What’s really powerful about words? Why does our linguistic ability help to define us in the scope of our capabilities and potential? How can we use words and their power to our advantage?
The choices we make with our language sets the parameters for our lives. The skill of expression we possess can contribute to many facets of our ability to succeed personally and professionally. The real power in words is their meaning and interpretation. That is also the real power in life.
Determining the meaning of events in our lives, and our responsibility to choose to find an empowering meaning are some of the most important things we can ever grasp. If we choose a disempowering meaning that is our choice. When something happens to us, we can consciously control our verdict on the positive or negative meaning behind it. Our first reactions to something aren’t always conscious, but then we can step in and reframe the meaning.
For example, let’s say you failed a test. Does this mean that you’re a failure? Or does this mean that you now know areas you need to work on in order to improve? That’s up to us to determine, and even if we feel like a failure initially — we can step in and transform what the failure means to us internally. We can cultivate a positive interpretation of nearly all events in our lives.
Some call it looking for the silver lining or relentless optimism. How does this have anything to do with the power of words?
Words can often have more than one meaning, just like failing a test. However, words do not have the dynamic range and malleability that our interpretation of life does. The definition of a cat is different than the definition of a dog, and no rose colored glasses can change that. So, we have more leeway to determine an empowering meaning from events, than we do from words. Ugly means ugly, ugly does not mean pretty.
The power of words comes into play during the times when we define our reality. The words we use in our minds repeatedly to describe ourselves and our identity are some of the most powerful forces in our lives.
If we constantly utter self-deprecating language in our internal dialogue, we are allowing the power of words to work against us. Telling ourselves that we are fat, weak, worthless, or stupid can sap us of our power to find the positive meaning from our experiences. If we tell ourselves we’re stupid all day, then when we fail a test we can seldom see the perspective that it may have a silver lining. We are much more likely to use it to affirm our belief that we are stupid. “See, I failed. I am stupid.”
The emotions we feel, the events we experience, and our ability to interact with other humans are all controlled by language. If we want more control, and more agency in our lives we can start with a greater understanding of the potential power in what we say to ourselves and others.
Some of the power comes from the words themselves, and some comes from the emotion and intensity in which we use them. If we say to someone “I hate you” in a playful tone, with a smile and laugh — we can be sure to receive a different reaction than if we shout it at the top of our lungs in an aggressive tone.
Our words are also filtered by those who hear them and based on their psycho-emotional state they can interpret their meanings far differently than we intended. This is especially true of text messaging. Everyone has read a text message from someone and interpreted it wrong based on their own present disposition when they read it.
All of us know that sometimes we tend to read too deeply through the words of a text message and search for an emotional revelation or justification. We read “cool” but it can take on any meaning we like. Cool could mean it’s totally not cool. Cool could mean stop talking to me. Cool could mean a lot, just like failing a test.
So be careful about going too deep in the search for words meanings without having the added benefits of hearing tone, seeing facial expressions and interpreting body language. Be aware that the power of words works both ways — power in their utterance, and power in their ingestion.
When we speak, write, think, or otherwise use words we are engaging in something we should be mindful of. The power of words in our world is undeniable. Our linguistic ability can set us on a trajectory to achieve great things or to remain disenchanted with our lives.
Moment by moment we are interacting with ourselves and others using language. We take what we know from our upbringing, what we regularly see and hear in our lives, and the words from the media we ingest and it becomes how we are able to express ourselves.
The problem is that most of us don’t take an active enough role in choosing the words we express and curating those coming into our lives. We speak without contemplating the immense force that flows from our speech. We allow the power of other’s words to assail us and bring all kinds of emotional energy that affects us. This leads to blurting out something cruel in a moment of stress or constantly ingesting fearful words from the news.
Most of us are victims of the power of words. Most of us are passively participating in the labor of life without understanding the laws of language.
The solution is to be active architects in the domains of verbal expression and interpretation. We can focus on building and expanding our vocabulary as the foundation for greater self-expression, and self love. Carefully choosing which words we express, and what emotional force we express them with.
We must also be active in our vigilance for the way others words affect us. We can wrongly interpret the words of others based on our own emotional lens. But, we can also falsely tolerate the words of others that we would be better off not exposing ourselves to and internalizing.
Don’t ignore the power of words. This power will play a perpetual role in your life. Our ability to find love and joy rely entirely on the frequency of those words being sought, expressed, received, and understood.
We must not ignore the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the words we hear and use often. Look up the definition of familiar words, and learn a greater depth and appreciation for the meanings we seldom revisit once we “know the meaning”. Look up love, and joy and see how that can help remind you of nuances in the words we often forget.
Some words cannot be defined by others, only by ourselves. Success and happiness are two such words. We mustn’t allow a definition of success that is not our own control our whole life. Nor must we tolerate chasing after an under-defined “happiness”.
Without asking what success and happiness mean to us we are diminishing the power of those words and our ability to manifest them.
If words help shape and define our reality, then etymology is physics. Understanding the words we use regularly is as important as understanding the physical laws of nature.
An expanded vocabulary is an expanded universe.
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This is the 83rd installment of Writing Wednesday. A commitment to myself to actually pursue my dreams of becoming a writer. I have resumed this practice after almost an entire years absence.
I am a writer.
Let me know what you think, and follow my journey on Instagram/Twitter (@multitude27)