After a short walk in the late afternoon sunshine, I found myself praising my noble steeds who come with me almost everywhere; aka my frenchtons. Moose, I’d argue the most sweet and stubborn frenchton, has Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD). This means most of what he does has to be monitored carefully as it takes more out of him and can lead to serious injury. It also means he and I connect on a deeper level as I too know what it’s like to have chronic pain and fatigue.
I try to make sure that I always give them praise when we’re active and out doing things, but especially on days when I notice that he is in pain. We exercise for our well being and as physical therapy for both him and I. As much as sometimes we’d prefer to couch [verb], we more often than not are walking somewhere.
Today out of my mouth came, “You have no idea what I’m saying, but I do, and that matters.” Meanwhile, my noble steeds wondered if another treat was on the horizon or if they’d have to “starve” until dinner.
As I said that, it really dawned on me how important language is in our everyday life. When I use positive words, even if they are clouded by the stress of the week/month/year, I unintentionally create a space of safety and calm. When I berate myself, I become reactionary, angry, and add to the wrinkles on my forehead. This may seem obvious but how often do we let our negative thoughts take over our mind? How often does one bad thing happen and we allow the rest of our time to be affected by it? When we intentionally choose encouraging words for ourselves and others, we create a culture of reciprocity. Those around us are less likely to be negative if we are being positive.
The sad fact is that almost everyone I’ve met has a prominent demon on their shoulder. The demon whispers self sabotaging, rude, judgmental, demeaning things into our ears and we wonder why we’re not happy. While everyone’s antidote for this is different, we can all relate by taking a step back when we’re interacting with someone and consider their demon. We don’t know what its particular problem is, but imagine what yours puts you through.
You’ll never be good enough.
You’ll never provide enough to make them happy.
You’re too fat for love.
You made yet another mistake.
No one will love you.
Now imagine if we said those things to those we love the most. In this case, my noble steeds who walk with me anywhere. You’d think I was a monster, and so would I. There’s absolutely no reason for it.
Yet we’re willing to do it to someone vastly more important than my dogs: ourselves. We walk around with these thoughts, using this judgmental language that emotionally beats ourselves into the ground. No wonder we constantly need distraction and a dopamine hit via instant gratification. We’re doing everything we can to not hear our demons at full volume. When we have no distractions, we are alone with our thoughts. That can be a terrifying experience, especially after years of letting busyness run our life.
Unfortunately and fortunately, we’ve got to face the music and sit in our thoughts. It can be unpleasant, and stink of unresolved stress, but through the murky waters is a light that brings true peace and freedom.
According to Kristin Neff, the Self Compassion Goddess, self compassion looks like this:
“We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives. Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical wellbeing. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy.”
Who doesn’t want to experience that?!
Noticing the language we use is the first step. How do we speak to our loved ones, our colleagues, and ourselves? Are we kind and considerate or judgmental and damaging? Do we give the benefit of the doubt or react based on impulse? Do we allow for rest or do we pass judgment when not constantly productive?
The language we use today impacts our future. It affects our life, our children’s lives, and those we meet on the road. It determines how we handle stress and trauma. It contributes to our decision making and what we do at a crossroads. Very simply put: change your language, change your life. It really is that impactful.
A Disabler of Demons
An amazing read: Self Compassion by Kristin Neff.