The Power of Language: Was It A Lesson or a Mistake?

When my daughter was still in school, I often heard her coming home and telling me she was sad because she’d made a mistake or the teacher had said she’d done something wrong. She’d sadly admit her teacher was right and indeed, she’d done her work ‘wrong’. 

By the time Stella turned 10, I was already 6 years into my journey of self-development and self-exploration and I was very aware of the importance of the words we used in our communication with each other and ourselves.

I used to correct her and say, “well, Stella, there are no mistakes, only lessons and experiences”. 

Today when I hear one of my clients telling me that they can’t forgive themselves for a mistake they’d made, I rephrase their self-talk and ask them, “or is that you can’t forgive yourself for that experience you went through 20 years ago?”. At times, the client would tell me they couldn’t forget their mistakes and I’d rebuttal with, “or you can’t forget that experience”. Not only would a lot of my clients express they couldn’t forgive themselves or forget past experiences, they also judged themselves, using words like stupid and failure to describe themselves. 

 image by Chuttersnap

image by Chuttersnap

I was once like my daughter as a child and like one of my clients as an adult. It took me years to reprogram my way of communicating with myself and others. It took practice, patience and persistence. Especially because I was pretty screwed up and my mind had a habit of travelling elsewhere often. My dysfunctional childhood had led me to develop a useful defence against the world where I’d disassociate from my body and present. This often occurs in people who’ve been subjected to long-term trauma and affects your ability to be fully present in and to yourself and others. It took me years to recondition my entire being, physically, intellectually and emotionally, finally master my intra-personal communication and learn to be and live, comfortably, in the NOW. 

It’s not necessarily that hard and drawn out for everybody. Most of my clients today, often the youngest ones who come from a ‘normal’ childhood, can work on their mindfulness or meditation practice for just a few months in order to master their inner dialogue and transform their daily negative self-talk.

Just changing the word, ‘mistake’, with the words, ‘lesson’ or ‘experience’, can have a significant effect on our entire day, as I saw with my daughter. I had a different experience, growing up with a mum who wasn’t ‘bad’, but simply didn’t know better, as with many mums in the world, particularly in countries where poverty impedes education and the expansion of self-awareness.

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) teaches us that a simple change of words can make the difference in how we speak to ourselves and others. This is because of the nature of the words, for example, ‘lessons’ or ‘experiences’ are far less judgemental than ‘mistakes’. The knowledge that the effect that language and empowering words has on boosting and transforming our reality is not exclusive to NLP practitioners or trainees. Anyone can get to know this simple principle by reading articles or books (or blog posts!) on the topic and begin to apply it in their life straight away.

 image by  Yeshi Kangrang

It’s simple yes, but also quite complex. It’s a process rather than a quick fix that requires diligence, willingness and commitment like deciding to get fit and healthy would. You’d need time to exercise, practice and make lifestyle changes. You’d need to develop and practice self-discipline with perhaps a fitness trainer to guide and challenge you to go past your comfort zone and notice things you might not have seen.

There are many words we can substitute in our conversations to make our language more positive and empowering. The key here is we need to be present to ourselves when we talk and we need to learn to reprogram our brain, which might be conditioned and used to a totally different kind of self-talk. After almost 20 years of working in the field of human development, I truly believe that the majority of us are conditioned to communicate with ourselves and others in  a way which is disempowering and inadvertently manifesting negative realities or realities opposite to that which we desire.

A mistake is an experience we all go through in life. The most successful people in the world today and in history became so thanks to some of their biggest ‘mistakes’. They were able though, to naturally transform their mistake into beautiful and powerful experiences or opportunities to learn and grow from.

So what are we waiting for? It’s all about training ourselves and training our minds. As with fitness, it is much easier to move forward and learn and apply new skills when doing so with the support of a coach. A coach’s role is to guide and embrace you and to empathically re-focus you if you happen to go through another experience or encounter another life lesson

Am I suggesting there’s no such things as mistakes? Absolutely not. They exist often as life experiences or lessons that are being repeated over and over again either consciously, unconsciously or compulsively, that is to say in a way that’s out of our control. When it spirals out of our control, we get into the topic of rooted patters and behaviours, which at times we blindly repeat because we’re still getting something out of them (a pay off or reward).

An example of this would be continuing to choose partners with whom we can engage in a toxic relationship with. We might be from a background in which we were taught that chaos was normal and that love was conditional and therefore the payoff of returning to a toxic relationship would be recreating that familiar state of pain and chaos.

Key Points to Take Home

  1. There are both empowering and disempowering words
  2. We are all conditioned in one way or another, but we can recondition our brain to communicate in a different manner both inwardly and outwardly
  3. Mistakes are only mistakes when we keep repeating them consciously, unconsciously or compulsively. 

I’d like to end this blog with the ancient Latin saying, “Errare humanum est, persevere autem diabolicum”, which means, “to err is human, to persevere [in erring] however, is diabolical”.

With love, 
E.


Read my blog post Why Am I Addicted to Toxic Relationships? to find out more about toxic relationships and negative cycles,  Self Awareness: A Lifetime Journey for more on the importance of getting to know yourself and steps on how to and Do I Need a Life Coach? for an in-depth look at how to find the right coach to support you on your journey. 

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