the sky, birds chirping in the background. I’m enjoying my iced green tea while reading on a bench when a stranger comes by and says, “You’re the worst! You always mess things up.” Wow! That would be strange, right? But would that affect me? Not really. Who’s this person? What did he/she mean by that? Maybe he/she is just crazy. I’d better get back to my reading.
Now let’s say I’m at work and I already woke up with a headache and also got here a little bit late. My day hasn’t been the best and on top of that I am told that some of our clients are not happy with my team’s latest work, which I am responsible for. At this moment, I’m mentally and emotionally vulnerable. The stress levels are high. When one of my co-workers tells me, “You’re the worst! You always mess things up.”, do you think it would affect me? Maybe not today, but definitely yes, 6 years ago. Ever since then, I’ve learnt to not let anyone’s words affect me, but normally, a situation like this would’ve affected me if it happened years ago when I didn’t know all the things I know now.
In this second scenario, because your mind would probably be tense and you would already be trying to keep your inner balance, when a person comes to you and says something like that, their words act like an arrow shot directly into the centre of your being. While you’re trying to juggle all the weights to try to find your inner balance again, if someone throws an extra weight at you it will completely put you off balance.
When we are in a vulnerable state emotionally and mentally, we are easily affected by what others say to us and their words will most probably affect our self-image and the way we think about ourselves and about life.
Negative words spoken to us on a regular basis.
The second way in which words end up affecting our lives is based on the same principle that exists behind our habits: repetition. When we hear something positive or negative long enough, we end up believing those things. When we hear our family or our friends say certain things on a regular basis, we will end up embracing those things as truth, as part of our lifestyle and those words will become a mindset.
For example, if you hear you parents say things like, “life is hard”, “you should never question authority”, “it’s better to stay quiet than to get involved”, “I’m so stressed right now”, everyday, then you will most definitely end up not only believing those things and looking at life through the lens of those words, but also saying those same words, eventually, reinforcing those negative mindsets in your life.
That’s why one of the most powerful forces in a person’s life is their family’s words in their very first years of childhood. Those spoken words build the first foundation on which everything gets built upon later in life. Not only do kids spend most of their time with their parents (and other family members) hearing and listening to almost every words they say, but childhood is also the most vulnerable season in a person’s life. In other words, children are the most affected by the power of spoken words. Furthermore, I believe the outer voices we hear as children become the inner voice we hear as adults.
I’d like to believe that most parents already knew these things and did their best to inspire and create only positive and healthy thoughts in their children’s minds though the words they spoke, or that the world we live in is not evil and focused on beating you up through harsh words. Yet many of us are still in the process of unlearning and relearning how to think and how to approach life, trying to break the old ways of thinking and the old ways of talking. It’s an important and healthy process that will help us break free from ideas and lies that we have believed and accepted as absolute truth. It’s a process of self-discovery and inner healing that leads to our true potential. I encourage you to keep pursuing metanoia, and to keep paying attention to the words you speak and the words you listen to. Set healthy boundaries and don’t just let anyone speak into your life.
And since we are not children anymore, let’s not perpetuate the negative cycle of letting everyone’s spoken words shape our thinking and our lives. We are now fully aware of our will power, have a broader understanding of the importance of personal boundaries, and we do know that we can choose our own thoughts, so only the words you give power to have power over you.