Worst-case-scenario thinking can be both a blessing and a curse, facilitating forward thinking to circumvent disaster and alternatively creating trouble where it may or may not exist. While a critical lens can lend to maintaining safety, when these thoughts take root in excess or disproportionately to a situation, they no longer serve us. And thoughts can influence our actions, habits, and patterns when they transform into words. It can be empowering to change your words change your mindset.
When deciding to change your words, there are several things to consider. This notion prompted the following five things to consider when looking to change your words and mindset.
Change Your Words Change Your Mindset
1. Words are powerful–both spoken and thought.
While words can’t change everything, they are still powerful. Think about the last conflict or challenge you encountered. Did you talk yourself up to be able to handle it? Or did you dejectedly accept defeat before even giving it a go?
As I mentioned, words will not change your entire life as everyone’s origins differ: from opportunities, abilities, and sheer luck. So to change your words won’t make you a millionaire overnight, they can empower you to be the best version of yourself.
Being kinder to ourselves and giving ourselves grace can also work wonders in further facilitating the power of words.
2. Words and thoughts shape our experiences.
As a recovering overachiever, I see the burden of analyzing every possible worst-case scenario. And as previously stated, excess negative language directed at ourselves can hinder us more than help.
The overly critical lens can result in mind reading, fortune telling, over-generalizing, and other cognitive distortions that may or may not be accurate. Cognitive distortions will appear again later in this post, so don’t fret. We’ll get there!
In short, disproportionate negative thoughts can lead to a lot of assumptions. And can have us overestimating our importance in all the wrong ways, thinking that others’ treatment of us has to do with something about us when they may be that way with everyone.
For example, suppose someone shouts profanities at me as I rush into a rest-stop bathroom after many hours holding it on the thruway. In that case, negative thinking can have me believing it’s something I did when in reality, maybe they are chronically cranky.
Oddly specific scenarios aside, I’m not excusing misdirected behavior. Still, by consistently using empowering language, I am less likely to assume responsibility for that person’s behavior than if I’m constantly using negative language about myself.
3. The words we use for ourselves shape how others perceive us.
The self-deprecating comedian in me never likes acknowledging this one. But unfortunately, how we speak about ourselves shapes others’ perceptions of us.
Think about social media and the highlight reels shared by others. Seeing only positive moments in their lives shapes how others see them.
Everyone has those people who paint a picture-perfect life resembling a Hallmark movie, albeit without relegation to the Christmas season alone. But nothing is known about their daily experience. Their imagery and language shape our perception of them.
Now if we were to roll up to their house at 9 PM and see them in an all-out screaming match with their spouse on the front lawn as they douse lighter fluid onto their partners’ clothes that they’ve unceremoniously dumped everywhere, that would severely alter that perception.
I’m not trying to slam social media or discount the celebration of joyous occasions. But it is a perfect example of how words can shape how others see us.
It helps to ask ourselves if the language we use about ourselves is helping or hurting. For example, are others taking our words to use against us later? Or are we using language that asserts our value, competence, and boundaries?
As an aside, I am not suggesting removing all elements of humor from our lives. On the contrary, language is meant to be played with a bit, especially if it results in much-needed laughs. So long as those laughs don’t compromise your humanness or that of others.
4. Be aware of cognitive distortions.
Are the things we think and say about ourselves or a situation true? I rarely think someone’s behavior results from something I’ve done unless I have solid evidence otherwise. Which may or may not get me in trouble from time to time.
Cognitive distortions can leave us overestimating our importance and believing things are about us when they aren’t.
This type of thinking can lead to a lot of assumptions and miscommunications. Mind reading is a classic distortion that can get us into sticky situations.
Say someone notices I’ve tucked the bottom of my dress into my underpants (I don’t know how this happens, but I’ve been told it can go relatively unnoticed by the wearer).
If I turn around and see someone chasing after me, desperately trying to notify me of said below-the-waist revelation only to assume the worst, I will spend the rest of my day baring more body parts than I would care to.
Mind reading will have me immediately assuming there are ill intentions behind this person’s behavior when they’re just trying to spare me a day of embarrassment. There is also a component of fortune telling in this example and while this scenario is for laughs, it helps paint a picture of how specific thoughts and words may not serve us.
**As a disclaimer, ridding yourself of informed conclusions based on a person’s prior ill behavior toward you isn’t the same as a cognitive distortion. Abusive or hostile situations exist where individuals want to get a rise out of someone by offering unnecessary guidance or advice.
You know best who you’re dealing with. And if it’s someone who likes to stir the pot, keep that in mind. My thoughts on unsolicited comments and advice are to consider the source’s credibility!
5. See and speak the best of yourself.
We are all side characters to someone. For example, some who knew me in high school likely thought I was shy and quiet because I kept to myself in certain situations.
That doesn’t mean I am now resigned to resembling those traits simply because someone I knew once assigned that to me. Also, there is nothing wrong with being shy and quiet. In specific scenarios, I am 100% still those traits.
We are also not our worst mistakes. On the contrary, some of the best people I know are the ones who messed up in a big way. But in making big mistakes, people are often taught powerful lessons to take with them throughout their lives.
Again, just because someone knew and remembers you from when you made mistakes or acted in a manner not in line with who you currently are, doesn’t mean that is how you need to see yourself.
As the main character of your life story, you get to decide who you are. Then, when you change your words, you can use them to reflect the life you want to live or are currently living.
Those are some things to consider when looking to change your words and mindset!
As we start a new week, be kind and gentle with yourself. Are there certain things you tell yourself when tackling challenges? Any confidence-boosting mantras you’ve tried? I’d love to know about them in the comments section.