Are you making yourself a victim with these 7 power-robbing phrases?

Wow – another year has flown by. Happy New Year to all!

I wrapped up 2013 talking about how every self-fulfilling prophecy can work for or against you, and about how distorted thinking is a dangerously effective way to sabotage your results.

Now we’re poised at the start of a new year, with all its excitement and possibilities. Since a powerful start to any new venture sets you up for success, it’s time to re-visit an older-than-dirt claim you’ve heard a zillion times before: Your self-talk dramatically impacts your results.  If you accept that as true, then the question becomes, What exactly are you doing to up-level your self-talk and improve your results?

Here’s a very powerful strategy you can begin implementing immediately:  Eliminate victim language from your vocabulary and replace it with a language of personal power.  Here are seven common, power-robbing phrases to be wary of.

Successful entrepreneurs claim their personal power.

  1. I can’t.  Even successful entrepreneurs often fall prey to using this phrase to get out of doing something they’d rather not do.  (“I can’t help you with that committee work.”) The problem is the sub-text: Something external to you is determining your behavior, and you’re too weak to challenge that external factor.
  2. I have to.  Once again, you’re giving up your own power to chart your course, allowing societal pressures or other people’s expectations to force you into a particular behavior.
  3. I should.  Women, in particular, can be very good at should-ing on themselves.  Stop it!  It’s just another way of allowing yourself to be at the mercy of someone else’s ideas about what’s appropriate.
  4. I’ll try.  When you say this, all too often you’re simply excusing failure in advance.  How many times has someone said to you, “I’ll try to make it to your event” and then actually showed up?  Not many, I’ll bet.
  5. I wish/I hope.  By using either of these phrases, you’re essentially saying that the only way you’ll get the results you want is if something magical happens to create them, because surely you won’t be able to do it for yourself.  Yuck.
  6. If only.  This victimizing phrase keeps you stuck in the past, regretting circumstances and things you did/didn’t do.  There’s probably not a person alive who hasn’t thought this from time to time.  However, this phrase is rare among successful entrepreneurs.
  7. But.  A small but mighty energy-sucking word.  It negates, it makes excuses, it causes the people you’re addressing to dig in their heels and defend their positions.

So there you have the troublemakers.  While it’s essential to know what you want to change to get better results, it’s equally essential to know how to change.  So in case you haven’t already been thinking of ways to eliminate the victim language listed above, here are some powerful alternatives to move you from victim to victor.

  1. I can’t becomes I won’t.  Having said this, I freely admit that using this phrase will typically come across as overly harsh. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to exercise your right of refusal in a socially acceptable fashion. Simply say, “I’m going to decline/say no” or “I’m sorry; that doesn’t work for me right now.” Note: You get bonus points by being powerful enough to not justify your decision!
  2. I have to becomes I will/won’t or I get toFeel the emotional difference between the victim phrase and the power phrases. You’re making a choice to do what’s right for you at this moment.
  3. I should becomes I could.  Once again, this alternate puts the power of choice squarely where it belongs: in your hands.
  4. I’ll try becomes I will and I won’t.  When you embrace your personal power, you’re willing and able to set boundaries about what you will and won’t do. Conversely, setting and adhering to boundaries increases your personal power. Ultimately, there’s everything to be gained by following Yoda’s advice: “Do or do not. There is no ‘try’.”
  5. I wish/I hope becomes I’m excited about and I’m looking forward to.  These phrases are ripe with what’s called self-efficacy: the knowledge that you personally are capable of making things happen.
  6. If only becomes Next time I will.  This phrase automatically shifts you to a future-oriented, problem-solving focus. Rather than use a seemingly negative past event to beat up on yourself, you use it to plan for better results down the road.
  7. But becomes and.Substituting this little word for the previous one enables you to come across – to yourself and others – as strong, clear, and open-minded.


Not convinced?  Then here’s a challenge for you:  Change your language from victim to victor for just one week.  Notice how it makes a difference in your speech, your self-confidence, and your results.

If you’re already paying close attention to whether your words are empowering or not, woohoo for you!  What language are you using to tap into your personal power – without trampling on other people in the process?  What language traps have you learned to avoid?  Let the rest of us know what’s working!

By the way, thanks to Celestine Chua for posting her “behind bars” image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.

This entry was posted in choice, courage, mindset, personal power, successful women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Are you making yourself a victim with these 7 power-robbing phrases?

  1. Pingback: How to take back your power | Stepping Into Big

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