Words Matter: Rewriting the Narrative with Teens

f you were to Google what the impact that our words has on our psyche, a number of inspiring quotes about self-talk show up:

  • "What you think about, you become" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • "You can't control everything, but you can control your positive attitude towards life" - Brian Tracy

  • "If you can control your negative thinking, you can control everything else in your life" - Mel Robbins

But one of my favorite sentiments goes something like this:

Let's face it: we're all guilty of negative self-talk. Whether it's telling yourself you suck at something, beating yourself up for forgetting something, or convincing yourself that you're not worthy of love, respect, or validation... we've all fallen victim to struggle, and somehow turned that struggle into self detrimental words.

Which - as Mahatma Gandhi states - we need to be super careful about.

"Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character".

So.... what do we do? How can we solve this phenomena? Beyond simply saying "words matter": what are some actionable steps we can take to reconfigure our thoughts, words, action, habits, character and ultimately the direction of our lives? First: let's take a step back and set the scene a little bit.

The Effect of Language on Our Thoughts and Relationships

Our language has a huge influence on our thoughts, shaping the very core of how we perceive the world and interact with it. Our thoughts and language go hand in hand, like two peas in a pod. The words we choose to express ourselves not only reflect our thinking patterns but also have the power to shape and mold them. Think about it: different languages offer unique vocabularies and grammatical structures, giving rise to diverse ways of conceptualizing the world. Some languages have a treasure trove of words to describe specific emotions or concepts, allowing for a rich and nuanced understanding. On the flip side, languages lacking certain terms may limit our ability to fully express and grasp certain ideas. It's a wild dance between language and thought, and it's happening right under our noses.

But language isn't just a solo act; it's a vital ingredient in the recipe for successful relationships. Effective communication is the key to forging and nurturing connections with others. Language becomes our trusty sidekick, enabling us to express our thoughts, emotions, and intentions. Every word we choose, the tone we adopt, and how we weave our sentences has a profound impact on how our messages are received and understood. Those sneaky misunderstandings and conflicts? Often a result of the slippery slopes of linguistic nuances. You see, language carries with it cultural, social, and historical connotations, shaping our interpretation of what is said.

But language also serves as a powerful vehicle for sharing stories, expressing love, and passing on cultural wisdom. When we speak a shared language, we build bridges of connection, fostering a sense of belonging and forging unbreakable bonds. And guess what? Language has the extraordinary power to bridge cultural divides, creating empathy, understanding, and collaboration among people from different linguistic backgrounds. It's a beautiful symphony of words, my friends, and we're all part of this linguistic masterpiece!

... especially if we use that vocabulary, and language that we use to express ourselves wisely in the songs we write.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

How Do We Reframe Thoughts Using More Empowering Language?

Okay, so we know that our words have tremendous power, not only in how we communicate with others but also in how we communicate with ourselves. By consciously choosing more empowering language, we can reshape our thoughts and enhance our mindset.

Reframing our thoughts starts with being aware of the language we use to describe ourselves, our experiences, and our challenges. Instead of dwelling on self-defeating phrases like "I can't" or "I'm not good enough," we can embrace empowering language that fosters self-belief and resilience. By shifting our internal dialogue to phrases like "I am capable" or "I am learning and growing," we begin to dismantle limiting beliefs and open ourselves up to new possibilities. Empowering language helps us reframe setbacks as opportunities for growth, encouraging a positive and solution-oriented mindset.

Moreover, empowering language extends beyond our individual thoughts and impacts our interactions with others. By choosing words that uplift, encourage, and inspire, we can foster healthier and more supportive relationships. When faced with conflicts or challenges, we can use language that promotes understanding, empathy, and collaboration. By reframing negative assumptions or judgments into open-minded questions or statements, we create a space for constructive dialogue and deeper connection. Empowering language has the power to transform our inner world and ripple out into our relationships, creating a more positive and enriching environment for all involved.

So... What's This Got to do with Songwriting?

As we all know: music has a unique way of sticking in our heads. I discussed it a little bit in my TEDx Talk in February of 2022: music stimulates a part of our brain that enables us to retain and recall information more easily than we otherwise might.

When we partner music and melody with positive affirmations, therefore, we are more easily able to not just retain and recall information, but hold on to life lessons, affirmations and positive thoughts as well.

Which is why songwriting can be so powerful - especially for teenagers who struggle with those same self-defeating phrases like "I can't" or "I'm not good enough." To be able to transform those concepts into phrases like “So, don't you worry your pretty little mind. People throw rocks at things that shine.” — a la Taylor Swift from her song “Ours” or "I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.” - a la Keala Settle from The Greatest Showman theme song "This is Me"... it's impactful, powerful and serves us far more powerfully and positively than simply stating an existing state of negativity.

It's So Easy to Say One Thing... but Mean So Much More...

One thing I often tell my Empowerment through Songwriting clients is that you can't beat an enemy you refuse to face. If you're feeling depressed, angry, stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious: we need to acknowledge it in order to move through, and overcome those feelings.

But it's not enough to say "I'm depressed" - after all, words matter, right? So it's important to give our young people, in particular, permission to lean into those negative feelings, and take the time to understand them before then communicating about them... and ultimately cognitively reframing them into empowering lyrics. "I'm depressed" can mean multiple things:

  1. When someone says "I'm depressed," they could be indicating that they are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, which is a mental health condition. This type of depression typically involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities.

  2. They could be expressing a temporary state of sadness or emotional distress: Sometimes, individuals use the term "depressed" to describe a temporary state of feeling down or overwhelmed. It might be a reaction to a specific situation, such as a breakup, loss, or a challenging life event. In these cases, the person may not meet the criteria for clinical depression but may still be experiencing significant emotional distress.

  3. Another interpretation of someone saying "I'm depressed" could be that they're referring to a general feeling of being down, having low energy, or lacking motivation. It might be a more colloquial use of the term, indicating that they are feeling downhearted, uninspired, or emotionally drained.

Now, before I carry on, I need to first mention that in the first example here: it's going to take more than simply writing a song of affirmation and positivity to help them rewire their brain chemistry. Your teen may need more intentional coaching, mentoring, and support - even clinical therapy or medication. But for the purposes of this blog, the first step we need to empower them with is the ability to use their words. Because: words matter. And if your teen is depressed, they need to be able to find the vocabulary to identify, explain, describe and express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas that are accompanying that status.

It's only through letting themselves feel, identify, understand and express those thoughts and feelings that you are starting to enable them the opportunity to cognitively reframe those that disempowering state of being into more empowering, inspiring and even more respectful language.

Words Matter - Both Your Teens Expression, and The Way You Respond.

Here's a Quick Recap:

The thoughts we tell ourselves really shape how we experience our day to day life, because they ultimately turn into our words, actions, habits, and behaviors.

Songwriting can help us reframe those thoughts into more empowering words that can then transform our actions, habits, behaviors and - ultimately - our life into something far more positive.

With the right coaching and support, the songs we write and sing as a result of our ability to rewrite the trajectory of our thoughts can greatly impact the success of our lives, as we learn to reflect on our struggles with more compassion, turn them into songs of success, hope, resilience and learning, and use those songs as affirmations throughout the rest of our lives.

Allowing ourselves to lean into the "ugly" or uncomfortable feelings and thoughts can helps us navigate our negative spaces more effectively, as we learn to turn those struggles into songs.

Those songs can continue to serve us throughout our entire lives - and, because it's music, those lessons tend to stick with us far more easily than typical affirmations or clinical therapy approaches.

As long as we continue to remember that: words matter. What we say matters. What we sing to ourselves matters. What we repeat matters.

It's my honor to be able to work with people like you, or your teenager, to help ensure that the words you choose to use are words that contribute positively to your mental, emotional, and neurological health and wellness.

If you're interested in learning more about this, click here to book a free breakthrough call, and let's learn more about what words you can use to start rewriting your narrative towards a future that is happy, healthy, and empowered.

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