The Importance of Language

The tendency to see what you expect to see, to project your core beliefs outward, is very powerfully manifest in what you say, in your words. So, if you’re walking around believing, “I am a mess” or “I am a loser,” or “I am unattractive,” then chances are you will also say these things, in one way or another. And the very act of verbalizing this false belief reinforces those fundamental lies about who and what you are. And of course, from there, the tendency is to seek relief in all types of detrimental external behaviors. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the power of language, specifically the power of the “I am.” What you attach your “I am” to is quite powerful. Every time you say (or think), “I am _______ (a drunk, boring, stupid, etc.),” you reinforce a lie about yourself. In my counseling work, when I can help someone move from “I am” to “I have,” there is often a powerful shift.

For example, some years ago my friend Gavin told me that he had been saying “I am depressed” for a long time and had recently come to realize what he was saying. Once he noticed this, he also realized that the more he continued to believe and express the belief, “I am depressed,” the more depressed he felt. But when he shifted to saying, “I have depression” or “I feel depressed,” everything began to change. He was able draw the important distinction between being depressed and having the experience of depression. Saying “I have depression” allowed him to start to see the depression as something nonessential and changeable, rather than as something fundamental to his identity. This opened him up to his essential self, his true self, which wasn’t depressed. This true self was beyond the symptoms of depression.

Gavin’s story had a profound impact on me and dramatically shifted the way I work. I started to work on helping people shift from statements like: “I am an addict,” “I am broken,” “I am damaged in some way,” to “I have these things about myself that want to be healed.” A profound healing realization can happen when we make that shift because, for the first time, we have identified the truth of who and what we are not as brokenness, but as something else, something more positive and powerful.

In other words, when we can finally shine some light on our inner dialogue and witness that these seemingly broken portions of ourselves are not essential, but are changeable, then we can start to open to the possibility that our true self is something much more profoundly beautiful and whole.

My invitation to you today is to take a moment and really ask yourself, “How am I speaking to myself?  What am I attaching my ‘I am’ to?” My hope is that it will be possible to shift that language to something that’s more accurate and that the distinction that this creates will make further room for what you genuinely are: “I am whole and perfect; I am love; I am lovable.” Just imagine what might happen if you were to shift this focus from something that seems broken about yourself into something that supports your wholeness and healing.


TJ Woodward
TJ Woodward
TJ Woodward is a bestselling author, inspirational speaker, and revolutionary recovery expert who has helped countless people through his simple, yet powerful teachings. He was given the honor of being ordained as an Agape minister by Dr. Michael Beckwith and was also the founding minister of Agape Bay Area in Oakland, which was the first satellite community of The Agape International Spiritual Center in LA.  TJ is a featured thought leader on along with Brené BrownMarianne Williamson, Dr. Gabor Maté, and Mark Lundholm. He is also the creator of The Conscious Recovery Method, which is a groundbreaking and effective approach to viewing and treating addiction. TJ is the author of the bestselling books, Conscious Being: Awakening to your True NatureConscious Recovery: A Fresh Perspective on Addiction, and Conscious Creation: 5 Steps to Embracing the Life of Your Dreamsas well as the co-author of their accompanying workbooks.

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  1. We use language every day to do anything: inform, delegate, sell, negotiate, express moods and emotions, persuade. Sigmund Freud argued that language has magical powers and, indeed, when you name something, that something becomes real, it transforms into an image, into a representation within our mind, our imagination. Precisely for this reason it is said that language not only expresses our perceptions, but can also generate or change them, creating, or helping to create, our reality. Language influences our thinking and is therefore a tool for “programming” or “reprogramming” mental processes. Using it unconsciously or casually can create serious difficulties. Sometimes a word or a question asked incorrectly is enough to break a bond, make a deal vanish, generate a problem. Knowing how to use it in a conscious and targeted way represents a great competitive advantage and allows us to obtain what we desire much more easily.