Things I Need To Stop Saying, Like, Yesterday.
I am tired.
We are broke.
Etta doesn’t sleep.
My boys are crazy.
I just need more time.
Why? They’re true, so why does it matter what I say? The short answer comes straight from my favorite, Jen Sincero:
“What comes out of your mouth comes into your life.”
The long answer is that our current reality is simply our interpretation of what we’re experiencing. Yes, there are factual, concrete, actual things happening all around us, but we rarely, if ever, interpret reality simply for what it is. We run every single moment, every color we see, and every word we hear through a complex system of filters that are made up of our individual and highly interpreted experiences. An argument you had with your husband is never simply about the words that were said. It’s about the tone he used that reminds you of your mother, the fact that you were hangry, the memory of the argument you just had with your boss that very morning, and that he said the one word you hate the most because, to you, it triggers your deepest feelings of self doubt. Your husband, or even a totally impartial witness, would describe that argument very different than you would based on their own filters. Our perception of reality is hugely subjective.
Now take into consideration the fact that language is one of the most common ways we define our reality. We think, imagine, and interpret the world with words. If our words describe a situation in a negative light, then the perceived reality of that situation will be negative. Again, I know that facts are facts, but it is incredibly hard for our brains to see past our filters in order to see reality as it simply is. Our words matter. They create the reality we see and the actions we take in response to it.
So back to Sincero’s quote: “What comes out of your mouth comes into your life.” When we define the world with limiting language, we believe that perception is the truth. It becomes a part of our beliefs. And then our brain goes into auto-pilot defining reality with those filters. And then-. we DO things. We take action based on those interpretations and our world starts to take shape.
Don't believe me? Brain science! When our brain comes up against anything that doesn’t fit in with our beliefs, it does one of three things: deletes, distorts, or generalizes.
For example, imagine you’re always talking about how much your kid hates vegetables. When you repeatedly say your kid hates vegetables, either to yourself or out loud, your brain believes it. Its gospel. So if you see your kid eat a handful of baby carrots at a birthday party, your brain will twist that reality to fit into your beliefs.
If your brain deletes the situation, you may simply forget or not even consciously notice the carrots. It literally happened -- your kid ate a damn vegetable, its a miracle -- but your brain deleted that fact because it doesn’t fit into your belief system.
Or your brain might distort the incident to fulfill your expectations. You saw your kid eat the carrots, but you also think you saw him grimace, so you ‘know’ it was a fluke. Reality still is that he ate a vegetable, but you're still able to define him as a veggie hater.
Or perhaps your brain generalizes the situation so that you saw your kid eat the carrots, but you also saw him eat copious amounts of pizza and cake. The memory of your kid eating the veggies gets lost amidst the memories of him eating junk food because you dismiss the out of character behavior.
So why is all of this important? Well, if you believe your kid hates vegetables, would you bother putting carrots in his lunch box? Would you ever bother offering him a bite of your salad? Which came first, the kid hating veggies or your actions telling him he should hate veggies? When we believe something, we act accordingly.
THOUGHTS/WORDS -> BELIEFS -> ACTIONS -> OUTCOME
Watching what you say changes your reality because we are literally able to see what is happening around us differently and respond in ways that generate more intentional outcomes. Imagine how the above example would change if you found a true statement that was more empowering. Maybe your child is a good sport about trying new foods. He may still dislike most vegetables, but if you believe he will try any food at least once, you’d offer him way more vegetables, and he may eventually end up loving a few of them. (And bonus, if you say that new statement out loud around your child often enough, he will adopt that belief about himself too).
We all say things that limit us, but with a little awareness, we can change our words and our lives for the better. Below is some clarity I gleaned from a recent journal entry. I had just fessed up about some limiting phrases that kept falling out of my mouth, and I wanted to call myself out. Maybe reading my process will help you discover some of your own limiting language so you can clean it up. (Also journaling is awesome. You should totally do it. I lay it all out here if you're interested in learning how to journal with more ease and intention)
I AM TIRED. Do I get a lot of sleep? No. Could I go to bed earlier? Yes. So I’m complaining about something I’m not really actively trying to fix? For one, that’s annoying. Two, I’m acting like this is who I am. And that's no good. If I start identifying as a tired person, no amount of sleep will make me feel rested. I will always feel tired because thinking that thought will become such a habit that I may actually lose the ability to notice when I’m feeling rested. If I stop the habit of voicing how tired I always am, maybe, just maybe, I will be better able to prioritize the kind of self care that will make me feel better, even when I’m lacking sleep. Think about it, if feeling tired is unavoidable, would you prioritize going to bed earlier if it seemed pointless? Would you become dependent on coffee because you always NEED it? Would you habitually avoid exercising, playing with your kids, running errands, etc. because you just don’t have the energy? I would, and I do. So “I am tired” is getting kicked out of my vocabulary.
WE ARE BROKE. Oh money. I wasn’t very prepared for this maternity leave, but are we really broke? No. It feels like it because we had gotten used to living on more income, but the truth is that we still have a great home, working cars, plenty of food, and enough wiggle room for the occasional splurge. We absolutely look forward to me getting back to work, but in the meantime, we’re ok. So besides the fact that we’re not actually broke, saying we are gets me into more trouble because when I say it, I believe it. And when I believe it, I fall into a grumpy, lack mindset and cope by… wait for it… spending money. It’s really a ridiculous reaction, but oxytocin is a tough adversary, and I just want to believe retail therapy will make me feel better even when I logically know it won’t. In any case, I need to stop saying we’re broke because it’s not true, it feels shitty, and it makes me do dumb things that perpetuate the very problem I’m trying to solve.
ETTA DOESN’T SLEEP. Etta is so sweet and smiley and alert, but I get very caught up in the story that she doesn’t sleep, and it clouds my perception of her. Of course, the truth is that she does sleep. All babies sleep. They just don’t always sleep according to our expectations (or desperate pleas). So she’s not that magical third born baby that can sleep through my boy’s noise or go 6 hours without nursing. She does sleep amazingly well in her carseat while I’m running errands. And she usually falls asleep on her own with a swaddle and a pacifier while I run around the house doing all the things. And when she predictably wakes me up every three hours at night, she quickly nurses and falls back to sleep without even opening her eyes. So yeah, it could be a lot worse, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when I’m constantly telling myself that she sucks at sleeping.
THE BOYS ARE CRAZY. Let’s just say my boys can sometimes be a handful. But whose kids aren’t? So my kids are energetic, competitive, rambunctious, and loud. They’re also loving, funny, communicative, and all around awesome. And while I’m sure many people would call them wild if they stopped by our house on a typical evening around dinner time, it narrows the way I perceive them, and it just doesn’t serve me (or them) well. When I align with the thought that my boys are wild, I shy away from taking them on outings, I grit my teeth and interact with them from a place of defensiveness, I’m less willing to try new things with them, I get self-conscious around new people because I fear they’ll judge my parenting, and I find myself missing the sweet moments because those moments don’t fit into the box I’ve put my boys in (typing that hurts a little). What’s worse is that I also find myself labeling them as wild out loud. And they hear me. They hear me call them wild, and I have to wonder how much of their wildness is purely from them and how much of it is because they’re playing the part I assigned them. Children rise to the expectations put upon them, and I’d rather describe them in a way that fosters a more positive outcome. So instead of saying my boys are wild, I’m going to pay more attention to the actual moment and find a way to view their behavior in a way that is empowering instead of limiting. They’re being rowdy at the dinner table? They’re having fun, but need some guidance. They’re clobbering each other in the Costco shopping cart? They’re still learning how to communicate and respect boundaries. They’re licking and poking Etta? They love her sooooo much and need help expressing their feelings appropriately. When I drop the generic description and stop seeing them as simply wild, I can see the situation on a deeper level, understand them more, be more present and RESPOND instead of REACT.
I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME. This is a big one. We all say it, and no matter how often I try to check myself on this one, the words keep falling out of my mouth. The truth is that my priorities are not in alignment with what I actually want, and there’s a trickle down effect that is compounding the problem. I need to rephrase “I don’t have time” to “that’s just not important to me” and see how that feels. I don’t have time to exercise… more like exercising isn’t as important to me as getting another hour of sleep. And getting another hour of sleep isn’t as important to me as Netflix. OUCH. In my shower, I have a waterproof notepad (yes, that’s a real thing, and you need it) that literally says “if you have time to scroll endlessly on social media, you have time to meditate.” It’s so true. So true! But I still don’t meditate every day… probably because I don’t see that note every day, if you know what I mean. But seriously, I have lots of time that I squander away, and besides bringing more self awareness into my days, I need to stop saying I need more time and start using all the time I do have with more intention.
I'd love to hear what limiting words or phrases have been falling of your mouth lately. We all have so much in common, and can learn so much from each other when we're being open and real. What have you been saying lately that doesn't serve you?