A tiny word change can cause a major mindset shift.
In other words, when we tweak the words we say to ourselves, it can change the way on how we feel and how we operate in the world.
You may have heard about how parents are encouraged to say yes to children instead of saying no. Instead of saying “don’t do this”, focus on telling and showing children what behavior you want them to do.
This is a game changer, not just for children but for adults too.
When we say “don’t [fill in the blanks], both our brain and the Universe can only hear what is to follow. Our brain and the Universe cannot really hear “don’t” or “not”.
For example, when we say “I don’t want to get sick”, we are subconsciously focusing on what we don’t want and directing our attention to our fears. And energy flows to where our attention goes and it becomes our intention. So it’s like telling ourselves that we want to get sick, since our brain doesn’t really register the word “don’t”.
It works the same with the Universe especially when we are setting our intention or manifesting our ideas and dreams into reality. When we say “I don’t want to be alone”, what the Universe actually hears is “I want to be alone”, and all the Universe does is to reaffirm our intention and give us what we want (which is what we don’t want).
Words are powerful. So how can we use words to our advantage and help to make us feel better with a kinder and a more positive self-talk?
When I read about the concept of internal family systems in Gabrielle Bernstein’s book “Happy Days”, it truly changed my world.
Saying “I feel” a certain way is normal when we are expressing our emotions and feelings, yet a part of me would judge myself for having certain emotions. For example, I may feel angry towards a person or situation, but then a part of me would also understand that the anger is only triggered from within and it’s not about the other person. Then I would judge myself for feeling angry.
Well, now I’m confused, what is it that I’m feeling? I’m feeling angry at myself, at the other person/situation and I also have this sense of understanding and compassion all at the same time.
Just like the animated movie “Inside out”, all these emotions are different parts of me existing in the same space within. All I need to do is to hold space for different parts of me to speak and to express themselves without judgment.
So when I say “a part of me feels” instead of “I feel” as a whole, I’m addressing to that part of me that wants to be heard and seen. A sense of harmony and respect can be created when we acknowledge how each part of us feel. This tiny word change has helped me become more accepting of all my emotions and myself.
Tiny change: Say “a part of me feels” next time to express your emotions. Even if your entire being is feeling angry, know that there is still an observer part within you (or you can call the wise part, your Highest self, or the adult resource Self) that is able to observe the emotion.
2. I love you but not your behavior” – separating the person from the behavior
I’ve read this in a parenting book (I think it’s “Oh Crap! I have a Toddler” by Jamie Glowacki) and it has completely shifted my understanding on what true unconditional love is all about.
Since young I’ve always made a strong association between positive behavior with reward and negative behavior with punishment. If I behave well according to what my parents, teachers, peers and society expect me to be, then I feel like my existence is validated.
This strong association came up in all my relationships. “If you love me, then you must do what I say” was a constant thought that I had. I would take things personally when the other person’s behavior triggered me. My love to others became conditional. I was stressing myself and others out and I felt insecure when other people did not act according to what I wanted.
But once I realize that I can still love a person without loving his/her behavior, it helped me to set firmer boundaries and speak from a place of love. I was not trying to change the other person’s behavior from a place of insecurity and fear, instead I am just expressing my own truth from a place of love.
Tiny change: Next time when someone’s behavior triggers you, try to separate the person from the behavior. The love for the person stays, but it doesn’t mean that you need to love their behavior. We can’t change other people, but we can manage our own response and express our truth from a place of love.
3. Stop labeling emotions as good or bad – separate the emotion and behavior
We often label joy and happiness as positive emotions, and anger, resentment, and sadness as negative emotions. It is okay to group emotions into positive or negative in terms of how they affect our mood, but it doesn’t mean that positive emotions are good and negative emotions are necessarily bad.
Emotions are energy in motion. Just like waves in the sea, some days the sea is calm with smaller waves, sometimes a storm hits and there are bigger waves. The waves are just part of the sea, there are no good or bad, positive or negative, just big and small waves.
We may view anger as a negative emotion to avoid at all costs. It is because we have seen how people express their anger, often in an unhealthy way through shouting, yelling, and even violence.
As Julia Cameron shared in her book “The Artist’s Way”, when we feel anger, it is an invitation to change. Anger is a natural emotion that shows us something is not balanced in our lives and something needs to be changed.
She wrote this, “Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us.”
Now how people act and express their anger is a completely different subject. Angry behaviors can be life-threatening sometimes, so that’s why our sympathetic nervous system is activated and we immediately turn to our fight/freeze/flight mode.
But anger – it is only an emotion. See if you can detach your judgments and past experiences from the emotion anger itself, and can you view anger as just a big wave in the sea?
What we need to work on is not our anger, but our behavior and action. Do we follow anger’s direction to make necessary changes in our lives? Are we able to express our anger in a more productive and healthy way that does not cause harm to others and ourselves?
Tiny change: Next time when you feel any emotions that are negatively impacting your mood, know that they are only natural, and stop labeling them as good or bad. Instead of acting on your emotions, first give yourself space and acknowledge them. Then listen to what your emotions have to say. What directions are they pointing towards? What changes are they urging you to make in your life?
When we make tiny changes in the words we tell ourselves, it can create powerful shifts in our perspective. We can be more accepting of ourselves, and that is what self-love is about.
We don’t need to be perfect and feel calm and joyful all the time. In other words, stop waiting for all the conditions in life to be perfect (according to who anyway?) in order to love your life and yourself.
We can just be imperfect humans, riding on a rough sea today and feeling angry, and still love ourselves.
Give it a try and see what magic unfolds.
Do you have any other tips for any tiny word changes that we can use to be more accepting and loving of ourselves?
Feel free to share with me here, I’d love to hear from you.
- Happy Days by Gabrielle Bernstein
- Oh Crap! I have a Toddler by Jamie Glowacki
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
- The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary
In May we will be opening up our monthly online kirtan gathering that we do with our Thailand Bhakti Yoga Study Group participants for all our newsletter subscribers to join.
Kirtan (devotional chanting) opens our hearts and allows us to connect with the love that is within and all around us. It’s a light-hearted time to sing, express your voice and have fun. We will be singing Sanskrit mantras mainly.
No previous experience of anything is required, just come with an open mind and an open heart. Registration is required (the event is free) and the gathering will take place over Zoom.
Please note that recording is not available for this event, so please attend our gathering live.