Words Need Warning Labels

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Words are small things, yet they surround us every moment of our life. They beg for our attention. TV, internet, and radio stations spew words endlessly. At the office, school, and home words swirl around us. They leap across the pages of magazines, newspapers, books, and blogs. We can’t escape words. Even if you go deep into the woods, where no cell signal is brave enough to travel, you still have words. The phone sends the message ‘no signal.’ And admit it—you talk to yourself, I know I do.

Words Have Power

In all that incessant noise have you ever paused to consider how much power all those words have? Words are small packages with the power of a stick of dynamite. (Tweet That) Just like a box of dynamite has a warning label, handle with care, words should come with a warning label. Words are a sword that destroys or they can push someone to do amazing things. The words we speak affect whoever hears them. (Tweet That)

Negative Words Bring Negative Results

Jane is on her way home and in five minutes has moved only a few car lengths on the crowded freeway. Her nerves are tight and her patience is gone. All Jane can think about is getting home, kicking off her shoes, and finding something to eat. It’s at this moment that another driver cuts her off, almost causing an accident. If that wasn’t bad enough the driver flips Jane off and shouts angrily at her! Anger, annoyance, hurt, and frustration flicker across Jane’s face. What now? If Jane flips them off and shouts right back everyone becomes even more upset and stressed out. If she ignores it, chances are the words and actions of the other driver will grate on her mind for hours.

Tina is a little girl on her first day of school. She walks into her first grade classroom with her mother in tow. It’s overwhelming for her; new teacher, new kids, the great unknown, and worst of all, the summer’s fun is over. Tina cries and clings to her mother who spends half the day with her offering comfort and encouragement. By lunch time, Tina has made a new friend. When Tina’s mom picks her up at the end of the day, she is happy and eager to go back. A week later Tina shuffles out of the school on Friday afternoon. Tears stain her cheeks. All weekend her mother tries to get Tina to tell what’s wrong. Monday morning arrives and Tina has a melt down when it’s time to leave for school. Finally the story emerges. Last week the teacher began saying “Pick up the pace, Tina!” as the class worked to complete assignments. It was only a couple of days before the rest of the class began echoing the teacher. Each day as the students completed their assignments and handed them in the teacher and the entire class would call out, “Pick up the pace, Tina!” It only took five words to tear down this eager student and convince her that she wasn’t smart enough to do the work. She finished each lesson slower than the one before and the haunting words destroyed Tina’s confidence.

Positive Words Bring Positive Results

Shortly after we adopted our little dog from the shelter our vet confirmed our suspicions that her previous owner had abused her. Everything terrified her.  She wasn’t potty trained and it was six weeks before we found out she could indeed bark and make other sounds. There were many other signs, but I won’t go into details. Our vet gave us some wonderful training advice; give your dog positive reinforcement on everything she does right, no matter how small, and ignore the bad. We followed that advice. We also told our sweet little dog over and over what a good girl she was, how much we loved her, and that she was safe. Over the next twelve months an amazing transformation happened. She became a self-confident, well-behaved dog who was no longer afraid of her shadow. She is happy and content with her new world.

Someone I know switched high schools her junior year. At her old school she had always done well in math classes and enjoyed them. At the new school she struggled. Not just to learn the material but to even stay awake. She dropped out of the advanced class. Even this didn’t help, she still struggled. This began to affect her other classes as well. Part way through the school year the math teacher’s overhead projector broke. It took almost two weeks to it get repaired. During that two weeks she stayed awake just fine, understood the material, didn’t struggle with the homework and aced a test on the chapter they’d been studying. As soon as the overhead projector was fixed, things went back to the way they had been. This affected her so profoundly that when it was time to choose a major for college she thought she wouldn’t be able to do the class work for the major she wanted to choose. So she picked something else. Almost a decade later she went back to school to finally get a degree. She had to take an advanced math class. Because everything she struggled with in high school was in this one class, fear crept into her heart. Deciding that it was time to get over it she began telling herself this was easy and she was definitely smart enough to understand it. The teacher patiently answered any questions she had. He encouraged her, his words building on what she was telling herself. She studied with friends in the class; each person encouraged the others through sections that were difficult for them. When grades came out for the quarter the teacher gave her and her friends an A for the quarter. Perhaps if everyone in high school hadn’t been so quick to believe she wasn’t smart someone would’ve realized that the white noise from the overhead projector was causing the problem. But when it finally came down to it, the words she told herself and the words others told her came true, she was smart and did understand the material.

What We Say To Ourselves

The things we say to ourselves affect us more than anything anyone else can say to us. We can improve our life or drag it down simply by what we tell ourselves. (Tweet That) Have you ever been on a diet and found yourself saying, “I’ll never survive on this few of calories!” You’ve just sabotaged yourself. Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t eat just one donut” only to discover that you ate a dozen of them! How about the old excuse, “I’m too busy to exercise.” If you say that enough times it will come true, you’ll find other things to fill your time. A friend of mine once said “I’m not smart enough to do Sudoku.” I offered to teach her the basics. She wouldn’t even try because she knew she wouldn’t be able to understand it. She lost out on doing something fun because her self talk convinced her that she wasn’t smart.

What about if you tell yourself positive things? Does it change anything? Yes, it does.

A woman I know had been in an abusive relationship, her self-esteem and self-confidence were at an all time low. She embarked on her life as a newly single woman by speaking encouraging words to herself. Each morning she looked in the mirror and went through a list of things that her selfish abuser had stolen from her. The more she said positive things about herself the easier it became. She told herself out loud that she was smart enough to make decisions on her own. She reminded herself that she was pretty. That she was a loving caring woman. And many other things. Over months of saying positive things out loud she built up the courage to believe the positive things she was telling herself. It’s been a while but now she is a strong independent woman. There are moments when the voice of her abuser fills her mind and tries to drag her down but she simply tells herself the positive words she needs to hear to get through that moment. Most importantly she is happier and now works at a job she loves.

I recently watched an interview that Adrian Peterson gave on the 700 Club. For those of you who don’t know Adrian Peterson is the Minnesota Vikings running back who tore two tendons in his knee in the last game of the 2011 season. The injury was so severe that those who saw the injury said he would never play again or if he did it would never be as an elite back, like he had been before. Adrian said in the interview that he refused to listen to all the nay sayers in the media. He wouldn’t listen to his own thoughts when they filled him with doubts about returning. Adrian set his sights not only on returning but on being a better player than he was before the injury. Each time a negative thought came his way he said out loud that the negative thought wasn’t true and told himself that he would be back better and stronger than ever. In a miracle, he was back on the field about nine months later, ready to play in the first game of the 2012 season. He had such an outstanding year that he came nine yards short of breaking the single season rushing record and won the award for AP Comeback Player of the Year. He also won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2012.

Choose Words That Don’t Need Warning Labels

What we say to others matters. What we say to ourselves matters. The ability to make lives better is in the words we say. Honest, helpful, positive words are the most freeing thing we can experience. Words are impactful — choose words that don’t need a warning label. (Tweet That) It’s amazing what can happen when we carefully choose words that are uplifting and encouraging.

Because this post has a serious tone to it I thought I’d end with something light-hearted. Where do the words in the image below fit in? Do they need a warning label? I’d love to hear what you think, why not leave me a message?

self explaining addiction
photo credit: Procsilas Moscas self explaining addiction via compfight (license)

 

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photo credit: Pablo Fernández Bla bla bla via compfight (license)

Author: Jillian Pearl

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. As an adult, I moved to Denver, Colorado and continue to live there with my family. Over the years, I've had a variety of jobs, including lifeguard, OTR truck driver, and mechanical drafter. Currently, I am a caregiver for my mom, a blogger, and a contemporary romance author.

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