I’m sure everyone remembers the schoolyard chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This mantra was taught to us at a young age as a way to respond to taunts from bullies on the playground. It was a defense against the real hurt behind those words. It was saying to the world, “Words are not powerful! They do not harm me!”
But as we get older, we realize that words are one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Negative words can have a major impact on us. How many times have you said something to or about someone that you have regretted later? Not only does this harm the person we spoke to or about, but lowers are own worth and self-esteem and leaves us with feelings of guilt. On the flip side, it hurts just as bad when someone says something negative to us. You might have a boss whose favorite saying is, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Or maybe you overheard your best friend telling someone she thinks you dress like a Russian peasant. All these comments leave lasting scars on our psyche.
Negative words spoken by others can have a devastating impact, but also our self talk, the constant chatter going on in our minds, can be very harmful. Most self talk is negative, a constant flow of thoughts that our sub-conscious acknowledges to be true, whether actually true or not. The sub-conscious mind then goes about creating a reality to match these thoughts. How many times a day do we tell ourselves I can’t do this. I’m not enough? Or I never follow through. I’m fat. I can’t make a change. She’s better at that than I am. It’s too difficult. This list could go on and on. How many times do we tell ourselves we ARE good enough, we ARE capable, we ARE beautiful, or we ARE smart? What if those were the words we heard all day, every day? Think of the things we could do if armed with greater confidence and self-esteem!
Words are a weapon of choice and we can choose to use them in a positive way. Words of affirmation and kindness can be so powerful. Some of the greatest words ever spoken have changed the world forever. Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech during World War II inspired the English to push forward, and with America’s help, to end the war. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on civil rights altered the lives of millions of people and changed the very fabric of society. John F. Kennedy’s speech to congress pleading for a national commitment to land a man on the moon started a revolution in space travel and exploration that is still in motion. It is yet to be seen the impact this could have on our future.
“Words have the power to both destroy and heal.
When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”
I challenge us all to choose our words more carefully, to choose kind words knowing the impact they can have on us and those we interact with every day. Start by being kinder to yourself. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror that says “I am smart, capable and beautiful” and use the reminder to start your day off on a positive note. Make it a priority to say hello to people you see and pass out heartfelt compliments to family and friends. Say thank you as often as you can. Use your words to make a positive connection. You can’t foresee the ripple effect a kind word might have on someone going through a tough time. Volunteer as a mentor to youth in your community. Your words of encouragement, sympathy, or advice could change a life.