It is amazing how the words a person speaks can become their reality. It begins with a thought tossed around in the head and the more weight it is given, the more power it has. Think something often enough and eventually it comes out of the mouth. At first it is a dismissive statement but without counteraction, it is spoken more frequently. Once stated, the words carry a self-fulfilling prophesy which becomes an unintentional promise determined to become truth.
In counseling, it is essential that these statements be brought to awareness in order to bring about deep healing. In a comfortable environment where a person is allowed to speak without interruption, these unintentional promises slip naturally out of the mouth. More significantly, if a parent, spouse, or friend catches one of these remarks, they have a unique opportunity to set the record straight. Speaking truth to a person who feels inadequate can be instantly restorative.
What are these sayings? Here are ten typical statements which reveal feelings of inadequacy:
- “I’m not good enough.”
- “I can’t do anything right.”
- “I should have done…”
- “Why am I so stupid, illogical, or emotional?”
- “I have any talents.”
- “I don’t do enough.”
- “Others are better than me at everything.”
- “I am hopeless, helpless, or useless.”
- “I ought to have the willpower to…”
- “I have no real purpose.”
What is really behind these statements? Behind feelings of inadequacy is fear. There are three primary types of fear resulting in feelings of inadequacy: fear of failure (ruin, disappointment, and losing control), rejection (intimacy, being hurt, and embarrassment), and abandonment (loneliness, change and death). Looking at one of the statements, “I can’t do anything right,” several fears could be attached. Fear of disappointing others, being embarrassed, and loneliness for not performing as expected are all possible underlying fears. Each statement listed above carries with it deep insecurities that need to be addressed individually.
How can they be counteracted? A common mistake parents make when hearing their child say one of these statements is to immediately dismiss it and say, “That’s not true.” This often leaves the child feeling isolated because their parents don’t understand their point of view. Instead, come along side and ask more questions such as, “Where did you hear that,” “Did something happen that caused you to think this,” or “Have I contributed to you feeling this way.” Next, and this is the most important step, the parent should share a time when they felt the same way in as few sentences as possible. Then, the child will be able to hear the truth.
How can a person be healed? There are several steps to healing: identifying the dysfunctional statement, discovering the underlying fears, counteracting with the truth, and having the courage to keep trying. Fears feel like security blankets because they seem to protect from harm but in reality they are ropes tied up in bondage keeping a person from living a full life. It takes a great deal of courage to confront a long held belief, neutralize it with the truth, and move forward to the next unintentional promise. This is very time consuming in the beginning but will save years of frustration and stagnation in the end.
Christine Hammond is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.