What Your Words Say About You

We all have habits. Some of them even extend to our vocabulary. 

Most people have an “active” vocabulary of about 20,000 words, with a larger, “passive” database of about 40,000 words. But according to the Reading Teachers’ Book of Lists, the first 1,000 words of our active vocabulary are used in 89% of everyday writing! 

I call these go-to words your Top 1,000. 

They're your comfort zone, your security blanket. They're the words and phrases that fit you like a glove, the ones that you blurt out ahead of conscious thought. They are just a small part of your vocabulary, but they reveal a lot about who you are, and how you think.

When we begin to take steps toward living more consciously, we  are often advised to look at those things which are habitual: our thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. These conditioned responses mirror our deepest beliefs, and can show us where we need to grow in order to be happier and more fulfilled.

Our word choices are dictated by our thoughts, both conscious and subconscious, and therefore provide a window into our inner processes. When examined with an eye toward self-understanding, they can be incredibly revealing.

Obviously, many of your Top 1,000 words are utilitarian. Words like he, she, it, they, them, have, do, be, etc. are going to show up all the time in your writing, because they're necessary parts of everyday speech. However, other words carry greater energy, even if they feel benign; these are the words to look at. When you do, you might find that every time you write in a habitual way, you're subtly contradicting the energies you want to cultivate in your life. 

The word "just" is a perfect example. It seems innocuous enough, and most of us can probably count it as one of our Top 1,000. However, the energy behind its habitual use is worth examining. "I was just checking to see if you had time to finish that project." "I'm just not sure that this is right for me."  "Excuse me, I just need to ... " When we don't want to offend, or are trying to appear less assertive, just comes to our rescue. 

If you're cultivating better boundaries in your life, or practicing standing up for yourself, remove just from your vocabulary for a week. Why continue to use a word that weakens what you're saying? Instead, simply state your meaning. "I am checking to see if you've had time to finish." "I'm not sure this is right for me." See the difference? (Although that last example could benefit from the removal of the clause, "I'm not sure," too!) 

There are literally dozens of words like just which crop up in our daily communications - but until we actually think about how and when we use them, they fly under our radar. 

One of the best places to find your Top 1,000 is in your journal. This unscripted, stream-of-consciousness writing will always feature the words that live "at the tip of your tongue." Plus, since we tend to be more honest in our journals than anywhere else, your deepest feelings will likely be expressed through your daily word choices. Scan the pages and see what jumps out at you. What do these words tell you about your subconscious thought processes? And, more importantly, do they reflect the energy you want to create in your life? 

Changing out habitual words and phrases is a process, just like any other self-growth practice. The most important thing is to become aware of what you say, and how you say it. How do you really want to tell the story of your life? What are you actually focused on? What energy do you want others to take away from your words? Once you have that awareness, you can choose how best to apply your personal development tools and shift what no longer serves you. 

Once you've identified the words and phrases that you want to re-program, begin to integrate them into your daily vocabulary. Whenever you catch yourself using a low-energy word (like just), stop yourself, and either remove it or replace it with something that better suits your desired vibrational level. For example, you might replace struggle with challengeask with invite, or failure with lesson. 

"Happiness," Gandhi said, "is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." Working with your habitual words in a conscious, deliberate way can help bring you closer to that state of alignment. 

Until next time, happy writing!

Bryna Rene Haynes is the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. In over a decade as a writer, editor, ghostwriter, designer, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband and their little Moonbeam, Áine.