I love words. I was an English major in University, after all. I especially love how we can use words to express ourselves. I have two small kids, and I encourage them to use new words and assert themselves all of the time.
Until, one day, when my kids discovered the cringe-worthy word “stupid.” It became a constant in our house, with my kids making declarations of:
“This is stupid.”
“The food you made is stupid.”
“This looks stupid.”
“That’s so stupid!”
That is the moment I turned the word “stupid” into a swear word and banned it from our house. No kid of mine was going to call themselves stupid! Then I realized something bigger…
I DO IT TO MYSELF ALL THE TIME.
Yah, sure, I use fancier words than ‘stupid’ a lot of the time, and I often do it in more covert ways; but when I thought about why I don’t want my kids saying it, I realized it’s because I use it in negative self-talk all of the time.
How many times have you said “I can’t…” and not finished the thought? You are essentially saying you can’t because you feel incapable and, yes, too stupid to complete the task.
At the beginning of my healthy eating journey, I was looking for a recipe online. I was accustom to recipes with 4-5 ingredients and a couple of spices. Usually, it was a recipe that included meat, cheese, another cheese, butter, canned sauce, and noodles (or some variety of that). So, all of these healthy recipes with tons of vegetables to prep, a tiny bit of sauce and tons of spices seemed quite daunting. “Ten or more ingredients?” I would think, “I’m not a good enough cook to make that!”
Did I just call myself stupid before I started? Yes! In fact, sometimes I would outright think, “I’m too stupid to try that.” Every time I doubted my ability BEFORE giving it an honest try, I was essentially questioning myself and calling myself stupid.
Now that we have banned the word ‘stupid’ from the house (we use ‘silly’ if a substitute word is necessary), our perspectives have changed. My eight-year-old daughter was doing a craft the other day, and said, “I’m not sure I know how to start this.” Isn’t that much better than, “I’m too stupid to do this”? Her sentence asked for help. Her sentence admitted that she felt shy about starting, but was not self-defeating. Her sentence was encouraging.
When we stopped saying the word out loud, I eventually stopped THINKING the word mentally. I was mentally beating myself up, and when that stopped, I immediately felt more optimistic about my abilities. I find I’m consciously stopping myself from thinking the word and purposely replacing it with a more positive one. I rarely think, “I’m so stupid” anymore. I often think, “Stop being so silly” or “Just try.”
My kids seem more self-confident as well. I used to slip and say, “Don’t be so stupid” to my little ones, as I did to myself, and I found it chipped away at their confidence to try new things or branch out to new tasks on their own. Every time I would slip and say that sentence, I would cringe. Now, we say, “Why don’t you try on your own?” or “Don’t be silly, you got this!” This shifts their emotions into “can do” feelings, creates a positive atmosphere in the home, and helps them have faith in themselves.
Even if you don’t have kids, be nice to your inner child and mentally stop calling yourself stupid! It’s a dirty word. Ban it from your life and change those negative thoughts into more positive and encouraging ones.
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