“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Why do parents teach this little quote to their kids? Simple. It’s a one-sentence philosophy that arms each of us against the words others may use to describe us, or worse, to tear us down. We learn from this one sentence that words can’t hurt us.
As a philosophy, it works. But, in practice, it misses a few points.
Words do matter. They inspire, motivate, comfort, and create. They also discourage, disappoint, frustrate, and destroy.
Certain words wield more power than all others. The words we say to ourselves.
We can tell ourselves almost anything, and we will believe it. If we don’t believe at first, we can relentlessly work to convince ourselves. Remember, we’re in our head all the time…unfiltered!
We each have a personal stream of consciousness that narrates our perspective of what’s “really” happening around us, and to us. It’s this continuous chatter of self-talk in our head that drives everything we feel, and everything we do.
The words in our self-talk carry all the power, regardless of what’s happening around us. Imagine you’re a golfer. A professional golfer. Maybe the best golfer in the world. You’ve won major tournaments this season. You’ve outclassed the entire field. And yet, you aren’t satisfied with your results, because they should have been better. You finished second a few too many times this season to let yourself really celebrate your success.
Why? Negative self-talk. Your self-talk is telling you that you aren’t good enough. You don’t deserve all the accolades coming your way. You tell yourself that your short game needs to get a little better if you expect to win again. Each mistake you make is amplified in your head as yet another reason you shouldn’t win. So you stop winning.
Negative self-talk has nothing to do with reality. It only robs energy and happiness. Positive self-talk has nothing to do with reality. It only brings energy and happiness. The reality you perceive, the reality you create, and the way you will ultimately live your life are each dictated by your self-talk.
The words we say to ourselves can and will hurt us. Or…they can lift us, propel us, and bring us happiness.
We get to choose.