Words Matter More Than You Think

Words matter more than you think

By Lisa Earle McLeod

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Whoever said that probably never had a parent call them stupid.

They probably also never knew the pain of having their boss publicly denounce them as a “no-talent moron,” or their spouse icily proclaim, “I never loved you at all.”

As a writer and speaker, I’ve long appreciated the value of words.

Words can make someone weep, laugh or plunk down their hard-earned money to buy a product they don’t need because they’re completely convinced they can no longer live without it.

Wordsmiths spend a lot of time and effort trying to capture just the right phrase.

But sometimes, even the professionals don’t put much thought into what comes out of our mouths each day.

My husband says the sheer quantity of words I constantly yammer in his ears lessens the power of each one.

Of course, this is the same man who had to be reminded by a marriage counselor that if he didn’t say what was on his mind, no one would ever know.

Words matter, and they matter a lot.

The words in the Declaration of Independence inspired a country and Martin Luther King Jr.’s words ignited a movement. And when my grandmother said, “Let’s make Barbie a judge’s robe,” she changed my definition of women’s careers forever.

Unfortunately, some people’s words aren’t always so positive.

Sometimes their negative words are so powerful that we hear them long after their mouths have closed. I’ve known adults who spent 20 years hating their body just because their father once called them “Chubbo.”

How many times have you agonized over a rude remark, turning it over and over in your head? The other person might say it only once, but the words live on your mind forever.

The words we say to ourselves usually affect us more than anything happening outside our bodies.

It doesn’t matter if we came up with them ourselves, or if we’ve internalized something from someone else. Our inner dialogue forms the soundtrack of our lives, and if it’s negative, it’s often hard to erase.

But you can’t just quit thinking one thing without replacing it with something else. You have to substitute negative words with positive ones.

As a woman who grew up with the family mantra, “Suck it up and quit crying,” I’ve tried to create a more rah-rah motto for my own kids. Every time something goes wrong or they’re facing a challenge, I chant, “Remember, we’re the McLeods, we can do anything.”

All right, I know it’s hokey. My middle-schooler rolls her eyes when I say it. But I’m hoping that if I repeat it often enough it will sink in better than my other oft-uttered phrase, “Not now, honey, Mommy’s on the phone.”

If you don’t have an overzealous mom to create a personal chant for you, there are a few cool products that can help you out.

One of my favorites is Spirituali-T shirts. At first glance it’s a cute T-shirt with a cool design on the front. But when you look down at the pattern, a word reveals itself.

According to the Web site,, the words — believe, love, peace, patience, faith and breathe — “guide you to look within and tap into your infinite source of inner strength.” I am truly amazed at how the power of reading the word “breathe” on my shirt can get me through not only step aerobics, but also meetings staffed with idiots.

If T-shirts aren’t your style, you can literally wrap yourself in positive words imprinted on cozy fleece blankets from I’m convinced that if I go to sleep underneath a purple blanket featuring an affirmation on abundance, I’ll wake up with more money.

The words you let into your brain affect everything else you do.

Sticks and stones may crack a few bones, but the wrong words in head can your break your spirit forever.

Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Earle McLeod. All Rights reserved.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You’ve Already Got and the YOU You Already Are.” She has been seen on “Good Morning America” and featured in Lifetime, Glamour and The New York Times. Contact her at

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