By Shatyra Williams, MSW, RSW
Published March 2014
LANGUAGE IS A TOOL
Language is the ultimate tool of communication. Your choice of words not only helps you to appropriately communicate with those around you, but more importantly your words are used to establish your thoughts: communication with yourself. The words that you speak out loud are likely the types of words that will fill your thoughts. Use the power of language to shape your inner dialogue in a way that will lift you up in times of need. Discover ways to introduce positive messages to yourself and you will be better equipped for managing challenges with a healthy mindset. Expose yourself to positive language by reading uplifting books, writing encouraging poetry, or listening to empowering music.
LANGUAGE IS A FRAME
The labels we select as descriptive words for ourselves, our circumstances, or our situations hold great power. For example, if you constantly describe yourself as “struggling to find a job” you are framing your circumstance a struggle, a difficulty, a problem. Yes, this is surely one way of understanding the situation. However, an alternative way to describe yourself could be “I am exploring employment options”, “I am looking for employment opportunities”, or simply “I am a job seeker”. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a struggle that we face, however it is important to keep in mind that if we constantly emphasize a situation as being a problem, we are giving power to that problem and taking power away from the solution. By constantly labeling yourself as “struggling to find a job” you are silencing the concepts of opportunity, options, endeavor, growth, progress, and prosperity that come along with exploring new employment opportunities. You will experience your situation in the way that you frame it to be. If you call it a struggle, you will struggle. If you call it an exploration, you will explore.
LANGUAGE IS A GUIDE
Language can act as a guide by identifying to others and ourselves what is important, relevant, or in need of being highlighted in any given situation. For example, if you introduce yourself to someone as “Just a stay at home mom” you need to be aware of the assumptions that may accompany your expression. By including the word “Just” before describing that you are a stay-at-home mother, you are sending a message that you categorize your role as inferior to others or see yourself or your duties as unimportant. By using the word “Just” at the beginning of your sentence, you are giving the word relevancy, and highlighting your role as an inadequacy. This type of negative self-description will guide others on how to interpret you, treat you, and value you. Recognize your value and speak with confidence! Alternative ways to describe yourself include “A happy mother of two”, “Fortunate to have the opportunity to work in the home”, or “a loving mother to a beautiful baby boy”, etc.
Negative self-talk has the ability to reshape your beliefs, values, and knowledge. For example, If you tell yourself “I will never be able to lose this weight”, you are setting the tone for your journey. Deep inside you may know that you have knowledge of helpful resources, history of being a strong woman, and available support system, however this type of negative self-talk will guide you towards developing illogical beliefs, self-doubt, and decreased motivation. If you tell yourself you will “never” lose weight then you are telling yourself that there is no point to continue working towards your weight loss goals and there is no point to remain hopeful. Correct your words! You know that you have the potential to reach your goal, so avoid negative messages that will get you off track. Say to yourself “I have reached a challenge, but I am staying strong”. This type of simple change in language will make a dramatic difference in your life experience. You will feel encouraged to stay on track and follow through with your goals.
Whether you are communicating with others or thinking to your-self, keep in mind the power of language to frame a situation or guide behaviours. What you tell yourself will control how feel about yourself. The way you describe yourself to others will control how you are viewed by the world and shape your life experiences. Take charge and take your language seriously.
When faced with a challenge and in search of words to replace some negative thoughts from your vocabulary, consider the use of the following words:
I have before
I have faith
I am able
I am capable
I am aware
I will seek
I will explore
I will ask
I will try
I will learn
I will reach
I am working towards
I am reorganizing
I am re-evaluating
Shatyra Williams MSW, RSW is a Toronto-based Social Worker with a passion for women's wellness. As Program Manager of RWRJ's Artistic Healing Group, Shatyra teaches healthy coping strategies for women survivors of trauma. Through a variety of creative educational techniques Shatyra helps women to challenge themselves, to embrace their imperfections, and to love their journey.
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