I currently work at a high school in Manhattan as a Career Advisor and these past couple of months have been eye opening. I have learned through managing a Young Woman's Leadership Group at the school that students need more than academics to truly tap into their full potential. Students need a better understanding of self, high self-esteem, words of encouragement, positive role models and so much more. The reality is that many of the students I work with lack those things and often live their lives feeling unsatisfied.
It is no surprise that words hold power. Unfortunately, many of the students that are a part of the leadership group, have not been endeared with uplifting words. In fact many of the words that they have heard has caused brokenness, pain, depression, confusion, loneliness and much more.
It was during our weekly meeting when something ached in my heart while we were discussing self-esteem. The young ladies poured out their experiences with bullying, pain, the feelings associated with being different, not feeling beautiful and the list can go on and on. At that moment, I wished I could erase their years filled with pain and replace it with hope and positive vibes but unfortunately, I cannot change the hands of time nor their experiences.
Discussing self-esteem with the young ladies reminded me why words really do matter and the impact that it can have. Words can either be our ladder going up or our barrier.
When one is fed with uplifting words, they have the confidence needed to live their best life. They may not literally be the best at what they do but because they believe that they are, they are more than likely to work towards certain tasks or take on certain roles. They refuse to allow the sky to be their limit. Therefore they are constantly creating goals, dreaming big and most importantly working hard.
However, being fed with negative words can cause hindrances and fear. It is like being trapped in a dark room with no way out. Since you cannot see anything ahead, you refuse to take the steps needed because you are afraid of walking into a wall or stepping upon a painful item. Sadly to say, many of the students that I work with are stuck in "dark rooms" and have great difficulty imagining themselves in college, with a great career, a happy and healthy lifestyle and more. They may not eradicate hope entirely but they may not always push themselves (professionally or educationally) or seek out certain opportunities.
So how do we fix this cycle of living a limited life?
Normalize therapy and be a giver of healing, loving and hopeful words.
Make therapy normal
I truly do believe that everyone needs a form of therapy, myself included! Therapy is a great way to resolve complicated behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues or our physical responses from our bodies. Furthermore, therapy is a great way to get to the root of the matter and we can all agree to say that we cannot change what we do not first understand. Therapists can provide their clients with a sense of self awareness and expose unconscious motivations that can reveal specific patterns. Therapy is a continuous approach that takes time but we must first normalize it within our communities and make it seen as an okay approach. We must not be afraid or ashamed to mention the word therapy in our sentences or discuss the TRUE BENEFITS from it.
Provide healing, love and hope verbally
"If you have nothing nice to say then do not say anything at all" is a classic saying that still holds so much relevance to this day. Many people may say that words do not hurt them but in reality it can. Being told something hurtful may not cause you to literally cry but it can impact how you live your life. Sub-consciously, the decisions you make or how you act is based off of what you have been told. If you have ever worked with young adults, you may see this often. That young adult who has so much potential may refuse to take on certain opportunities that life offers. Often they may not see that same potential within themselves due to years of being told that they will not amount to anything, being called dumb or not even being told that they have made a loved one proud. That is why it is crucial to speak words of encouragement to others. Do not limit that good deed to only your friends and family members. Spread that love to strangers, your clients, your students, your team, your colleague, your supervisor; to everyone. The words that you say can be someone's last hope, someone's motivation, a seed filled with a breakthrough planted in them and so much more.
When you allow your words and guidance to help guide another person's life towards a positive path, you provide strength, dreams, hope and goal making to occur. Furthermore, not only does it strengthen them, it strengthens you too in the process. So roll up your sleeves and go out to speak positive words in someone's life today.
Please check out this informative article from the The New York Times, "Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall" By Alina Tugend. This article explores the impact of words as it relates to positive and negative information and experiences. Click HERE to read the article now.