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Feel Better About Yourself: Cut These Five Words

Health & Wellness  (tags: atitude, Body-Mind-Spirit, mental health )

- 1790 days ago -
What I wanted to do was apologize over and over, to say aloud, "That was stupid. I can't believe I did that. I'm always leaving things. So sorry, you guys."

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JL A (281)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 9:49 am
Thanks Kit--a healthy set of reminders for becoming self aware of how we talk to ourselves and the related impacts.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 9:51 am
Image Credit: Getty Images

I hopped into a friend’s car after attending a bridal shower last weekend, and ten minutes in, I realized I had left my phone.

Almost to the train, we turned around.

I apologized to the others and then looked out the window, embarrassed.

Inside, I was fuming, pissed at myself for causing an inconvenience to all of us.

What I wanted to do was apologize over and over, to say aloud, “That was stupid. I can’t believe I did that. I’m always leaving things. So sorry, you guys.”

Had I, they then would likely say, “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.”

And I, of course, would repeat, “Really, I can’t believe I did that. I’m sorry.”

Because I think that’s the natural reaction that most of us have when we inconvenience people. We feel so badly for causing others anxiety that we think that apologizing (or over-apologizing) will somehow make it a little bit better.

But instead of engaging in the runaround, what I did was ask myself what the point of saying these things over and over again would be.

I mean, I had apologized once, the decision to turn around was made, and that was it.

I already felt badly, so why would I want to perpetuate that feeling by refusing to let it go?

The above scenario – and ones like it – is only one of many examples where there’s potential to be mean to ourselves about things we’ve done, said, or felt.

And often, when others do it (over-apologize or berate themselves), we pick up on it. For a lot of us, we might even find it annoying.

In my work as an editor, I’ve often coached others in the practice of intentional (or mindful) speech. And it’s always been relatively easy.

But over the last couple of years, I’ve made feeling good about myself a priority, which meant that I needed to start editing myself and that certain words and phrases needed to go – for my comfort, as well as the comfort of those around me.

Paying attention to how I talk is key to maintaining healthy relationships.

So here are some words and phrases I’ve tried to eliminate to help stay kind and gentle to myself.
1. I’m Sorry

This was the most common phrase I caught myself saying.

I’d run into someone in the grocery store, and I’d say “sorry.”

A friend would ask for a Band-Aid, and I’d say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have one.”

Or someone would call, and I’d be indisposed and say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk right now.”

At all points of the day, it seemed like I was apologizing for something.

At home, I sat on my couch and thought about how when I had lived in Madrid, there was a big difference between permiso, disculpe, perdón, and lo siento.

In Spanish, lo siento, which means I’m sorry, is only used if you’ve done something actually wrong, like step on someone’s foot.

But if you need to pass by someone, you’d say permiso or perdón, which pretty much translates to excuse me.

And if you need to tap someone on the shoulder for something, you’d likely say disculpe.

As I sat longer and thought about when I would say “I’m sorry,” I realized it was more of a reflex than it was connected to an actual feeling of sorrow or regret.

I was using “I’m sorry” in place of phrases like “excuse me” or “pardon.”

In English we should reserve “I’m sorry” for the same cases where one would use “lo siento.”

By using it incorrectly and often, what I was doing was making myself feel badly for no reason.
2. Should

Ever since I can remember, there has been a “should” in my life.

I should be studying more. I should be doing my homework. I should be married with kids. I should be more established in my career.

And on it goes.

The problem with the word “should” is that it passes judgment. It makes it seem like what I’m doing at this moment isn’t good enough.

And who says I should be doing all of these things anyway?

By using “should,” I give others the power.

So what I do now is substitute “could” where I would normally say “should.”

I could be doing my homework, but right now I’m…

I could be married with kids, but I’m choosing to…

I could be more established in my career, but I’m…

By replacing “should” with “could,” I start to see the reasons why I’m not doing certain things.

And that implies that I have a choice with what I’m doing and where I’m putting my attention.

Instead of passing judgment on myself, I start to understand where I’m putting my energy and in turn accept that the reason I’m not doing x is because I’m (happily) doing y.
3. That’s Just Not Who I Am

I used to say this phrase a lot.

I would say it when I didn’t believe in myself, when I felt stupid, or when I wanted to change and be more open and transparent, but was scared to try.

“I just don’t do math,” I would say. “It’s just not who I am.”

What I learned, though, was that I could do math. And I could be open and transparent if I wanted to be. But by saying “that’s just not who I am,” I was limiting my capability to be more.

I was putting myself into a box, assigning myself a category that became an obstacle to overcome.

I got in my own way, not letting myself be open to the possibility of another story besides the one I’d been telling myself year-after-year.

It was like stopping myself before I even began.

What I started to do was notice when the phrase would come up and then ask myself if the response was because I was feeling attacked or insecure, and then I’d ask if I wanted to be that kind of person.

I have to give myself the option to choose yes or no instead of cutting myself down from the start.
4. I’ll Let You Go

If I’m on the phone and ready to hang up, I always say, “Well, let me let you go.”

Or, “I’ll let you go.”

I do this because I’m the one who needs to get going, but I don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person I’m talking to.

But the truth needs to come out. Because saying “I’ll let you go” instead of “I need to go” implies that the other person has something more important to do than talk with me.

Nobody wants to feel like they aren’t a priority. So instead of making myself feel less-than, what I do is say exactly what I’m feeling:“I have to get going.”
5. I Always / I Never

“I always forget my…”

“How come I never…”

“I’m never…”

Any time “always” or “never” comes up in conversation, I take note.

I do this because most of the time, I’m offhandedly criticizing myself.

Both are finite. They imply that there is no way to change, and there are no options to choose from.

By using “always” and “never,” I practice and learn that change is impossible.

I let my insecurities and self-doubt keep me in the same negative pattern, setting myself up for failure each time.

The less I use limiting words, the more I open myself up to becoming whomever it is I need and want to be.

By cutting certain words and phrases out of my vernacular, I’ve created more space for more positive thoughts and feelings.

Letting go of limiting speech has helped me like myself more – because now I’m not criticizing who I am at every turn. And that’s helped me make myself a priority.

Paying attention to how you use your words is core to keeping the relationship you have with yourself healthy and accepting.

If you notice yourself saying certain words and phrases over and over, look to see if they are keeping you in the same limiting belief pattern. If so, try cutting them for a week and see if you feel lighter.

It worked for me.

By: Cynthia Kane | Everyday Feminism |


Nicole W (646)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 10:55 am
insightful, thank you so much Kit

Barbara K (60)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 11:40 am
Thanks, my friend. I think we need reminders like this once in awhile. We need to stand up for ourselves. I learned that at a very young age and I know that I can be unbendable. I try not to do anything I would need to apologize for, etc.. Notice I said "try". lol.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 12:34 pm
Good advice for self esteem, thanks Kit.

Paul Girardin (126)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 12:46 pm
The power of words ... can be used for good or bad ... YOU have to choose wisely!

Malgorzata Zmuda (198)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 1:19 pm

pam w (139)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 3:21 pm
Thanks, Kit.

Gene Jacobson (290)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 4:34 pm
I'm sorry, but negative self talk is really damaging to, well, self. It is a good habit to work on breaking. Here in Minnesota it is called Minnesota Nice. Always and forever polite, but we don't really always mean it. It is part of the air we breathe but it doesn't take an immigrant long to figure out what they are saying and what they are doing don't match up. But the beat goes on. Sorry. :^) I didn't really mean that.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 7:14 pm

Minnesota Nice, Texas Friendly, Southern Charm, it's all the same.

Shawna S (45)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 8:40 pm
Words not to live by. :")
I'm always apologizing for everything. It makes ME feel better. But, I don't dwell on the things I have no control over.
Thanks Kit :")

Kathy B (106)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 8:49 pm
Saying 'sorry' is becoming (another :)) one of my pet peeves. I'm working on eliminating that from my email correspondence - especially at work. It's not that I'm not sorry, it's usually that I have little control over the event, so why apologize?

I'll have to monitor the rest & see how often I use them, it could be interesting.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 10:32 pm
Thanks Kit. Needed this today, and every day.

Robert O (12)
Wednesday June 26, 2013, 11:21 pm
Thanks Kit. Something to really think about and reflect upon.

Zoe T (6)
Thursday June 27, 2013, 12:51 am
thank you

Veselin Varbanov (23)
Thursday June 27, 2013, 3:24 am
Interesting psychology .Thanks.

Frances Darcy (133)
Thursday June 27, 2013, 3:42 am
I never say 3 or 5

John De Avalon (36)
Thursday June 27, 2013, 5:50 am
Don't put yourself down. You're a child of God, at least as good as the next person, and with the potential to do great good and bring much beauty to the world...

. (0)
Thursday June 27, 2013, 6:39 am
I learned the catch phrase a long time ago - "watch what you say"/ Of course watch what you write is also a good one in this day and age.

S S (0)
Thursday June 27, 2013, 1:45 pm
Thank you.

Julie W (32)
Friday June 28, 2013, 2:43 am
I eliminated 'should' and 'ought' from my speech years ago. Now I find it annoying when other people use them!

Emma S (239)
Friday June 28, 2013, 4:36 am
Ouch! Thanks, Kit, for the good article. I'm guilty of some of these - and I'm not sorry!

Lona G (80)
Friday June 28, 2013, 6:50 am
Negative self talk is as a habit not good for your self esteem. But not saying "I'm sorry" when you bump into some one at the store, that's downright rude. What's negative about being polite?

Deb E (63)
Friday June 28, 2013, 10:13 am
There is nothing wrong with apologizing for doing something that hurt someone or inconvenienced them but, as she said, people who overdo it then start looking like it is just an act. I get irritated when people say "I'm sorry" when they haven't heard what I said to them. Thanks for the article. Interesting read :-)

Brendan Bourke (0)
Friday June 28, 2013, 3:27 pm

Mary Donnelly (47)
Friday June 28, 2013, 3:51 pm
Thanks Kit--especially about 'should'.

Delia F (53)
Friday June 28, 2013, 3:59 pm

Birgit W (160)
Friday June 28, 2013, 4:22 pm

Sharon W. (4)
Friday June 28, 2013, 5:00 pm
While it is important to avoid phrases that shape your thinking in a negative way, let´s not forget that some of these phrases are culturally ingrained and nothing but courtesy. This goes for "I´m sorry" and "I´ll let you go", as it shows appreciation for other people´s needs and problems.
If it affects you in a negative way, then, by all means, try not to use them too often.
But please think about your usage and what you mean by them first.

Aletta Kraan (146)
Friday June 28, 2013, 7:29 pm
Noted , thanks !

Paulett Simunich (0)
Friday June 28, 2013, 7:58 pm
It does a body good to read and remember to not beat yourself up......the world does a pretty good job !!!!
Thanks !!!

Twyla Sparks (208)
Friday June 28, 2013, 9:31 pm
Thank you.

Gloria Morotti (14)
Saturday June 29, 2013, 2:45 am

Winn A (179)
Saturday June 29, 2013, 6:47 am
It's always a good idea to be kind to yourself when using your words. I've heard Whoopie Goldburg say that her least favorite word is "stupid" and I agree. I avoid that word like the plague.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 2:22 am

Sergio P (65)
Friday July 5, 2013, 6:46 pm
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