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Your Words Matter

How to Talk to Yourself in a Way That Makes You Feel Better

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I’ve been walking around lately saying “I’ve got this!”

I’ve been saying this partly because I’m in the midst of creating a new program and I always get scared when I do something new.  I’ve also been saying it because winter is coming and I’m a little worried about how I’ll handle the pandemic without the sun.  The winter days are dark and short here in Seattle.

But mostly I’m saying it because it feels good, and it helps me feel more motivated to tackle what I’m facing. 

The longer I’m on this earth, the more I realize how important the words are that we tell ourselves. 

I stop my clients all the time and ask them how they feel when they say things like “I’m such a wreck” “I should have known better” “what is wrong with me?” or “I’m a failure as a mom.” 

They always feel bad.  They never say “Jane, I feel so good when I say that!”  or “I feel so motivated to do my best now!”  Never.   

They feel defeated, hopeless, like a failure.  Bad.  Not motivated. 

So why do we keep telling ourselves these messages that not only don’t help, they make us feel worse?   

Because we learned that beating ourselves up makes us better people. 

Except it doesn’t. 

I speak from very personal experience here.   I learned to motivate myself by speaking cruelly to myself (anything that puts us down is cruel.)  I thought it worked.  I got a Master’s and a Ph.D. with dyslexia and unmedicated ADHD.  It took me 10 years, but I did it. 

So it worked, right?

Yes and no.  I did get two advanced degrees, but I felt awful and like a failure the entire time. 

I can only imagine how much easier that period of my life, who am I kidding, my ENTIRE LIFE, would have been if I had learned to tell myself, “I’ve got this.  This is hard, but if I keep taking one step at a time, I’ll do it.  I can do hard things.”

I urge you to try an experiment.  Notice how you talk to yourself when you are trying to accomplish something and you are resisting it. 

I bet you are saying things to yourself like “why can’t I just do this?  What is wrong with me?  I don’t know what I’m doing.  I can’t do this.  Who am I kidding?”

Gosh, I’m just raring to go after that motivational speech.  Aren’t you?

Instead, try saying something that feels good.  Here are some examples.

  • “This feels hard, but it would be helpful to do.”
  • “It might not be perfect, or even as good as I want it to be, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
  • “I’ve done hard things.  I can do this too!”
  • “I’ve got this!” (my current favorite.)

Here is the important part–find a phrase that feels good to you.  Experiment and say sentences that make you feel good rather than a like a failure…again. 

Positive words feel awful when we don’t believe them. 

For instance, if you say “I will do this and it will be amazing!” and you don’t believe it, you will be less motivated.  Instead, try something softer like, “I just might be able to do this.  I’m not sure how, but I’m willing to try.”

If that opens you up a little and makes you feel a little more hopeful, say that.

I am constantly working with my clients to help them find the words that stretch them a little without making them feel bad about doing it “wrong again.”

Play around and find what feels right for you in the moment.  There are no right or wrong ways.  There are ways that make you feel worse and feel better.

Why not say the words that make you feel better?

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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