How many times as a child did you hear or experience a parent, teacher, coach, or any adult say “watch your mouth” when something slipped out that wasn’t “acceptable” to them.
In some situations, like the scene from “A Christmas Story,” the young boy utters something forbidden and the scene jumps to him sitting in the bathroom with a bar of soap in his mouth.
While things have changed and we’ve found alternative methods for correcting behavior, it is still a struggle for many to “watch your mouth.”
Now, I may have been leading you to jump ahead and assume this post is about what “others” say and how to correct “others” behavior or use of inappropriate language and words.
This post is about the words and language we tell ourselves and the impact that it has on our own self-agency, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
Similar to the young man that uttered the forbidden word, during some or many stages of our own life path, we’ve encountered external sources that have taught us, modeled for us, or directed words, language, and behavior towards us that have found a place in our memory database. It lives in us…
As a natural process we will then try to make sense of that information and begin to use it at a later time as we come to believe it should be used - regardless if we truly understand the impact the words, language, and behavior have on our self, others, or the situation.
Whatever the results yield - what’s important to grasp is that words, language, and behavior DO matter. To the people we interact with and the situations we navigate. Most importantly, it especially matters to us, as individuals.
Three areas to notice how our words effect our thoughts, feelings, and behavior include:
A belief that we can have an impact on the events taking place in our life.
- If you say “I can’t handle this, it’s overwhelming” many times over than eventually, you’ll believe it and succumb to the experience.
- On the other hand, if you consider the situation and identify a variety of scenario’s you can approach it with a statement such as “A more likely outcome is…and I can handle this.”
A belief grounded in our personal self-worth. A belief that we are deserving of self-love and love from others.
- If you say “I suck” or “I’m no good” or “They won’t like me” then eventually – it will become a fact in the theater of your own mind.
- On the other hand, if you cultivate a self-positive dialogue within yourself, you can treat yourself with compassion and grace with statements such as “That’s not true, I did well today” or “I tried it and learned something new, next time I will do better.”
Incorporates both a belief based on past performance/experience and a belief in our personal ability to do whatever the activity may be.
- If you say “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how” or “I will fail at that.” and you never try or attempt the activity – you’ll never know. The belief will become cemented in your psyche based on the words.
- On the other hand, if you challenge yourself to summons the courage to try, stick to it, and learn from new situations then eventually you can amass the experience to master the activity. All the while you’ll need to support yourself with statements such as “I can do this” or “I learned how to do X before and I can learn how to do Y now” or “It takes time to learn and I’m patient and willing to put in the work – I’ll figure this out.”
The first step in this process is to Watch Your Mouth and notice what you are saying to others and especially to yourself. Once you have gathered enough evidence – you may be surprised what you are saying and how it is impacting your overall thoughts, feelings, and behavior.