The power of the words we speak over ourselves

Nothing has more power over our mindset and situation than the words we choose to tell ourselves. 

Girl standing free in front of waterfall

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

I've struggled with negative self-talk and the feeling that I was just a 'stressed out, highly strung' person for decades. Long ago, a high school teacher saw an (immature) behaviour in me and labelled it as 'stress', and I threw that label over me like a cloak and hid inside it.

I unconsciously hid inside that cloak for the next 13 years. Words are so, so powerful.

By accepting the dare to ban the word stress from my vocabulary, I discovered how quickly my attitude towards big life events and 'stressful' situations was transformed.

The change in me happened not in days or weeks, but in a moment.

Suddenly, I no longer embodied the 'stressed-out' persona... so much so, that sometimes my own family didn't recognise this new calm 'me'.

It was like stress had been this dark shadow that had consumed and controlled me, and banning it outright helped me bring it out into the light, and see it for what it really is. Just a word.

Mighty when I bow to it, but a word nonetheless.

Nothing has more power over our circumstances, than the words we tell ourselves.​

The power of words comes from our belief in them, and what they mean for us. I had believed so strongly that I was a 'stressed out person' and so - from that first time I was told I worried too much, I embodied that word, and I became stress.

You've probably heard the old saying "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"

That question - regardless of where or when it is posed - has always prompted uncertainty and ambiguity, but when applied to my situation: "What came first, the word 'stress' or actual 'stress'?" the answer couldn't be clearer.​

I told myself I was stressed, therefore, when things got hard, I let myself respond accordingly and became overwhelmed by chaotic events, conflicts and emotions. I let myself believe the lie: 'that's just who I am'. 

I gave in to the power of the word.

So, what happened when I stopped saying that word (and other synonyms I used such as "tired" and "worried")?​

As soon as I eradicated the word 'stress' from my spoken vocabulary, it seemed to linger briefly in my inner voice, and then quickly vanished like a wisp of smoke.

It wasn't missed. I quickly replaced it with three intentional words: calm, happy and grateful.

Woman holding sparkler

Making words your superpower

As I've mentioned, the words we speak inside our heads are pretty powerful, perhaps because we're inside our heads 24/7. The sheer repetition and presence of our thoughts (imagine a tiny 'thought elf' screaming at you for attention all day) makes them literally top of mind.

But there is something 10 times more powerful than just saying words (whether negative or positive) inside our head.

It's the big-daddy of mental superpowers.

What is it?

It's simply saying those words out loud. This can be speaking to an empty room, but it's even better if you can say them to someone. Anyone... Your dog. Your Grandma. The postman.

When you speak bold, shining, heart-warming words about who you hope to be ("I am calm, happy and grateful") to people, they quickly embody the truth of who you actually ARE.​

Side note: There's a funny little loophole in this equation that sometimes relates to negative thoughts. Depending on the word, no matter how terrible it is, if you say it out loud, it can actually sound so ridiculous that you'll realise it's not true at all. 😉

Remind me again, why are words so powerful?

  • The power of words comes from the belief we have in them and their ability to measure who we are.
  • When we assign a word or descriptor to ourselves and believe it (however ridiculous or untrue) we embody it.
  • Words spoken out loud are 10 x more powerful
  • We can choose words with positive or negative connotations to describe ourselves.
  • So then, what words are you saying about yourself?

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!