Two weeks ago, I wrote about how to use censoring to cultivate happiness.  In that article, I briefly discussed how censoring what you input into your life can make a profound difference to your happiness. After I wrote that article, I realized there is one other area of our lives that could benefit from censoring, and that is the words we use, both internally and externally. 

Internal words.

I want to share a short story about self-talk. A few weekends ago, I was playing doubles volleyball and my partner and I were playing a team that had the type of hitter that could read us like a book and place the ball anywhere we weren't. Discouraging, to say the least. But instead of telling myself I'm a terrible player and asking what in the world I'm thinking to believe I could even play volleyball, I decided to focus on one thing. I made it a goal, not to win or to be the best, but to instead just dig one of this girl's hits. I told myself that I was this girl's equal, anything she could hit, I could dig and I spent the rest of the game focusing on telling myself that I was every bit as good and did all I could to get just one dig. We didn't win the game and frankly, while I did get under the ball a few times, I never got that perfect dig I knew I was capable of. BUT my self-talk made all the difference. I walked away feeling great, knowing that I'd played as best as possible and that the next time we played this team, I would be able to get that perfect dig. If I had let negative self-talk in, I would have walked away dejected, worthless, and anxious to play again. It would have ruined my whole day (we played 6 more games). 

Now this story isn't a glory tale for how I used self-talk but an example of how even the silliest situations like a volleyball game can be a great place to monitor how you talk to yourself. And it's the day to day practice of talking to yourself in a good way that can make situations like the volleyball game (or something more serious) easier to navigate with a happier mindset and outlook. You won't get positive self-talk the second you decide to block negative self-talk. It takes a lot of self-monitoring, reframing, and time until one day you're midway through a volleyball game and you realize all the time and hard work paid off, you're giving yourself a positive pep talk. 

How to block negative self-talk.

I couldn't walk away after sharing that story and not offer some sort of tips on how to improve your inner voice:

  • Read about, listen to, and/or watch positive people. We tend to emulate what we focus on, so focusing on positive people may teach you to be more positive yourself. 

  • Ask yourself why. Have a negative thought? Ask yourself why you are saying it. Ask if you believe it? Then ask why you do or don't believe it. Asking these questions will open the door to more positive thought and self-awareness. 

  • Look for and break patterns. Are you being negative about the same things over and over? Try to look for those patterns and see if you can break them. These patterns/situations could be as simple as how you speak to yourself when you get ready in the morning or as complex as how you replay stressful situations from work. 

External words.

The words we speak to others can also have a huge impact on our happiness. Frankly, when we speak to other people we tend to degrade ourselves, apologize too much, or speak negatively about situations around us.  Any way you slice it, these three paths don't really lead to a happier, more confident you. I am especially guilty of this. I feel as though I constantly say sorry for things that have nothing to do with me or aren't my fault, I put myself down to appear more humble (it just looks pathetic), and I often engage with co-workers by complaining about the latest corporate change instead of talking about the things that bring me joy. So here are a few words and phrases I'm trying my best to remove from my vocabulary and I've already seen a lift in my personal positivity and confidence. 

  • "I'm sorry"
    • This makes sense if you have something to be sorry for but do you, really? In most cases, you're saying sorry for something that's not your fault. Instead, try asking more questions of the person, like how you can help.
  • "I'm know I'm new to this but what if we did..."
    • Get rid of the preface and the question. How about "We could try...."
  • "Ugh, can you believe this?"
    • The old adage of if you can't say something nice, don't say anything can suit you well here. Are you bringing value to the conversation or relationship by complaining?
  • "Stupid"
    • Is there really ever a time you need to use this word? 
  • "Just"
    • Just is a permission word. "Just checking in.." Do you need permission to check in? It also is a filler word that has a tendency to make you sound childish and insecure. This is the hardest word for me to remove, so I've started by removing it from my emails and written communication.

The words we use. 

The words we use have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and how we see the world. What have you noticed about your self-talk or vocabulary? Are you using words that make you happier or do the words you use cultivate a negative mindset? Share your thoughts with me Facebook and Instagram. I'd love to hear from you. 


Photo by dan carlson on Unsplash