How Words Can Build Our Resilience And Help Us Thrive

I live in Sydney, Australia. Unless English is your second language, most Aussies sound pretty much the same.

That’s not the case in the UK.

In the UK, there are dozens of different accents or dialects. Dialects developed historically when people lived in mostly isolated groups without regular contact with others. So these small groups of people only heard the dialect of “their group”. We learn our language and our dialect from the people we grow up with.

We copy it.

I was born in Sydney and lived with my parents in the north-western suburbs until my early 20’s. By best friend during that period was Maria. She lived two doors down and was the only child to Frank and Judy who were Italian. Although Italian was their first language, Frank and Judy spoke English at home so Maria wasn’t exposed to the beautiful Italian language and therefore didn’t learn to speak it.

We copy and learn our language from the group/s we grow up with.

What else do we copy?

It’s pretty clear then that if we copy the language we speak from the person/s who raise us, we must copy other habits as well … and we do.

We copy and learn beliefs, thinking styles, attitudes, mannerisms, words, and much more. All of these are “learnt”. They’re not part of our personality.

Let’s take a closer look at the words we speak.

My mother-in-law says the word “recipe” with a long “eee” on the end. My husband pronounces it exactly the same. For many years I used the word “shall” instead of “will” and it wasn’t until someone commented on it that I noticed it. Where did that come from? A few weeks later, I heard my mum say “shall we go now or later for a coffee?” My grandma always said “fil-em” instead of “film”. You can guess how my father pronounced it.

Most of these examples are harmless.

However, there are some words we speak that seep into our mindset and ultimately impact our view on life. An unhelpful and negative view.

How words impact our mindset

  • “I could NEVER cope with that!”

  • “I would be DEVASTATED if that happened to me!”

  • “I HATE running. I’m TERRIBLE at it!”

  • “That would be my WORST nightmare!”

  • “I’m TERRIFIED of flying!”

  • “I’m sure a FAILURE”

  • “I would just DIE of embarrassment”

These phrases and words are very catastrophic and black & white. Black & white refers to words such as “never” or “worst”. There’s no middle ground. It’s all or nothing.

If the people/parents we grew up with used words like the ones above, it’s very likely we’ve copied some of them.

Our mindset (thoughts and beliefs) impact the words we use, and the words we use impact our mindset. Pennebaker and King (1999) or Wolf, Sedway, Bulik and Kordy (2007)

Think about that for a moment.

If you’re about to get on an aeroplane, and you use the words “I’m terrified of flying”, what experience do you think you’re setting up for yourself?

If you’re worried about your job being made redundant due to a business restructure that’s taking place, and you say to your work colleague “I could NEVER cope if my job was made redundant”, how do you think you’ll feel?

These words impact our mental health. They are feeding your mindset. They are making experiences far more exaggerated and catastrophic than reality.

Choose your words and develop a thriving mindset

While you may have learnt some of these unhelpful words from family, colleagues, and friends, you have adopted them. You can un-adopt them. You can choose different words.

Here’s a helpful list to kickstart your new vocabulary:

  • Unpleasant instead of disgusting, gross, revolting, foul, nauseating.

  • Challenging instead of terrifying, petrifying.

  • Could cope instead of could never cope.

  • Apprehensive or alarmed instead of terrified, panicked, frozen.

  • Sad instead of depressed, devastated.

  • Messy instead of ruined, totalled, smashed, wrecked.

Feed your mindset helpful, unexaggerated words to develop a mindset that’s going to get you thriving.

Michelle Carlyle