The Power of Words

If you’ve ever seen Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, it’s not a newsflash that words have power. In the show, Eve encourages the audience to reclaim a word for the female anatomy that’s typically derogatory…the c word.

One of my favorite exercises to do with my clients is called Watch Your Words. I encourage them to tune into how they talk to themselves for a solid week. We often run on such auto-pilot that we don’t even realize how we speak to ourselves. When you tune in, the discovery is eye opening.

Recently, my 2 biz besties (Jo Casey & Liz Applegate) and I were chatting. Jo had done something awesome, and both Liz and I shared that we wanted to say we were proud of her but that it felt weird. I’ve had the same experience with the word proud before.

As a kid I loved hearing that my parents or teachers were proud of me; but as an adult, using the word proud to another adult feels somehow condescending.

The 3 of us noticed that we all had the same story around the word proud. We all wanted to use it to each other, at one time or another, but hesitated. Liz shared that she never hesitated to tell her kids she’s proud of them, but had the same reluctance to use it with other adults.

It turned out that we all had the same story about proud – to say you’re proud of another adult peer/friend/colleague could be construed as condescending.

When we started talking about it, we also learned that we loved hearing that our peer/friend/colleague was proud of us! While to each of us it felt condescending to say, each of us still had an extremely positive reaction to hearing it.

Words have weight. We attach meaning to them yet rarely examine that meaning or story. Proud is the perfect example for me.

What words have a weight in your life? What happens if you dig into that story?

Liz, Jo and I decided to reclaim the word proud. We dug into the story and realized it wasn’t true. None of us felt condescended to when another expressed her pride.

Tune into your words. Check out the stories you have around them. Join me (and Liz, Jo & Eve Ensler) and reclaim some words that have been carrying too much weight for too long.

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