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“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This little rhyme is known by just about every child who’s ever been called a name by a classmate. And while it may help them get past the sting of nasty names, it’s really not true, is it? Words are, in fact, much more powerful than sticks or stones because, while bruises and broken bones heal, words stay with us forever.
The thing is, words hold a tremendous amount of power. They ring in our ears and shape how we see ourselves. So how do we take control of the words we listen to and those we release?
It’s not easy, but it’s not as hard as you think.
Never in the history of mankind have we had so much access to so many words, so many expressions, so many opinions of others. This can be both a positive thing and a negative thing – I think you know what I mean. We can access the inspiring words of Mother Teresa with the click of a button, but we can also face hateful venom from people like Alex Jones.
It can make maintaining a healthy inner voice tough when we’re bombarded with ads implying we are too fat, too thin, too old, too young, etc. Public figures call each other nasty names and fight on social media. And commentators rant on and on about how everything in the world is wrong, broken, or stupid.
Those words and that energy soaks in and becomes part of our inner dialogue. Draining us of our own energy and power to control our thoughts.
But what to do about it?
Well, there are lots of little things you can do to take back your inner voice. In fact, just a few simple changes can help you shift your view from gray and cloudy to bright and sunshiny.
Pick a word of the year. Think about what you want to accomplish this year, personally, professionally, within your family… whatever. From that goal narrow your focus until you can find a single word that sums it all up. It should take you some time. After all, this is going to be the word that inspires your whole year. My word for 2017 was BOSS (all caps). My goal was to start being more proactive in my own life and stop just letting things happen to and around me. Each time I started to lose focus or get pulled away by a new, shiny object, I reminded myself of my word of the year and it helped clarify what was important, and therefore, which path to take.
When you pick a word of the year it serves to center you and stands as a reminder of what’s important to you. In doing so, it allows you to filter out the noise and negativity of the rest of the world.
Have a mantra. What’s the difference between a word of the year and a mantra, you ask? Good question! A mantra is a short phrase that you can say to yourself at preset times or just when things get tough. It can be inspirational, motivational, calming, uplifting… whatever you need it to be.
You can also have more than one mantra. Unlike a word of the year, which stays the same and applies to your primary goal, a mantra can be switched out like purses depending on your mood or the setting. It helps to have a few in your memory bank for those situations that just pop up.
Need help finding a mantra? Sign up for the 30 Days of Awesome email series and get a positive, inspirational quote sent right to your email every day for 30 days.
Watch your local news. It sounds strange, but it’s true. Local newscasts tend to be more positive, covering stories of local heroes, fundraisers, and the like. They touch upon major world news, so you’ll still be informed, but they also have a more lighthearted feel overall. National news, or the cable news channels, have to show stories everyone cares about and, unfortunately, there aren’t as many happy things everyone wants to know.
This small shift can have a big impact on your world view. Think about it; if all you see or hear about are wars, the economy, politics, and sex scandals, it’s going to effect how you feel. You start to feel like the problems are so big that no one, especially an ordinary someone like you, can create change. On the other hand, if you’re seeing stories about folks in your area, people just like you, engaging in small acts of kindness… maybe you can make a difference.
Manage your time on social media. Yes, it’s time. Either limit your time on Facebook, Twitter, et al., or limit who you follow. Overuse of social media has been proven to have a negative effect on your health and increases your chances of becoming depressed. Think about that next time you’re absent-mindedly scrolling through your feed.
There are really 2 course of action here, and I actually recommend doing both of them. First, pare down who you follow. You don’t have to go on an unfriending spree, but you also don’t need everyone on your friends list showing up in your feed. So if there are people on your friends list who are posting things that don’t serve you and your greater purpose, unfollow them. It could be anyone from the people who won’t stop posting political propaganda to your sad-sack friend who only post about how unfair life is to the picture perfect couple who’s incredibly filtered life makes you feel like you’re not good enough. Check in on them now and again when you want to see how they’re doing… or don’t.
Controlling your inner voice is really just about being more choosy about who you let into your life, your heart, and your mind. Choose your own words for how you want to define yourself. Give up the need to be all things to all people and know that you can make a difference.