One of my colleagues has a teen-age daughter. She’s a beautiful girl. Smart and fun, she has a warm, friendly personality, but she’s really struggling trying to keep up.
Her Mom mentioned one week that the mantra had become, “I’m ugly. I’ll never be as pretty as Jordan.”
Next week: “I just can’t learn geometry! I’m so stupid. I’m never going to pass this class.”
And the week after that: “I never get invited to the best parties. I guess I’m just not cool enough for the right people to like me.”
Did you have a similar adolescence? I moaned as the stories kept coming in. For a while, her Mom tried to comfort her. But suddenly, she threw up her hands. I was a little shocked – “What did you do instead?” I asked. “I told her to knock it off. I said – would you say that to me?”
“What did she say?” I said. My colleague answered: “Well, what could she say? Of course she wouldn’t talk that way to me. I told her if she wouldn’t talk that way to me then she shouldn’t talk that way to herself. I realize she’s just complaining to her parents night after night, but I have to think there’s more to it. If this is what she’s saying, what is she truly thinking? She’s not perfect, but it’s hardly as bad as she’s making it sound.”
Do you find yourself getting into a loop like her daughter, even when things aren’t terrible? Here are some of the everyday phrases I hear from people:
- I wish I could go to Europe. I never have enough money to take a great vacation.
- I’d love to improve my golf game. But I’m always too busy at work.
- Well, I guess it’s back to the Gulag. That’s what I call the office.
Can you imagine if you made similar assertions over someone else’s life? Think of seeing beautiful travel pictures but saying to your friend, “Well, forget it – you’ll never be able to take a trip like that.” Or saying to your brother, “I’d be happy to meet you at the driving range for a bucket of balls, but I know you haven’t done a good enough job at work today to leave at 6:00. Why don’t you just stay at your desk?” It may sound ridiculous, but mindless babbling can become your reality when you least expect it.
As I listened these casual statements, I thought how small changes could make such a difference. How about – “I wish I could go to Europe. I don’t have enough money this year, but I know a great vacation is coming.” Or, “I’d love to improve my golf game. I’m so busy at my job that I’ll have to make sure I book time for Saturday before the week gets away from me.” And for that last bullet above? Just drop it – don’t curse your workplace.
This week, I encourage you to turn some of that negative internal chatter around with affirmations, or better yet, stop before you speak it. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”