What Words Might Be Holding You Back

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“Feeling self-limited keeps us stuck while being limitless fills our world to the brim with opportunities”

Certain phrases hold us back from living an authentic life or limit us from our full potential. I believe it is essential for people to start noticing the words that are unconsciously enabling them to settle for less. I was inspired to expand on this topic further after Arianna Huffington from ThriveGlobal included my contribution to one of her articles. You can read that article, linked here.  Read more here. 

In recent years, I removed the word “but” from my vocabulary because I realized there are more connections when using the word “and” in its place. This simple change forced me to look at my part in things differently and to rethink the words I use. The use of certain words can represent a way to build rather than a way to push away. I tend to hear words before the word “but” and wonder how valid they are. Did I use “but” as a crutch to self-rationalize away something that I should have owned up to? Feel free to call me out on it if you ever read or hear me use the word “but” in this context.    

Other popular phrases or filler words in our dialogue create uncertainty, doubt and create a lack of clarity for others to receive the messages the way they were intended to be heard. For example, when speakers or people use the word “right” at the end of a statement, I begin to wonder if they are trying to convince me or if they even care about my perspective. I catch myself each time I mistakenly use the word “right” at the end of a statement and often restate it another way. The other phrase that trips me up all the time is the saying, “do you know what I mean” at the end of statements. One day my lovely bride said “I don’t know what you mean” after I said those words. I appreciated the feedback and never realized I used that phrase ALL of the time. Upon reflecting, it casts doubt by constantly asking “know what I mean” at the end of most of my statements. I used it as a way of inviting other’s perspectives in the beginning until it became something that was used rhetorically and disingenuously. I now separate and intentionally ask specific questions when seeking feedback and inviting other’s perspectives into a dialogue. I have found this to be much more impactful and meaningful.   

There are even words I used in speaking with my mentors in 2019 that made them feel compelled to ask if I have any self-doubt issues. Whoa, that blew me back into my chair. I had to reflect on that. I am thinking I could use the word “but” here. (Just kidding). I realized I needed to own up to the challenge laid forth by my mentors. They had given me a gift. I grew up speaking with tentative tones and phrases such as “I think” and “I hope.” That kind of phraseology is wrapped in self-doubt. My Mentor’s feedback to me was to ALWAYS to be authentic and confident in my messages to instill a feeling of certainty and inspiration that people need to hear from me.  

Words such as, “I can’t” or “Not sure” or “I’m not worthy” show a deeper layer of self-doubt that saps our confidence and power. When we fill our subconscious minds with these words, we become less than what we are capable of and we settle for less. By using these words that hold us back, we can get stuck playing a certain role in life. Now is a great time for me to remind you that you are worthy and can take steps to change for the better every day! 

Another speaking style or personality I have noticed that can hold us back is what I call the “conversation grabber.” This is someone that will not let go of owning the floor. They use words or phrases that represent that there is more to the story and that stops others from contributing to the dialogue. We have all heard of people using “ummm” or “uhhhh” until their words come to them. We all have been there and this is one set of phrasing to pay attention to. Another word to watch for is “so.” “Soooooooo…..” is often used to combine multiple stories. I have seen others use it to get a conversation back on track. 

In 2020, I plan to remove the phrase “it is what it is” from my thinking and to help others realize how this phrase can create such a toxic mindset. I hear “it is what it is” all of the time. Like any word or phrase, it can be appropriately used. I often hear “it is what it is” when people are exasperated and feel helpless. Author Carol Dweck is likely cringing as the “it is what it is” mindset continues to brew in our society today. In her book, Mindset, she warns of such limiting thinking. My fear is this self-limiting culture will become mainstream and people will simply believe that life happens to them as opposed to a belief in self-determination.

Take notice of the words or phrases you are using. They might be potentially causing unintentional harm to your potential or to how others perceive you. Identify one word or phrase at a time to address. Ask a friend or a team to give you feedback. Perhaps just boldly put yourself out there and publicly state that you are working on removing certain words from your vocabulary. Make it safe and inviting for others to help you. This approach allows you to practice being vulnerable and also creates a safe environment to provide you direct feedback. I would love to hear from you regarding other words or phrases that you believe hold people back from being their best selves. Comment on this blog post or send me an email directly, [email protected], with the word or phrase along with a brief description of the self-limiting phrases you have identified. I encourage you to have some self-reflection and to take action in reframing how you speak. It will be a game-changer. Live your possible!  

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