WoW 040: On the language of change [Words of Wisdom]

The color blue didn’t exist for many ancient cultures.

Tan was just brown until it was given a name.

Language gives you a map of your inner world and experiences and having the words to express what you think and feel is a treasure map. Discover your story with meaningful expression, and you’ll get to the gold. Insights come to the degree that we can communicate them.

Expressing yourself helps you know yourself more clearly, and it grows awareness. We often don’t know what we think until we begin to speak and give words to our experience.

Trauma remains unhealed until we dare give words to our pain. You can be sure that not talking about something will stunt your growth. If you haven’t talked about a painful experience, if you’re holding onto a secret, if there is something so excruciating you can’t express it, you will remain mired in the pain until you can dare to describe it. Your brain and body will heal as you can talk about your wounds in an environment of respect.

Talking about yourself and your feelings will also help others connect with you. Quality friendships require self-awareness and sharing your inner world.

If you have a story filled with pitiful language, you have a hopeless existence. But if your words dare to do justice to describing the darkness of pain and evil and all the more give voice to the power of hope and love, you have a meaningful life.

Perhaps we don’t realize how critical our narratives are about ourselves. Or maybe we know all too well how critical we are but can’t simply decide to change our stories.

To discover new words to a different story, you need to be intentional.

So work on your words. Revisit your narratives.

Sit alone in silence, and reflect on your narrative about a situation.

Find others who will listen deeply and with compassion. Talk to someone who asks insightful and curious questions and will sit with you in the silence that allows for new words to come. Maybe it’s time to invest in therapy.

Think of what analogies and metaphors you can use for your experience.

Retell a familiar personal story differently. It’s easy to get in the rut of telling a story about a particular season, situation, or meaningful event in the same way. Try changing how you tell the story, and it will help you change how you think about and relate to your past.

Tell a story differently by making it more uplifting, wholistic, kinder, and believable. To change a narrative, start small, and change the focus from a critical or shame-based to one about a growth process.

Instead of "I can't ______." try, "I'm learning to ______"

Instead of “I can’t dance.” try, “I’m learning to connect with my body and simply enjoy moving to the music.”

Instead of “I can’t find a new job.” try, “I’m learning to perservere in a season of searching.”

Identify irrational thinking and false narratives. Examples are all-or-nothing thinking and having a victim mentality.

Listen carefully to others. Think about what questions you can ask to help them go deeper. In a conversation, think about how you can go at least five levels beneath what is shared initially.

Be insatiably curious about others, and listen to them with love. Listening well to others helps you learn their story and the words they use, which will provide you with the opportunity to reflect on your own story.

Read that challenging book that’s been on your list for years. Reading a difficult book helps you learn new vocabulary, and it requires you to slow down if you are to understand and retain what you are reading.

As I wrote previously in On reading more books:

Don’t let your self-talk limit you. Is telling yourself and others, “I’m not a reader,” helpful? Try a different label, like, “I enjoy a good story.” Or “I love learning!”. Change your narrative, and you can change your behavior.

Pay attention to your language. Listen to the stories you tell. You will find new possibilities as you unveil more generous and nuanced narratives.


“Analogies prove nothing, that is true, but they can make one feel more at home.”

Sigmund Freud

“Everyone has a problem, a desire, and a narrative.”

Seth Godin, This is Marketing

“Moving toward a flexible sense of self and others is about recognizing that any story we tell, good or bad, is not the whole truth about a person, and is only true within a given context. We can identify as a son or daughter, an athlete or an artist. We can tell stories about our childhood dreams, our first kiss, or a book that changed our lives, and while these are all part of our lived experience, they’re not all of who we are. No label or story can fully capture the complexity of a human life.”

Casey Rosengren, How to do Hard Things


How can I tell this in a helpful and uplifting way?

How might I talk to myself about how I’m learning rather than failing?

What is the positive exception, where something went well?

What is yet unspoken?


If you want to dig deeper into working on your own life story, maybe it’s time to invest in therapy. Or you could start with reading this insightful book, To be Told, by Dan Allender, which will help you make sense of your life’s story.

Live wisely,


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A woman thoughtfully holds a glowing orb.
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