Language has been important to me all of my life. I’m choosy with words and picky with what I say. I’m a big believer that our thoughts and our language directly affect the amount of joy and happiness we cultivate in our lives.
I’ve spent over a decade studying personal development. Some people look at this field as “self-help B.S.” and these are typically the same people who refer to therapists as “shrinks”. Simply put, I’m probably not their cup of tea.
I personally like all kinds of tea.
It’s in my nature to examine my life, to foster a better sense of self and to learn tools on how to practice being ALL of ME as often as I can. I don’t believe that life is only about “staying positive” or that we constantly need to be “improving” who we are. I don’t attend conferences where famous speakers ask rhetorical questions so audience members can jump out of their seats and shout out excited “yes’s” over and over again. I want to celebrate all of it, the light and the dark.
I was raised with a mom who taught me the importance of looking for the good in difficult people and unhappy situations. When life gave us lemons, we made lemonade! It’s given both of us an undeniable Pollyanna reputation amongst peers and a glass-half-full outlook on life. My dad taught me at a young age to dream big, to go after anything I wanted and to be excited about all that life had to offer.
I’m a child who knew I was loved; the ultimate blessing for any little being out there in the world.
The reasons for my long-term eating disorder comes down to this: I didn’t know how to sprinkle all the goodness I felt for life, family and friends into my own self-worth. I gave it all away without giving anything back to lil’ ol’ me.
What can I say? I’m a work in progress.
Now I know that each day is one more chance to practice loving myself.
Just because I’m generally a happy person, doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. A little over a year ago, I came out with a big secret. I told the world I was recovering from a 24-year relationship with bulimia.
I like to say “my relationship” with bulimia because I don’t want to have “suffered from it” or “battled with it.” I’m not interested in “fighting it” or “beating it.” I simply want to be at peace with it. For me, this means acknowledging it for what it was and always will be, a relationship.
I also like to say I’m in “recovery” because it’s a lifelong commitment. When people say they’re recovered, it feels like there’s an end-point or a finish line. I can’t go back into the mindset that there is a BEFORE and AFTER moment because that kind of thinking sets me up to fail.
My belief in language became imperative in my mid-twenties. I was recruited as a Sales Director for a holistic business coach. He specialized in Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP).
He taught me that our thoughts become things. It was a fascinating, six-moth education on discovering how to say what we actually mean. I started paying attention to my vocabulary in ways I had never known possible.
I learned how to shift my perspective that I wasn’t working for him the way I had always worked for companies. He empowered me to say I was working with him. It was my first wake-up call to being a director rather than waiting to be directed.
I began to understand new sales techniques which eventually overlapped into my personal beliefs. He showed me that offering something for “free” makes a product or service lose value whereas offering something as complimentary adds an undertone of value.
He constantly pointed out how the sales phrase “Now is the Time” is overused. Whenever I hear those words, I imagine a guy opening up their trench coat shouting, “I’ve got watches! I’ve got chains.”
He asked me to remind clients about upcoming workshops by saying, “Remember” instead of “Don’t forget.” This way people are focused on the remembering part, not the forgetting part. To this day I tell Mike, remember to…. turn off the oven or water the plants or finish the laundry so he doesn’t “forget.” This stuff works.
My old boss corrected me as every chance he could. I once added the “Please think twice about recycling” green tree icon to my email signature. It was a full-on discussion. This is when I learned the importance of intention.
“Whitney, is that what you really want people to care about when they read your emails? How much thought did you put into adding that icon to your signature? Is that important enough for you to take a public stance on in each email you send out to the world? To me it looks like you saw it in someone else’s signature and threw it up on your signature without much thought. Be intentional with your words. Communicate with intention. Always.”
I took the icon off immediately. I wasn’t happy about it, but I understood that he was grooming me, shaping me into the Sales Director that he needed me to be. It was important that I speak his language and understand his vision in order for me to connect people to his coaching style.
I can’t say it was easy working with him, but I try to refrain from saying the experience was hard. When I say life is hard, I sometimes stay stuck longer. I now see the experience as a gift. He taught me more about language than I could have ever imagined and my long-term career success was directly related to his feedback.
From time to time, I still correct myself when I say ‘if’ and not “when”. I recently watched my friend and Self-Care & Personal Success Coach, Shelley Hunter Hillesheim catch herself mid-sentence, “If you read my book-I mean, when you read my book.” I smiled to myself, knowing we share a similar relationship to language.
I’ve created plenty of room in my life for grace. This means I no longer beat myself up if I don’t say something perfectly. I think many people in our little sub-culture of Emerging Women can get personal development hang overs when we become too particular about our language. I stay clear from getting too hung up with words.
I’m not here to correct or judge your “ifs’ versus your “whens”, I’m simply here to listen.
I pay attention to language because it’s ingrained in me. I’m thankful for being able to listen to cues that I might have overlooked without this kind of training. Right before I met my husband I briefly dated a man who told me more than once, “Your weight and your size don’t bother me”. Yet what he said bothered me. He wasn’t saying, “I love your body” or “I love the way you feel”. Instead he framed his thoughts about my shape by focusing on the bothering part.
I’m not overly particular about words like I used to be while I worked with my old NLP boss, but on occasion, I can still hear him whispering in my ear.
For example, I just wrote, “I try to be intentional with my language” yet I know he would fire back, “Whitney, you don’t try. You either do something or you don’t. Period. Have conviction with your words when you write.”
I AM intentional with my language.
The big take away from working with him was listening to how much we all frame our lives with what we Don’t Want versus what we Do Want. I started to hear myself, friends and acquaintances surround our daily stories with all the things we don’t like about our lives.
If you ask someone what they want out of life, what they really want with all of their hearts, if they talk long enough, chances are they’ll start sharing all about what they Don’t Want. I know this to be true because I was this person.
This was my story:
I didn’t want to be bulimic. I didn’t want to have food and weight issues anymore. I didn’t want to talk about it, I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to be done with feeling unhealthy, disgusting and gross. I didn’t want to see anymore unexpected reminders of my life’s failures from those godforsaken lonely shoes. I didn’t want to be single for another moment. I didn’t want to waste any more time not writing.
That story sounds a lot different than the one I focus on now:
I want to be free from my eating disorder, body shame, food secrets and the behaviors I held onto for so many years. I want to help all the people who choose to never seek professional eating disorder treatment because I know how it feels to be alone with an ED.
I want to inspire people to ask for help until they’ve found support. I want to help people find the joy in feeling rather than stuffing, numbing and purging. I want to keep listening to the calling in my heart. Whitney, keep going sister! You’ve SO got this, Beauty.
Loving words heal and love heals ALL.