I was in the 5th grade when my former 4th grade teacher sat me down at her desk and explained to her class that I was in charge while she took care of business in the office. I was not a full year older. There were 28 of them and only one of me. I felt empowered. The teacher had seen leadership skills in me and gave me the authority to act on them. (In case you are wondering, not a student was stirring — everything stayed orderly.)

Think about the first time you felt empowered. I’m guessing someone put you in charge of something or gave you a special assignment or award. They likely used words to acknowledge something within you. Language is a common tool we use to empower each other and ourselves.

50,000 times a day we talk to ourselves, according to the researchers. Sadly, 80% of it is negative — I shouldn’t have said that . . . She doesn’t like me . . . I’m never going to get this done . . . I can’t . . . I’m not . . . I’ll never . . . I’m always . . . 40,000 times a day we disempower ourselves.

Here are three steps we can take to stop our own disempowering language.

  1. Stop Believing Everything We Hear

Clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel Amen says, “Don’t believe everything you hear—even in your own mind.” Most of the negative thought in our brains is not based on truth but instead our imagination. In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield suggests that we constantly ask ourselves these questions:

Is this thought helping or hurting me? Is it getting me closer to where I want to go or taking me further away?  Is it motivating me to action or is it blocking me with fear and self-doubt?

2) Talk Back

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, tells a story about her daughter. Ellen was playing in the “Glitter Center” in her kindergarten classroom when her teacher said, “Ellen! You’re a mess.” Ellen very seriously responded, “I may be making a mess, but I’m not a mess.” 40,000 times a day, talk back! Object to the language you hear in your head. You are not a mess!

3) Pick a Few Words to Change

Do you hear yourself say ‘I can’t’ multiple times a day? ‘I can’t’ implies you have no control over your life. However, using the phrase ‘I won’t’ puts it in the realm of your own choice. “I won’t be doing that today because it’s best for me to . . .”  ‘I should’ implies the choice has been made for us. Why not say, “I could, but I’ve chosen to . . .” Strike ‘I can’t’ and ‘I should’ from your vocabulary because when you say it, your subconscious really believes you.

Whatever phrase you hear repeatedly in your mind that is not empowering you to move forward, start replacing it with more powerful language.

Empowerment starts with language. If the language in our heads is disempowering us 80% of the time, it’s definitely the place to start making changes. J.K. Rowlings said, “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”