The Attitude-Language Connection

I’ve been working for a long time on treating myself at least as well as I treat others. Think I’m about 80% there now. (sigh)

A couple of weeks ago I noticed how I describe the way I walk. I have arthritis in one knee, my spine, and my hips and so my gait changes with the changes in my joints. Right now I sway from side to side much more than I did before.

I found I called it “waddling.” That doesn’t sound very nice. The least I could do is say I walk with a limp. It’s just as accurate but, at least to my ears, it doesn’t sound deprecating. I wouldn’t say anybody else waddled, so why should I describe myself that way?

Dictionaries often give us a new look at familiar words. Didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about waddling. So I looked up lazy, because that’s how I think of myself these days. Lazy, to me, denotes somebody who doesn’t want to do things, who lounges around all day-dreaming and resists lifting a finger if it can be avoided.  But whoa, is that really me?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines lazy as “1. disinclined to activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous; 2.  moving slowly.” Does this describe me? Well, yes, all but the disinclined bit. I move slowly and don’t do a lot because I have a disability and moving hurts. I also think we all slow down with age. But “disinclined?” No way! I  constantly wish I could do more and I push myself hard.

I need an adjective that says in one word, “I can’t do what I used to, and it really bothers me.” Aging comes closest, but then I think of a 75-year-old man I know who still skis and shovels snow. He complains about politics, not his body. For now, I’ll have to live without that word and just try and carry the attitude around in my head as an antidote to “lazy.”

You see, our language is formed by our attitudes and if we change one, we can change the other. It’s like that mind-body connection — attitude-language connection. If I think of myself as beautiful, I will take the time to comb my hair, stand up straighter,  and make sure my clothes look good together. The net result is, even if I can’t make myself really beautiful, I’ll look a lot better! And if I fuss lovingly over my appearance, I will start to think of myself as pretty.

One caveat: this doesn’t work if you are trying to deny reality. Most of us probably tried to act as if we had a normal childhood, and we didn’t get very far. Smiling to hide depression doesn’t work, either – it just makes it worse. And acting as if you don’t have an addiction, when you do, is a guaranteed disaster.

What I am talking about is those areas that are not black and white. I’m not going to be transformed or destroyed if I consider myself old instead of lazy or pretty instead of ugly. I’m just going to be a smidgen happier. And isn’t that worth it?

Kinder, Gentler Language

Somebody sent me an entry from a blog by Isabel Foxen Duke, who is a coach who “helps women stop feeling crazy around food.” You can find it at http://isabelfoxenduke.com/i-have-never-binged-but-only-eaten-a-lot-of-food-and-why-this-is-an-important-technical-distinction/#comments

Here it is —

“I have never “binged,” but only eaten a lot of food… (and why this is an important technical distinction).

I used to call myself a “binge-eater.”  I would diet, diet, diet and then when I would “fall of the wagon” – bam, I “binged.”  Binge, binge, binge.  Just the use of this word, I truly believe kept me in a mental cycle of  “success” and “failure” or “good” and “bad.”

The linguistic distinction of calling any act with food a “binge,” keeps us in a state of mind where we are judging ourselves.  Every time we say we “binged,” we are essentially saying, “we failed,” we are “wrong,” or generally suck.

In order to live in a world of food and body freedom, we have to let go of all language that is judgmental, hateful, or disapproving of ourselves.  I contend that just the use of the word “binge” falls into this category, and should thus be stricken from our lips.

New Linguistic Model:  Last night I went out to dinner with my family and ate a lot of food.  I got really full.  And today is Tuesday, and the sky is blue.

I did not “binge,” I did not MURDER ANYONE.  I just ate a lot of food.  Big fucking deal.

(Isabel blogs at stopfightingfood.com )

I think she is right on about language. When we use negative language, we keep ourselves in a negative frame of mind and locked into negative behavior patterns.

Using Isabel’s New Linguistic Model, it would make good sense to make the language we use gentler. We can replace negative words with positive or neutral ones. Now, I don’t mean replacing “I am ugly” with “I am the most beautiful person in the world.” That’s a down right lie and you will just feel foolish saying it. Nor am I suggesting replacing “pain” with “slight discomfort” because euphemisms are a form of deception, too. I am suggesting replacing a denigrating or frightening word with one that is accurate but does not have a negative charge attached to it.

Take the word “trigger.” It has always given me the willies. I see a gun in my mind’s eye, and I react to the word itself with fear because it brings up thoughts and memories of violence or death. Why would I want to do this to myself?

Well, I don’t. I already have enough of those thoughts swirling around in my brain. I’d much rather use “reminder.” The smell of beer reminds me of somebody, reeking of beer, hurting me. I have to deal with that memory, but I don’t have all the extra feelings, thoughts, and memories that the word “trigger” stirs up.

I have similar negative feelings toward the word “programming.” It suggests that I am a machine and that I must obey any instructions that have been entered into my mind. Now I use “taught,” which implies that I do not have to do what I was taught to do and that I can learn other things. I was taught to ride a bicycle, to make my bed every morning, to speak French. Do I do any of those things now? No. Nor do I do what my abusers taught me to do.  I don’t deny that I was taught those things, or that I was forced to do them.  But I don’t do them any more.

Cleaning up my language makes life easier. It strips the negative words of their magic power and gives me one less thing to struggle with. It helps me see things for what they really are, not what I was supposed to believe they were. What a gift!