Words: What We Say About Ourselves

 

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

This is part two of a five week series on the power of words. We have all been impacted by the words of another. Some words have imbued us with confidence, while others have deflated us. We are created to be communicators. So, when there are words, how do we use them well? 

Let’s explore this over the next few weeks. I hope you’ll join me and add your thoughts to the conversation! If you want to read previous posts, click: When There Are Words.

 

“I’m an idiot.” The boy says of himself. Far too often for my liking. He holds himself to such a high standard no person could possibly achieve it, much less maintain it. It’s a standard of perfection. No mistakes allowed.

In his mind, to fail even in the smallest way is worthy of calling himself a name.

It about breaks my mama’s heart. Every. Single. Time.

 

Where do we learn to talk so meanly about ourselves? I would never call a person I care about an idiot, or stupid, or anything else. Although, I confess, I might—sometimes—say that about the driver who cuts me off in traffic (Yes, yes, I’m working on that).

Since when is it okay to belittle the creation God has made—ourselves, whom He called “good”—with demeaning names?

The hard thing is, when we call ourselves names for long enough, we begin to believe these lies.

I’m not a name-it-and-claim-it believer, but I do believe that words have power. We must be careful what we allow into our thoughts. We need to guard our minds from the words that filter through our thoughts.

 

We do this by reading God’s word, meditating on it, and choosing to believe what He says, both about Himself and about us, His creation.

Are we going to fail sometimes? Of course.

Does that make us a failure?
Never.

When we fall short in some way, whether it’s in not mastering some skill . . .

or not doing something as perfectly as we’d like . . .

When we sin against our spouse, our children, our God . . .

Calling ourselves some horrible name only makes us feel worse about ourselves and our situation.

 

It eventually leads to believing something about ourselves that God never intended.

That we’re unloved. Unworthy. Less-than.

That we are defective.

Stupid.

When we can begin to see ourselves as God sees us? 

That’s when those failings, those mistakes can be seen in the light of what they really are. 

They are not a reflection of who we are.

They are not indicators of how inept we are.

Rather, they are reminders of how much we need Jesus. 

 

Until we can truly acknowledge this need—our need for a Savior, for redemption, for forgiveness, and grace—we can’t see ourselves as God sees us.

When we come to the place of embracing how desperately we need Him, God can do something amazing.

He gives us eyes to see ourselves as He does:

Cherished.

Beautiful.

Worthy (because of Him).

Valued.

Able.

Beloved.

 

Our words—spoken and internal—shape how we perceive ourselves. We must make sure we have an accurate view of who we really are. Because it’s only as we see ourselves through Jesus’ eyes that perfection’s standard loses its grip on our hearts and thoughts.

I’m working to teach my son this. It’s so hard to watch the beautiful potential wrapped up within him being ripped by the death-words he sometimes speaks over himself.

It’s only when we see ourselves as God does that we are truly able to give ourselves the grace to make mistakes without condemnation. To fail and learn from it.

God never holds us to a standard of perfection. Jesus is our perfecter.

Maybe we can each begin to see ourselves through God’s eyes rather than the eyes the world has trained us to view ourselves through.

 

Maybe we can begin to speak words of life over ourselves and those we love.

Maybe then, transformation can begin.

What about you? How do you guard your words and thoughts? What do you teach your children about their words?

Click to Tweet: We must be careful what we allow into our thoughts

Today I’m linking up with Holly Barrett’s Testimony Tuesday and Kelly Balarie’s #RaRaLinkup

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17 thoughts on “Words: What We Say About Ourselves

  1. This is a very important topic, Jeanne, and you handled it well.

    I don’t use demeaning words about myself or others; somewhere I learned that it was not productive.

    On the other hand, I also eschew positive ‘naming’, because to me it’s just an overcorrection. Best to maintain a calm neutrality.

    With regard to situations, my physical profile has decreased since we last ‘met’ here, and rather that dwell on ‘oh, how horrible this is’ I repeat to myself that it doesn’t matter, that it is what it is meant to be. Don’t mean nuthin, not a thing…if you’re familiar with Viet Nam boonie rap.

    For me, at least, there’s a distinct advantage in shedding emotion from my thought and speech…both negative and positive. The calm center is where you can see the blue sky, tho’ the hurricane surrounds you.

    And on this Memorial Day evening, I’d like to share, if I may, a poem. The author, Michael O’Donnell, went missing in Cambodia on March 24, 1970. His remains were recovered decades later, and laid to rest at Arlington.

    If you are able,
    save them a place
    inside of you
    and save one backward glance
    when you are leaving
    for the places they can
    no longer go.
    Be not ashamed to say
    you loved them,
    though you may
    or may not have always.
    Take what they have left
    and what they have taught you
    with their dying
    and keep it with your own.
    And in that time
    when men decide and feel safe
    to call the war insane,
    take one moment to embrace
    those gentle heroes
    you left behind.

    Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
    1 January 1970
    Dak To, Vietnam

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    • Andrew, you bring up a great point. There needs to be balance in how we talk to ourselves (and about others). Going strongly in either the positive or negative direction can skew our perspectives and understanding about ourselves. You learned a valuable lesson in maintaining a calm neutrality. I’m getting there, but I’m not totally consistent yet. 🙂

      Thank you for touching on Memorial Day with the poem by Michael O’Donnell. It brought tears to my eyes. I’m praying fervently for you, my friend.

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  2. The words we speak about ourselves are so important, and I know that I say things to myself that I would never say to someone else. I think recognising that is the first step but it’s a long-term process to fight against it. I like your insight about seeing our mistakes not as a reflection of who we are but as a reminder of how much we need Jesus- that’s a helpful perspective. Have you heard Ellie Holcomb’s song “Fighting Words”? I’ve been listening to that a lot lately and find it really helpful in reminding me of the truth.

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    • Lesley, I agree, changing the way we talk about ourselves is a long process. I’ve been working on it for many years, but I’m still not consistent in stopping those negative names I sometimes call myself (often after a mom-fail).

      I don’t think I have heard that song by Ellie Holcomb, but I’m going to look it up and have a listen today. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeanne,
    As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser) my negative self talk has diminished some. My sweet husband reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect or get everything perfect – it just isn’t possible. When I hold myself up to an unattainable standard, I am setting myself up for failure. That’s when I need to remember to listen for the voice of Truth and Truth does not come in the form of condemnation. Great reminders this am – loving the series!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    • Bev, you bring up a good point. When we place expectations on ourselves, we pressure ourselves to meet them. This can be dangerous when either the expectation is unrealistic or we get worried about meeting it. Both of these usually lead to failure and then to demeaning words. Listening to the voice of Truth–yes and amen to that. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your insights here!

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  4. Thank you for this post, Jeanne. I admit I do this, too.

    It’s too easy to call ourselves these names, especially when we don’t live up to our own standards or when our dreams crash. I’m not of the name-it-claim-it notions either, but lately, I’ve been I’ve been putting God back in control — writing with Him rather than writing alone. That takes a huge burden off me and has allowed me to be creative again.

    Thanks again. Praying that I will see myself as He sees me. Hugs!

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    • Yes, Angie, when the standards are too high or when dreams crash, it’s easy to drag ourselves right down there with it all. Putting God back in control is such a good thing. I’ve been working on that too. 🙂 Keeping our hearts aligned with God and not set on the wrong things is key, isn’t it? Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. 🙂

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  5. Ugh. I was convicted by your words, because often in this mothering journey, I have been able to trace negative words from my kids right back to their source — their mum! I continually battle the sin of faithless speech. Thanks for ammunition today!

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    • Yes and amen, Michele. I’ve heard my boys say something that they first heard from me, and man does that sting!

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called myself something after an altercation with one of my boys. It’s so hard to not take their willfulness, their poor choices personally, or as a reflection of our mothering skills. May we both use God’s words as our ammo. Thanks for sharing your heart here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Jeanne. I will pray for your son to look up and believe His truth about himself. We are a family of four, all at different points, in letting go of perfectionism and learning to love others and ourselves well. Jesus is our one true Savior. May God bless you and your family today.

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  7. We can be awfully hard on ourselves, can’t we? I know I extend so much more grace to others than I do to myself. This is so true – “It’s only when we see ourselves as God does that we are truly able to give ourselves the grace to make mistakes without condemnation.” I’m still a work-in-progress in this area. I’m so grateful for God’s patient, unconditional love! Thank you so much for all the encouragement you give here, Jeanne. And thank you for being a sensitive mommy who cares about the self-talk her son gives himself. I love the waves in the photos! Love and hugs to you!

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    • Trudy, you’re right. We CAN be hard on ourselves. I’m still a work in progress in giving myself grace too. it’s a constant choosing how we’re going to talk to ourselves after we blow it. I guess we get practice so we can learn to see ourselves through God’s eyes and learn to speak words of life to ourselves. Thanks for your encouraging words, friend! Sending you a big bear hug!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jeanne, such an important message. I find myself uttering some of those phrases and , recently, caught myself. What I am I communicating to my kids about themselves? What I am showing them about God’s character? Why was I surprised when my daughter responded to me at one point, “I’m not stupid!” At first, I could not figure out why she would think that I would think that? How easily the views of the flesh creep in to our vernacular. Perhaps we should see our tongues as sacredly created parts of our bodies that should reflect the One who created them.

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    • Stephanie, I love what you said about seeing our tongues as sacredly created parts of our bodies. I think they’re the hardest part of our bodies to rein in, but probably also the most necessary part to train to reflect Jesus’s love to others. Great thoughts here!

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  9. Many of us don’t care about talking about our-self. We just talk negatively even in smaller things. But to be a bold and brave person, first thing we need to do is talk good about us and feel good about us by using words that describe our good self.

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    • These are interesting thoughts. I think you’re right that we need to see the value God’s placed in us. If we only see our negative aspects, it’s going to impact both how others view us and how they interact with us, isn’t it? Thanks so much for stopping by!

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