Mental Health Matters: Words Matter
Words express our thoughts and feelings and help us navigate the world. Words are a combination of sounds that convey meaning to others. There are about 170,000 words in the English language, and the number seems to grow every year with development and innovation. Throughout time, words have had the power to destroy, heal, and inspire.
One of the most destructive ways we use words is our negative self-talk, the inner dialogue we have with ourselves. What is your inner dialogue? Does your dialogue affirm your abilities and worth as a person? Or does it ridicule and judge you?
It is easy to get into a vicious habit of negative self-talk. We are most vulnerable to negative self-talk when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. One could argue that negative self-talk is a motivator. However, I believe compassionate self-talk is a better option. There is enough negativity around without having to increase it with your own self-talk.
A friend of mine called today and shared with me that she struggled to end a relationship with someone who was emotionally abusive. She was down on herself and in her mind repeating the hurtful and negative things this person said to her.
We talked for a while, and I suggested she take a stack of index cards and write down positive self-affirmations and tape them to key places in her home where she could read the messages. She asked me, “Is this really going to help?” My response was exuberant, “Yes, you need to start changing your self-talk and stop thinking that what this person said was true because it is not.”
Sometimes we need somebody to tell us that we are indeed worthy, lovable, and a person of value, especially when we are not feeling that way about ourselves. Work on your self-talk and see what a difference it can make in your life.
Here are some powerful suggestions:
- I am lovable.
- I am smart and capable.
- I am creative.
- People love and care about me.
- My thoughts and opinions matter.
- I can make a mistake, and it is going to be okay.
- I can do it!
- I deserve to be treated with respect.
- There is no one like me, and I matter.
Let our words be the olive branches in times of strife rather than weapons of our demise. Let your thoughts and feelings breathe life into your words and share the essence of who you are. Let our words to ourselves and others elevate our very existence. Words matter. Mental health matters to you and me!
Dr. Skillestad Winans retired from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, after 24 years of service, where she served as the Chief of Psychology Services. She is currently an Associate Professor at Northwest University and a Clinical Supervisor at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. The information in this article does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship, assumes no professional or legal liability, and does not represent the views of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Northwest University, or the University of Washington.