So one of my little things in life that I tend to be quite particular about is selecting the right word for the occasion. From social situations, to business, to spending time with a friend or a girlfriend, we all have been on the receiving end of a poor choice of words.
Similarly, we have also been responsible at times for delivering the social faux pas.
People may agree with the context and content of what we’re saying but the words we chose to express our idea were perhaps not the most appropriate. So when people think of poor word choice, they tend to immediately think of a social situation or a politician or a time they were embarrassed for others or for themselves.
I’d like to introduce another situation that I’ve noticed is always overlooked, undermined and perhaps just not even a conscious thought.
The words you choose when talking about yourself and your life.
In Australia where I grew up, tall poppy syndrome is part of our everyday culture and so this idea that being ‘humble’ is somehow a respected part of being a respectful human being. There are many people out there will brilliant skills, talents and abilities who live their life with an imposed sense of humility for the fear of actually being proud of their potential and capabilities.
Humble is actually quite a negative word in that it is used to de-value one’s abilities, rank or importance and I know you don’t want to feel that way in your life!
The fear of social judgement, peer evaluation and ultimate exclusion is so powerful that we play down our importance to the point we start to disable our own minds and hearts which only seeks to suffocate growth, confidence and self-belief. Heaven forbid if you’re not as good as you say you are/think you are and you tell others about your dreams!
So we use words to play down our talents and remain in the ‘humble’ category to please the peons. They seem innocuous but we sub-consciously choose words such as ‘I’m not that good’, ‘You’re just saying that’, ‘I probably wouldn’t make it’ because it doesn’t upset the social apple cart and it speaks into the language of those around us for acceptance. We even use jokes to downplay our abilities as if somehow it makes us better people.
The problem is when we do this enough, we emotionally and sub-consciously talk ourselves into a depressive and limited mindset. We doubt our abilities, require validation before taking action and fear not being good enough. Good enough for whom – the critics or for you? Remember that it’s easy to be a muppet, but a lot harder to be the puppeteer.
Now I will say at this point that we’ve all met the person at the party who is a big fan of their own press and despite their terrible output they believe they’re number one. But I would argue that these people are merely just the opposite end of the spectrum and therefore not any different from you. Just like you, they are a product of the language they speak.
So how do you keep your ego/pride in check, keep good people around you, achieve great results and never have to think thoughts that make you doubt yourself?
Well let’s start with understanding the language you use and finding some other ways to pitch it to yourself and the world around you. Every time someone compliments you, describes your abilities to others, ask you what your skills are or even when you’re faced with having to make a bold statement on where you stand, I want you to listen to the active words you use.
What are the key words you use that are describing your ability? Are they enabling, disabling, indifferent? After you respond, I want you to think about how it made you feel. Sure they smiled but did you? Did you sell yourself, or sell yourself short?
What other words can you use in their place that would make you feel happy, proud and confident and have them smile in return? Rather than saying ‘oh I’m ok’, say ‘thank you, I work hard’.
Besides, look at their lives and remember that their standards and definitions of the world are most likely to differ from yours anyway. I’ve had many people in my life say to me, ‘Yes it’s clean, Paul!’ as I’m staring at fingerprints, smudges and baked on boogers.