I'm Not Depressed; I've Just Been Having A Lousy Conversation With Myself
Not long ago, I attended a mastermind group. During the meeting, one of the women went into a litany about how terrible things had been in the past few weeks and how depressed she felt as a result. Inspired, I rose from my seat and told her, "You're not depressed, you've just been having a lousy conversation with yourself." She looked at me as if I had just arrived from Mars.
LIMITING WORDS CREATE A LIMITED LIFE
Most people have no idea that the words they use affect their feelings, experiences and behavior. The majority of people in our lives use very limiting language. If you were to listen to most of the people around you, you would be shocked to find out how negative their speech is. They complain, gossip, talk about how difficult things are now and how they probably won't get much better. Then they wonder why their lives are not filled with joy and success. While it might seem like a good idea to regularly talk about things that bother you, you pay a huge price for doing so.
When you use negative words, whether knowingly or unknowingly, it impacts your feelings and behavior. When my friend talked about how depressed she felt, it actually contributed to her feeling sad and, as a result, she began to act as if she had no choices. Notice the sequence - words create feelings and feelings impact behavior. It is almost impossible to act positively when you use negative words. (Note - The phrase depressed as it is used above is NOT describing clinical depression. Prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness can be symptoms of a serious condition that needs the attention of a mental health professional.)
Your words impact your present experience and also your future. If you use limiting words, you will act in a corresponding manner because we always act the way we describe ourselves. I am a motivational and high content speaker. For years, I yearned to be more humorous and entertaining in my talks. However, using humor was a very big challenge for me. Why? Because I always described myself as motivational, not funny. So what happened? My audience members would comment about how motivational and inspirational I was. They never told me that I was funny. I finally decided that if I was going to be able to add humor to my talks, I had to stop saying that I wasn't funny. I decided to be open to being more entertaining. The result? Over time I easily incorporated one liners and humorous content into my talks. People began to describe my style as motivational and highly entertaining. Amazingly, a number of audience members told me that I missed my calling and should have been a stand-up comic instead of a speaker. What happened; did I suddenly discover a funny bone? No. By stopping my negative words, I was able to let my natural wit emerge. (I still don't have them rolling in the aisles, but at least my audiences and I have more fun.)
NOTICE YOUR 'YUK' FEELINGS
The first step in discontinuing your negative words (whether you say them to yourself or others) is to recognize when you are doing this. Here's a clue. It's what I call my 'yuk' feeling. Whenever I say something negative or limiting, I feel a negative sensation in my body. For me, it can be a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach or stress down my spine. When I feel that awful feeling in my body, it is a clue that I am engaging in negative language.
Why does this happen? Most people know that the mind and body are inextricably linked. One affects the other. The words that we use also register in our bodies. If we use positive, upbeat words it allows our bodies to feel empowered, energetic, and ready to take action. If we use negative words, it causes stress or a "yuk' feeling somewhere in our bodies. Determine where your 'yuk' feeling is. When you are experiencing a challenging situation, notice where you feel it in your body. Does your 'yuk' feeling express as a clenched jaw, tight muscles at the back of your neck, pressure at your temples or somewhere else?
DARE TO DEFY YOUR INNER CRITIC
Once you've determined that you are in a 'yuk' state, then pay attention to your language. You might be shocked at the negative things you have been saying to yourself and others. No wonder you've been feeling so stressed! However, just noticing these words is not enough. Remember, negative words affect your feelings and behavior so you must start to challenge them. Instead of telling yourself that you are overloaded and can't possibly do all the work you have to do say, "Stop it!" You must quiet the inner critic. Tell yourself that, of course you will get everything done, because you always complete whatever you need to do. When you do this, pay attention to the 'yuk' feeling and notice that it has disappeared.
DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO BE
One of the reasons that highly successful people are so outstanding at what they do is because they consistently use positive language. Again, optimistic words create positive feelings and actions. These accomplished individuals describe their lives and experiences in affirmative terms which causes them to behave in ways that lead to success.
The good news is that it is not that difficult to transform your words and behavior. Recently, I was having lunch at a professional meeting. I began talking to one of my table companions about exercising and having the motivation to continue a regular program. She told me that she used to be a regular fitness enthusiast, but she let it slide and now she couldn't get motivated to work out on a regular schedule. After speaking with her for a while, I told her that if she didn't stop saying that she wasn't motivated to exercise, she never would be motivated to start and maintain a fitness program. I told her that if she wanted to make a change, she had to get rid of the negative way she was describing herself with regard to exercising. I also told her that awareness is the first step to making a positive change. Being aware of the negative language that we use, challenging it, and describing what we want instead, will allow us to take control of our feelings and behavior. A week later, my associate sent me a note and told me that I 'motivated' her so much, she got up at 5 AM to go to the gym and had been doing it several days in a row. She also told me that it was easy and she did not know why she hadn't done it before. The reason it became so easy for her to change her behavior and do what she wanted to do was because she changed her negative language. When she used positive words, she did not need me to motivate her, she motivated herself.
So the next time you catch yourself saying something like, "I'm so depressed" or "I'm sick and tired of this," stop it. Your words no longer have to mess up your life. Choose words that describe what you want to experience and watch what happens.
About The Author
Della Menechella is a speaker, author, and trainer who inspires people to achieve greater success from the inside out. She is a contributing author to Thriving in the Midst of Change and the author of the videotape The Twelve Commandments of Goal Setting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to free Peak Performance Pointers e-zine - send blank e-mail to mailto:email@example.com.