Updated: Aug 16
I love words. I love how they inspire change and thought, and how they can move us inside, shaping our perception and beliefs. I like to use particular words to prompt me to change my behaviour, and have developed a habit in the last couple of years of selecting single words that I adopt as my guiding principle at that given time.
One word that I have used in this way during the last six months is ‘authenticity’. After my last relationship ended, in which I felt, by the end of it, as though I had not been honest with myself, I made an internal promise that I would only be authentic from that moment on, and that if I was to meet anyone else romantically, they would just have to take me as they found me. I wasn’t lying during the times that I wasn’t being authentic, but I subjugated who I was for much of our four years together. I would abandon conversations that I wanted to have because I knew my partner would not really understand where I was coming from; I reacted in ways that were not exactly true to my nature, as though something about his behaviour and manner meant the best version of me was never free to emerge. Instead of bringing out the optimum me, our relationship teased out my worst characteristics.
Alcohol used to have a similar effect upon me. I have written previously of how an ex-boyfriend, many years ago, described the drinking me in the following way;
“It’s as though when you drink, you have swallowed a twat pill”.
I understand what he meant - again, just like my last relationship, alcohol brought out the very worst in me.
A word that, for me, describes beautifully the battle we face when we first quit drinking, is ‘courageous’. Having this word in the forefront of my mind means I always feel brave and strong about my decision to not drink, and it's an effective means of stopping the negative self-doubt creep in, whereby I may once have played around with the idea that I was weak or broken in some way because I chose to quit drinking. Courageous is a constant positive reminder of how life flourishes when we stop poisoning our minds and bodies, how we are suddenly free to fulfil our potential when we leave alcohol behind, with all of its limiting, grasping, restrictive, suffocating consequences.
Wholesome is a word that comforts me and instantly brings about a sense of warmth and homeliness. When I think of wholesome, I only want to eat healthful foods, to immerse myself in the absolute essence of my closest relationships; be in nature, by the sea, and living authentically, just being the me I was intended to be when I first came into the world. Wholesome is a truly inspirational word for creating a feeling of richness, a glowing version of you - grounded, calm and content.
Using words in this way is the semantic version of creating a vision board or writing a five-year plan. It sparks motivation and helps keep us on track to stick to our goals and best intentions. One of the most useful concepts that I have come to understand as I've grown older, is that we can establish higher expectations and aspirations for ourselves, as a means of growing and improving. We can work on the way we think and behave, challenge our old associations and habits, and ultimately live the best life for us that we are capable of living. Instead of accepting our tendencies and pre-existing thoughts, we can work on developing our thinking, so that we are continually evolving and chipping away at the bits of our personalities that are not helpful to us or our happiness.
Words are such a simple way of doing this, and if you would like to try this technique, simply do the following:
Think of situations in which you're routinely saddened, frustrated or angry in your current life. Work out what is driving these feelings.
What word conjures up the opposite of the above? If you are living unhealthily and feel depressed and lacking in energy, perhaps you could use the word ‘Clean’ to prompt you to make healthier choices in what you eat and the amount of time you spend exercising.
Write the word down and absorb it mentally so that you remember it as you go about your day. Meditation can help with this, as can journalling and even simply talking to someone - acknowledging the word and telling another person that you intend to make choices based upon this word is an effective way of making it stick in your conscious mind.
Commit to the word - make the word your guiding principle. You make decisions from now on based upon this word, as opposed to based purely on your fleeting emotions and moods.