What is in a word? According to one definition a word is “a single, distinct, meaningful element of speech or writing.” If words are so meaningful, why don’t we take better care of what we say and what we express to one another?
I have been guilty plenty of times for speaking without thinking first about my words. Of course, these mistakes still happen today. However, I am more conscious in the error of my ways. I am now able to correct my thinking before I voice my opinions of myself and others.
“Think twice before you speak because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” -Napoleon Hill
I very clearly remember when I made a promise to myself to do better. I was about six months pregnant with my sweet daughter. I happened upon a TV show discussing how parents’ words can impact their children and their children’s self- esteem. This particular show was discussing how the mothers talked about themselves and how it carried over to their children. The show host was explaining if the Moms didn’t stop speaking destructively about themselves and their physical appearance, it would negatively impact how their children viewed themselves.
Boy was I convinced. The message struck my soul. I had most definitely been guilty of looking in the mirror and complaining about what I saw. I was guilty of saying things about myself that I would never say about anyone else. I can’t count all the times I would talk about not being pretty enough, the right size, talented, and why I didn’t look like I thought I should. It is not OK to speak bad about ourselves. There is too much at stake for my most treasured gifts. I have to be better, so my children can be better than me. I never wanted my daughter to feel anything but perfect about how God made her. I want her to learn “pretty” is more than what we see in the mirror. We know our society pushes all kinds of images onto girls about how they “should” look. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to raise children to look past all the photoshopped magazine covers and commercials aimed at them.
However, I could do my part and change how I spoke about myself and others. Like most things, improvement starts with one little change at a time. It might be something as simple as learning how to receive a compliment without immediately shutting it down. Maybe it is taking the time to compliment your spouse, child, or friend on something. Our children are watching us and taking our lead.
Now, I have two beautiful children who are 9 and 5. I do my best everyday not to say unkind things about myself or others. In our home “ugly” is not a word to describe someone’s appearance, but an action. I am proud to say that if my children heard someone say that a person is “ugly,” they would ask what unkind action the person did. It would never occur to them that ugly referred to appearance. I know it is going to get harder to navigate all the messages they will receive from society. One can barely scan the Internet without being bombarded by media discussing someone’s weight, appearance and personality. But my hope is that by the time my children are older they will be so used to speaking kindness about themselves and others, that it will be second nature to ignore anything else. This year, my wish is that we all think a little bit more about our words and about speaking words of kindness to others and ourselves.