Words are so powerful! Whether we speak them to others or run them over and over in our head, what we tell ourselves affects how we feel and what we believe. If we hear the words again and again, or the messages they represent, we can end up rutting on those thoughts and believing them to be true. Depending on the negativity in those words/condemning nature of them, we can actually make our lives better or worse. A good mentor/friend once told me, ‘you either speak life or you speak death.’ That sounds so extreme. So dramatic! But true. Even if it’s just a little bit of life or a wee bit of death, what we tell ourselves and others, impacts our mental health.
Our self-talk is like the background narration to our day. When we run words and beliefs through our mind, it affects how we feel and often what we end up doing. Our core beliefs serve as a filter or lens by which we interpret the world around us. This is why it matters what we think about and ultimately what we tell ourselves.
For example, if I tell myself that I’m not good enough I will inherently seek to prove that my belief is true. In fact, if life starts to disprove my belief — shows me evidence that I AM more than good enough or that I am okay, I might actually sabotage what is going on in order to defend my belief. This is a tendency we have — to try and make our reality and our beliefs line up/align with each other. “See — I told you that I’m not good enough! That’s why it didn’t work out.”
If we ruminate on negative messages like that we will feel worse. If a negative cognition (thought) is reiterated over and over, we will start to entertain it, dialogue with it and potentially accept it as ‘truth,’ especially if something has happened to us where we also felt that way. History + feelings = our truth. The problem with this formula is that the truth we come up with may be a horrible message about ourselves and is more representative about how that historical piece of life impacted us and made us feel. It is real/was real but that does not mean it is true!
Let’s look at the message of “I’m not good enough” again. First of all, this is such a subjective statement. What does ‘good enough’ even look like?? Who gets to define that? How helpful or effective is this belief? Feeling like we aren’t good enough or weren’t good enough in a specific situation needs to be given challenge. How are we going to interpret the event and the feelings? As long as that negative belief is held strongly in our core beliefs, we will interpret things in a negative way to support the message — basically using that negative cognition as a lens. Because I am believing that “I’m not good enough” I will tend to take on blame for things that don’t belong to me and see things that are global and non-specific as being ‘personal and about me’ when there is no proof of that at all. Hence, the tendency to read into things and not take things at face-value. One example of this is getting sick from a virus — this can happen to anyone! This is a global experience that any living person will encounter at some time. It’s not because of something you did. It’s not specific to you. It’s not even about you, other than the fact that you are now sick.
Since these negative cognitions impact how we feel and often what we do as a result, it has a direct link to our mental health. Our thoughts impact our feelings and moods. Our moods often direct our behaviour and the choices we make. Our mental health can be good or bad — those words we mull over and ruminate on will affect how we feel. Those words that speak life or death can be directed by us. What do you choose to tell yourself? Are you going to let your feelings dictate truth? Think about the power of words in relation to parenting young children. The words you speak to your children will effect what they come to believe about themselves. Similarly, the words you speak to yourself now will directly support or sabotage your beliefs about truth, love, faith, and relationships.
Challenge: spend more time working on your mental/emotional health than you spend on physical appearance/fitness. Do a different kind of work-out and see how your life improves! Imagine what life could be like if we made mental health and wellness a priority.