|Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Language is the topic for this month, but Iím not going to talk about language preservation and demand that we learn our indigenous languages. Believe me, these are important topics.† I want to write about how we use language. I want to write about how we use language to define ourselves.
The language we use to define ourselves is important. As a writer, I adore language. I like the sound of language. I like slang. I adore Rez accents. I like to hear non-English people grappling with the nuances of our language. When non-English speaking people begin to speak English there is rigor they have about the English language that many of us donít who grew up speaking it.†
I am continually amazed and confused at the harmful language that we use toward ourselves. Some of us, struggle with how we describe ourselves. In this column, I want to grapple with this issue and share some of the things I learned.†
Daily on Facebook, my morning ritual includes looking for inspirational memes or boxed quotes. I read for inspiration. I read before my internal self-talk takes over. I want to ensure that I begin my day focusing on good things about the world, transformative notions, moments of clarity, etc.†
I learned long ago that the way I speak to myself is much harsher than how anyone can speak to me. Iím very critical of myself. I tear myself apart if I make the slightest misstep. I examine everything about my looks, my clothes, my house, and my life. I am my own worst critic.†††
Learning to speak kindly to yourself is a process. The first step is to identify what you are saying to yourself. Describe yourself to someone.†
Did you describe yourself in a positive, affirming manner? Do you describe yourself in broad generalities, such as, Iím a nice person, or Iím ok?† Go ahead, try it, describe yourself to someone.
Once youíve identified how you speak about yourself, make changes.† If something you are saying about yourself portrays you in a bad light then change it. This is the hard work.†
Change the way I speak to myself? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can change the way I think about myself Ė sounds easy, right? Itís not. You may have figure out where you learned this type of thinking. You may have to spend some time exploring this. Be gentle with yourself during this process. Change is never easy.
This is why I enjoy reading inspirational quotes. It helps me develop a language that I can use. It educates me on how to be gentle with myself.† It gives me a frame of reference that people can be kind.†
Where do we develop our internal voice? Well, lots of different places. Once place is our parents or our caretakers when we were children. I learned that the voice my son hears in his mind is my voice. It is every moment throughout his childhood that I helped him define himself.†
Once I understood this, I worked very hard to keep positive thoughts in his mind. I am deliberate about what I say. When I do say something that I didnít intend to say to him I take the time to apologize. We then talk about how it was wrong.†
I am the example of how my son will treat himself throughout life. If I take the time to demonstrate that he has value then he will treat himself as valuable. Itís important to remember this.†††
ďLoneliness is a human condition.† We all want to be seen. Our job is to bear witness to the magnificent stories that people honor us by sharing,Ē said an instructor in one of my college courses.†
This quote has had a profound impact on me and my worldview. It gave me a foundation of my understanding how to help people. I donít enter into a helping relationship with a power dynamic where I am the expert, but I enter into a helping relationship as a partnership of people who are striving to overcome some barrier.†
I am one of those people that strangers love to tell their deepest fears to, or what they are struggling against.† I enjoy it. It is here that I learn more about how people speak about themselves. I may be riding the bus when someone sits next to me and starts sharing their life story with me. I patiently listen. I ask leading questions.† I never, ever give advice. I challenge the way they are framing their thinking, or ask them to think a little harder about an issue. Sometimes, they just want me to listen and I oblige.†††
In my ideal world, Iíd like for us to speak kindly to ourselves, speak kindly about ourselves to others, and to be gentle with ourselves so that we never take away from the incredibleness of who we are. I donít want us to ever diminish ourselves. Our time here in this physical world is limited, so we all deserve to tell everyone what magnificent, incredible, stellar people we areÖand, we believe it.†