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“Do not speak bad of yourself, for the warrior within you hears your words and is lessened by them.”

Japanese Proverb

Recently, I was asked by my daughter’s Head of School to step back into a teaching role in a middle school classroom for a short stint as a substitute. A teacher left due to Covid-19 concerns, and they required someone to keep the class moving forward while they found a replacement. I have a knack for keeping things consistent, stable and relatively calm, with a bit of fun and randomness mixed in. It didn’t hurt that I have been associated as a teacher and/or parent at the school since 2006 and know the culture well – so I guess I was the right fit.

During my mornings in the classroom, I was struck by the consistency with which students trash-talked themselves—perpetuating a fixed mindset of low self-worth exacerbated by self-deprecation.
“I’m so stupid.”
“I just can’t do it.”
“I am not one of the ‘smart kids.’”
Heartbreaking words that turn into reality if repeated with enough frequency and determination. The experience left me more compelled than ever to share the good work of Move Mountains. In adult clients as well, we hear things like, “I don’t ________.” (Fill in the blank: exercise, listen well, speak clearly, handle conflict well, deal with the unknown well, etc. etc.)

A simple ask to start:

  • Add the word “yet” to any sentence where you find yourself beating yourself up.
  • Stop using the word “can’t” altogether, or change it to “can’t yet.”

Our brain seeks to confirm what we believe. That innate confirmation bias can lead us down the very path we curse on a regular basis. Shifting your perspective helps, but it’s not enough to change the outcome. You must change the way you speak about yourself.

The same is true for how we speak of others.

“Do not speak ill of others, as it will surely come back to you. The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move.”

Koichi Tohei

Think about the tension present in our country. If we all keep saying things like: “I just can’t understand what the other side is thinking,” OR “I can’t engage with anyone who thinks _________,” OR “We can’t resolve our differences and move forward peacefully.” Well, then it will be so for you; you create your own reality with your speech. In this time of division, let’s remember that, “A house divided cannot stand.” And that changing the way we speak about the possibility of a more unified and peaceful future will create micro shifts in our subconscious—bringing us into a reality of a country who can, and who will thrive in liberty and justice for all.