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30th November 2022

Empowerment through language: Stop putting yourself down

With Reclaim the Night in mind, the Lifestyle section has decided to unpack how the language we use to address ourselves and others has the power to change our outlook from self-doubt to self-confidence
Empowerment through language: Stop putting yourself down
Photo: Towfiqu Barbhuiya @ Unsplash

Language is the means through which we communicate, and is therefore a central part of human existence. How we talk, how we think – everything comes back to the words we use. Needless to say, the power of language over the interactions we have with both other people and ourselves is huge.

To begin, let’s talk business. Language in the professional world has often been studied, with many articles on LinkedIn about how to attract the achievements you want or stop putting yourself down through language.

Many of these articles talk about internal conversations we have which minimise our confidence, yet the way we speak to others is also a component of feeling empowered professionally. Avoiding excessive exclamations and emojis in professional contexts will help you to avoid undermining yourself, while being firm with your requirements from others will avoid co-workers undermining you.

Using more positive language professionally can be an internal endeavour, however, such as in the act of goal writing. In writing down a list of things which we wish to achieve using positive language, we set intentions for ourselves: try using phrases such as ‘I will’, ‘I am going to’, or ‘I want to’. This allows us to make it clear to ourselves what we want to achieve and set about communicating these goals to others in an assured manner.

This is also relevant to imposter syndrome, a common phrase in the business world which can be just as relevant to education or friendships. How many times have you found yourself sitting in a seminar and thinking that everyone knows more than you do? Or thought that a new friend can’t possibly like you as they’re far too cool?

The cycles of doubt that we trap ourselves in due to imposter syndrome can be incredibly damaging to both confidence and achievements, as we stop ourselves from doing something before we’ve even begun, as we already believe that the outcome will be a failure. Ask yourself why it is that you’re afraid to fail, or why you don’t feel good enough, then try to flip the language with which you’re addressing yourself. Words which might help include ‘I belong’, ‘I deserve to be here’, or even simply saying ‘yes’ to opportunities which you come across.

One word which should be avoided for a more confident demeanour is ‘just’. ‘Just’, in the same ‘hedger’ category as ‘kind of’ and ‘sort of’, makes us appear unsure and minimises our requests or endeavours. As ‘just’ is a qualifier, you can grammatically get rid of it without consequence – be clearer, more confident, and more active with your voice. Once we stop using ‘just’ when communicating with others, we eliminate a sense of lacking of motivation or clarity, and will hopefully find that the rest of our language becomes clearer as a result.

Similar low-confidence language to avoid includes ‘basically’ and ‘I was wondering’, both phrases dilute your point and make you seem tentative. ‘Wondering’ can be switched out for a more active verb, while ‘basically’ can be gotten rid of altogether: remind yourself that there’s nothing basic about yourself, your thoughts and, in turn, how you express these things through language.

The move towards being more confident, clear and active through language is also extremely relevant to our personal lives, where we equally deserve to give ourselves the best chance at self-confidence and belief.

The personal power of language can be as simple as reframing things in our minds. Using positive mental language when approaching a task is a great way of seeing the good in something, such as by identifying the lessons you’ve learnt from a situation which didn’t go as planned, or by thinking of things with a growth mindset rather than in the language of ‘I can’t’. There is also evidence that rephrasing our thoughts with less extreme language is a good way of reappraising a situation, as a way to manage stress and be mindful of the language in which we’re thinking.

The ways in which we channel language in our daily lives can also improve how we see the world, come to terms with events, and process our emotions. For example, journaling has long been seen as a brilliant way to be more mindful and reduce stress. Using a daily journal to note down what we’re grateful for is another way to reframe small daily occurrences with positive language.

In addition, manifestation has recently gained traction as a method of attracting success. The practice stems from the ancient principle of the Law of Attraction and involves setting your vision and intentions into the universe. Language is a key component of manifestation, as you work to clarify exactly what it is that you desire through positive words, and bring about these wishes through affirmations.

Affirmation, in turn, is ‘an assertion, declaration, or positive statement’ (Oxford English Dictionary), and involves either speaking or writing positive words in order to improve your self-confidence. Popular affirmations include ‘I am strong’, ‘I deserve happiness’, and ‘I love myself for who I am’. Language is the first step to setting our intentions and emotions into the world, and by using such positive affirmations we can attract a more positive, confident, and self-assured approach into our lives.

Empowering ourselves through language, whether professional or personal, is particularly relevant in the modern world we live in. There is more research and focus now than ever before on how best to make language work to improve your life, whether that be through goal-setting, practising affirmations, or revamping your go-to phrases. However, there is also more cause to think about the language we use than ever before.

‘Hustle culture’ has recently sprung out of a melting pot of capitalism, the internet, and the commodification of hobbies during lockdown. As such, the modern world can be incredibly productivity-focused, which can, more often than not, lead to experiences of burnout.

It can be especially easy in the digital age to fall into a trap of self-comparison: a quick scroll on TikTok or Twitter will yield a fair few examples of people showing their highlight reels of achievements. It’s therefore important to practice kindness and self-care in the language we use, not just self-confidence. Through whichever means you’re aiming to change your language habits, make sure to work in self-love: you are good enough, and you are exactly where you’re meant to be.

Whether it’s starting a gratitude diary, speaking to a colleague with more confidence, or researching the best methods of manifestation, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the ways in which you can use language in a more positive way. We undersell ourselves to others and in our own minds so often: it’s time to be confident and feel empowered through all the ways in which you communicate.

Annabel Benton

Annabel Benton

Co-Culture Managing Editor at The Mancunion // Twitter: @AnnabelBenton_

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