(Stay tuned – there will be a little exercise for you to complete at the end.)
Clever little things, aren’t they. Tiny soldiers of fortune, marching out of our mouths, waiting to do battle with life. Or ourselves.
Yes, I’ve just had my first sip. And no, I don’t talk to myself ALL the time. But I do believe we do verbal battle with ourselves at least as often as we do with others. Maybe more. And much like the way we believe we cannot control our thoughts (Yes we can! Go back a few blogs!), we most likely believe (if we give it any thought at all) that we cannot control our internal conversations. Or our external dialogues when the participants are me, myself and I. Do we ever suspect that our CHOICE of verbiage influences not only our moods, but our actions? Because we should.
Second sip, and perhaps examples are in order.
My pal K looks in the mirror and shrieks, “Damn, I am so fat!” She steps on the scale every morning and sighs, “Damn, I need to lose thirty lbs.” She joins me for lunch at a bistro and orders a salad with no dressing. “I am obese,” she moans, “so I can’t have a burger, even though it’s what I really want. But I am just so damn fat!”
K is lost. Lost in a sea of negative self-image. And K reinforces that negativity with every sentence that flies out of her mouth, in private or with me at lunch. It’s a constant onslaught of deprecation. And not the funny kind. I just don’t see this as an affirmative approach to living her best life.
And so I offer: “K … do you think you could alter your verbal approach to this weight issue? Make it a little more positive?”
She glares at me, dumbfounded. “There is nothing fucking positive about being a hippo, Vickie!”
(Well yes, there kinda is, because they are endangered and you’d be special. But that’s another blog.)
“Yes, I get that darling and I too could stand to lose a few, but how about tomorrow, when you get on that scale you say, “I am now working on eating less, eating healthier and becoming my best self.”
K gawks at me in disbelief.
Undeterred I ramble on (yes I do it live too): “You are what you think K, and you are what you say. And right now you are angry and miserable. Why not at least TRY being confident and loving, with your words and with YOURSELF?”
K is a dear friend and she trusts me. I know there’s a part of her that absolutely does not want to let go of her “anger” at being overweight. But she also gets that results are most often produced from positive reinforcement. Not endless self-admonishment.
The next time we meet for lunch K has lost 5 lbs. She orders a salad with dressing on the side. When the waiter asks if she’d like dessert K smiles sweetly and replies “Honey, I would love dessert. And I will have dessert again, by golly! But today I am working on eating less and becoming my best and most healthy self. So no thank you.”
I burst into applause. And the waiter returns with a scoop of sugar-free mango sorbet, on the house. We share it with immense glee and leave him a huge tip.
You see, positivity begets positivity. In ALL aspects of life. The Universe is energy and the Universe will always return what it receives.
J is retiring soon. J is looking forward to new adventures but also a little wary. Because J and his wife have been together a very long time and, apart from vacations, have rarely done the 24/7 thing. J suspects the 24/7 thing will be a very messy recipe for disaster.
So what does J email me? He writes, “I am formulating a game plan for my retirement.”
Not “Oh my God, Vic, what the heck am I going to do?” or “Holy crap Vic, retirement is gonna be hell!” or even “Geez Louise, Vic, I don’t wanna retire!”
No. J has this covered. J is creating a game plan. J is moving forward in his life with optimism.
Is J sharing this game plan with his wife? Doubtful. I mean, seriously, who wants to hear “I dread 24/7 with you, sweetheart, even if you feel exactly the same?”
Words, people, words. Choose them wisely. But choose them positively. Constructively. Because the words you choose will immediately set the tone for your disposition. And J’s disposition, although realistic, is also encouraging. Because J is developing a game plan.
Finally there is C. C is undergoing a painful divorce and often tells me she is hurting. I remember those days. Those days of such torturous heartache, crashing disappointment and abject fear that you will never know love again. I remember those days when it was so easy to get lost in “hurting”. Hurting was automatic. Hurting took no work. Hurting was almost a haven. A harbor where you could float endlessly in a sea of pain.
We all, at times in our lives, need to get through pain. But even here, perhaps the right words can help us. Instead of “I’m hurting” how about “I am working through the hurt?”
I am not a victim, powerless in this abyss. I am WORKING my way out of this abyss. I acknowledge it. I suffer through it. I dwell in it because I must. I must dwell in it so that I can find my way OUT of it.
“I am working my way through the hurt.”
Just sounds so mush more hopeful, right?
I encourage you to try a little exercise. Pick your most prevalent complaint. Say the words OUT LOUD that encapsulate your most prevalent complaint. Now turn them upside down and say the words that encapsulate your most prevalent complaint with a POSITIVE SPIN.
Here’s mine: “I fucking hate winter.”
Here’s the new me: “Winter is certainly a challenge but in just a few months it will be spring and then summer and golly these twinkle lights are still darn pretty, aren’t they?”
That feels pretty good to me.
Now try yours. And see how it feels to YOU.
I look forward to finding out.