The Power of Language January 18, 2014
My friends and family who know me well know that a huge area of interest of mine is language. I find learning and studying the intricacies of different languages to be incredibly thrilling. Yep…linguistics nerd here.
Language is the tool we use to interact with the world. We think, speak, listen, read, sing, learn, etc. thanks to our language. Though we use language practically all day every day, I think we sometimes forget just how powerful it is at its core. Think about it: each word has a certain connotation or implication and can often change the meaning or tone of a statement dramatically. My primary interest in linguistics is HOW language is used, and more specifically how the function of certain words/expressions changes from one language to another. Super cool field…look into it if you have a chance. 🙂
In any case, I have not always been cautious with my diction when talking about my eating disorder. For so long I have told people when asked, “Yes, I have had an eating disorder since I was 11.” Even more disturbingly, I would sometimes respond, “Yes, I’ve been anorectic/anorexic since I was 11.” Looking back on those conversations (I have MANY more examples), I cannot help but feel a little frustrated with myself. Not in a blaming manner. I simply grow frustrated that I, unknowingly at the time, made it so much harder for myself to separate my identity from my disorder and to pursue recovery. When I say that I have anorexia or that I am anorexic, it suggests that my eating disorder is something I own and something that is part of me. Part of who I am. And it’s not! I much prefer to say that I have struggled with an eating disorder or that I have dealt with an eating disorder. Using this verb choice allows me to introduce a sense of space between my disorder and myself. It suggests that my eating disorder is simply something that has served as an obstacle for me, not as my identity.
Language is huge! What I feel, what I am, what I face, what I have, what I think can all be remarkably different things. And the words we choose to express ourselves inevitably affect our thought patterns as well. After all, thoughts are composed of words!
Owning language…owning the words we use to interact with the world…can be empowering and liberating. It give us the power to define ourselves rather than be defined by our expressions and word choices. As such, I truly believe that being aware of the words we use (particularly when speaking about eating disorders, body image, self-esteem, etc.) and changing those words accordingly is often the first step in changing our minds and the way we think.
Today, I encourage you to consider the language you use. Is it defining you? What changes could you make to define yourself instead of being defined by your use of language. If you journal, perhaps you could take a look back at old entries and examine the language you used. Remember, our words can become our thoughts…choose them wisely!
Take care, and keep fighting.