When I was in 7th and 8th grade, my friends had a nickname for me. They called me “Ogre.” 

You read that right. My friends came up with the nickname. They thought it was funny. I was taller than most of the kids. I was a little bigger than many of the girls in that group. One of the more popular girls coined the name one day–I don’t know why she did. But everyone else caught on and it stuck.

I protested at first, smiling and laughing like it was no big deal. But soon I realized that protesting wasn’t going to get me too far, so I just accepted it. I didn’t have the courage (or, in my mind, enough popularity) to fight it. That was my nickname until I left the school. They called me “Og” for short.

If you look at the featured image for this blog, you’ll see a picture of me in eighth grade. I cropped out all my surrounding friends for the sake of privacy, but there was one thing that stood out to me in the original picture: everyone was happily smiling except for me. Unfortunately, this expression is the one that you see for most of my pictures from this time period. And when I look at it, I feel sad. I know what that beautiful, smart, young girl feels like. She thinks she’s an ogre.

I listened to those words so much that they became my own. I let them become my own.

Funny coincidence–it was also around that time that I began considering starving myself. I would try for several weeks at a time in eighth grade, skipping lunch and seeing how it felt. I knew when I got to high school, once I was away from these “friends,” I didn’t want to be called Ogre anymore.

Words have power.

We like to think they don’t, but they do. Or, rather, I should say that their power comes from the things our minds begin to associate with the words, rather than the words themselves. It’s not the words themselves that are powerful, but the power of the follow-up thoughts that we attach to them.

Words often hang there in our minds, and trails of follow-up thoughts begin to attach to those words like magnets. The words trigger a thought process that gets pulled into their assumed (or suspected) meaning…and those thoughts trigger other thoughts, and soon there is a whole line of thoughts dangling from a few simple words.

Thoughts which may or may not actually be the objective truth.

You see, the magnetism between words and thoughts doesn’t discriminate between false thoughts and true thoughts. You’re just more likely to have one or another depending on where the words landed in your mind that day.

Like when a thirteen-year-old hears the word “Ogre.” And instead of saying forget you (which is what I should have said), it attracts a thought process that leads to a whole other line of thoughts. That’s why no boy likes me. I must be much more hideous than I thought. I have to do something so people don’t have to look at this (when I was in the throes of anorexia three years later, that was actually my thought process. I felt horrible that I had to subject people to looking at me, and so I rarely wanted to go out in public if I could help it).

Words have power.

Sometimes the power is a conscious thing–we mull over the words that were spoken, letting the message slowly turn over and over again in our minds until it has consumed a huge chunk of our energy. Other times, it’s a subconscious thing. For example, as someone with a special needs brother, I’ve always been very sensitive to people using the slang phrase, “That’s so retarded.” Why? Because there is power in those words. Even if they aren’t literal. Even if they are a joke. The more people hear that phrase connected with negativity, the more negativity associated with that word and sentiment becomes ingrained into the cultural subconscious. And that magnetic pull of other thoughts, feelings, and associations becomes stronger and stronger.

Words have power.

While you don’t have any control over the words that others use, you do have control over the words you use. Especially about yourself. The words you say. The words you think.

What kinds of words do you use when you talk about yourself?

What words do you respond with when you receive a compliment?

What is the first thing your brain tells yourself in the morning when you look in the mirror?

If you’re a parent and the only thing your child heard about you were the words you use about yourself, what would they think of you?

Bringing light into the shadows of your self-perception requires being brave. We’ve talked about this in this blog before. So I’m going to challenge you to be brave today. It’s time to really think about the language you use, both internally and vocally, when you talk about yourself.

Do not let someone else write your story. Write your own–and choose your words wisely. They are powerful.

When you’re ready, begin to think about the language you use when you talk about yourself. About the words your mind uses when you look in the mirror. About the follow-up thoughts you attach to them. And about how much you indulge certain trails of thoughts, and where those thoughts lead.

I told you we were going to need to be brave. This is tough stuff.

Are the words you use to describe yourself leading you to become your best self? Because if they aren’t, it’s time to replace those words with stronger magnets. The words we use to describe ourselves have power. They can change everything–from a mindset to the entire direction you decide to take your life.

What words will you let have the power?

What is one positive, juicy, joyful word that describes you? Write it in the comments below. It’s time to start embracing your best self, and it starts today.

Be brave.

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