Use words that uplift, expand your experience

The other day I was looking for a word to describe my daughter’s effort while cleaning up the Barbie stuff. I went with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

The word was a little over the top, I’ll admit, though she was enthusiastic while cleaning up microscopic forks and stethoscopes. Mostly, I wanted to compliment her behavior in the slim hope that it would happen again. Soon. Here. In my house.

So I picked the longest, most playful word I knew, to capture her attention, get her excited, make her feel good.

“That behavior is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” I hollered down the hallway. It made her laugh and the word made its mark.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, according to Phil Cousineau, author of The Painted Word, (Viva Editions) which is an interesting book about remarkable words and their origins, is used to mean “extraordinary” or “amazing.” When broken down into it’s components the word actually means “atoning for a physical mistake that a well-educated person can make by over relying on their physical beauty,” Cousineau writes. That too is a mouthful, so I’m sticking with the definition of amazing.

But, all this thought about fancy words and how we sling them around got me thinking about how often we use them to limit, hurt, punish ourselves and others, when we can use them just as easily to empower and uplift and heal.

The words we use carry weight. They influence our attitudes and behaviors. Change our moods. Inspire us. And what we say to ourselves is equally as important.

Positive self-talk is one way to practice optimism (yes, optimism can be learned and strengthened). Using the right words can set you sailing toward a more optimistic mindset and that can help you manage stress, lower the risk of heart disease, and even live longer.

What we say, influences how we and others think and feel. That impacts behavior. Imagine what we could do if we used a vocabulary rooted in kindness rather than criticism. If we were playful with our language rather than prohibitive.

You can start doing that today by watching how you talk to yourself. Notice the words you use and how they make you feel. In Wednesday’s post, I’ll offer some tips about how to work with them.

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