A few months ago I was with my mum and I had made some sort of mistake. I can’t remember what the mistake was, however, that fact is irrelevant. What I do remember is saying rather hotly, “I’m an idiot!” My mother then looked at me and said, “don’t talk to yourself like that. You’re not an idiot.”
My mother’s words allowed me the ability to notice each time I would say that about myself, which, as it happened to be, was a lot. It was like a habitual tick, scoffing “I’m an idiot,” anytime I messed up: Forgot something? “I’m an idiot.” Spilled something? “I’m an idiot.” Didn’t get a joke? “I’m an idiot.” It was just something I was so used to doing I had never really thought about it until that moment with my mother.
Around this time I also started meditating and using affirmations. I’d use guided meditations and the voices behind them would encourage me to say positive things about myself: “I love you, ”you matter,” etc. At first, I thought it was a bit silly. They’re just words, after all. But, the more I did it the more I could feel a change. Initially, I was hesitant, like I didn’t believe the words I was saying. My body resisted them. However, as I continued to practise that resistance went away. As I continued to meditate regularly, my overall outlook on life became happier. I started finding peace within myself that I hadn’t felt before.
Words have an immense power that often goes unnoticed. Contrasting the popular saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” words can absolutely sting, cut, and burn. Words don’t necessarily have an instant effect, however. Their form of torture is more subtle and subdued, taking longer to seep their teeth into our bones. If we hear something regularly, we have an increased chance of believing it, whether that something is positive or negative. This has a huge impact on our lives. If you hear “you’re fat,” all the time, there’s going to be an increased likelihood that you’re going to be self-conscious of your body, resulting in possible life changes as serious as eating disorders.
We don’t have the power to control what others say to us, but we are absolutely in control of what we say to ourselves. I still say “I’m an idiot,” when I make a mistake, but now I catch myself and combat the negativity by following up with, “no, I’m not.” I urge you to be more self-aware of how you talk to yourself. You might be surprised at what you might find.