Today’s column is a bit heady and requires a little bit of writing.
Don’t fret; it’s nothing complicated. Ready? Of course, you are. Without giving it a lot of thought, write down the first words that come to mind that describe you.
Most people start relatively superficially. For example, I began with “Scott Marcus.” That’s not actually a description of me; it’s my label. So, with more thought, I added “man,” “father,” and “husband.” That dug deeper but is still scratching the surface. After all, there are billions of “fathers” and “husbands” so those words still fall short in describing who I am. To be more specific, I can add a resident of California, 67 years old, self-employed, coach, speaker, and writer. If you’re doing this activity with me, you’re getting a fuller image of who you are, but in reality, these still are more what you do, rather than what makes you you.
To get down to your core, it’s necessary to identify your values, emotions, and beliefs; they are what make you you. Using myself as an illustration, those might be traits such as honest, compassionate, liberal, worried, self-conscious, spiritual, intelligent, funny, angry, and loyal. Whereby I’m not all of those at once, any one can rise to the forefront, depending on the situation in which I find myself.
Adjectives create images; hurried one-word stories replete with judgments. For example, “annoyed,” (a state of mind in which I often find myself of late), invokes imaginings of impatience, crankiness, and pedantic. However, “compassionate” inspires warmth, caring, and helpful. I’d rather be associated with the latter than the former – but, in reality, they’re both me at various times.
Why does all this matter?
If, for example, someone called you “lazy” or “stupid,” you would almost definitely have an emotional reflex – and it wouldn’t be uplifting. Emotions trigger behaviors more so than do thoughts, so epithets about us that are unpleasant, generate corresponding behaviors. In such a circumstance, you would almost certainly feel a hit to your self-esteem, and might very probably lash out in response to the hurt, possibly boomeranging some choice invectives of your own. An argument ensues; distance is the result, and the relationship needs healing. After several similar incidences, your relationship might end, caused of too much pain – generating self-talk of “failure” or “unlovable.” On the other side, if that same person referred to you as “devoted,” or “kind,” you can see where an entirely different outcome would transpire.
Both outcomes were triggered by words, and the stories you associate with those words. The more the word has an impact in your mind, and the more important the person who delivered them to you is, the greater the reaction will be. If the words or the person delivering them meant nothing to you, the result would be nothing.
Our subconscious mind, that part “beneath” the thoughts, cannot discern the difference between reality and imagination. It stands to reason then, that since it cannot distinguish the source when we use pain-inducing words in our internal dialog (the most intimate voice we listen to), the resultant feelings would be identical to someone we care deeply about insulting us. Our mood sinks and our relationship with ourselves, the most important relationship we have, is harmed. Over time, the result can be anything from being overly critical of who we are and dismissing positive self-talk, all the way to self-loathing, broken relationships, and even – in extreme cases – self-harm and suicide.
With all that as (a very long) pre-amble, take a look at the words you chose to describe who are you. Which words are hurtful? Can you remove them from your vocabulary? Are they even true? And if they are, are there words that inflict less pain? Even better, are there positive words that you can start to focus on?
Bottom line? What we say about ourselves determines how we feel about ourselves, as much as if someone else said those very words to us. Words matter.
Choose nicer whenever possible.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com and the founder of the inspirational Facebook Group, Intentions Affirmations Manifestations. He will be hosting “Conversations with Your Inner Self,” which deals with this topic, on August 6. Find out more at https://CWIV-Aug6.eventbrite.com