Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about cognitive distortions and the way they affect mental health. Simply put, cognitive distortions are ways that our brain can trick us into acting or feeling a certain way toward a situation (in fact, I have a whole post on cognitive distortions if you want to learn more!). While I’ve gotten better at recognizing and managing these distortions, one of the ways I learned to cope with cognitive distortions was to be very careful about what I said. But is everything I say really that important?
More than a few times, I’ve asked therapists and mental health professionals this question – does what I say always matter? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying I thought it was useless for me to speak or that no one cares when I do. But when my anxiety worsens, the magnifying glass I put on myself grows bigger. In this case, that magnifying glass rests solely on my word choice and how I talk in every conversation I have.
What I’m really asking is if I should be putting so much emphasis and weight on every single word that comes out of my mouth. And I’ve been told, rather bluntly at times, that the answer is no. When I pressed for why not, I got a pretty honest answer – most of the time, the only person who’s putting that much weight on my words is me.
From what I’ve learned, the biggest reason I put so much weight on my words is that I want them to be ‘good’ words – ones that make sense to people and doesn’t leave them confused. Essentially, I’m putting pressure on myself to make it as easy as possible for someone to understand me. And over time, I’ve learned how exhausting, unrealistic and unsustainable that is in the long run.
What’s the solution? Rationally, I know that not everything I say is important. In fact, the majority of the things we say day-to-day don’t need to have any weight past that moment. We’re taking care of things, getting tasks done and trying to get through the day – it’s not sustainable to be that worried about every single interaction all day long.
I want to learn how I can feel more comfortable speaking a little more freely, and not obsessing over every single word I say. Part of that is managing anxiety in a better way and finding other ways to cope, but another big part of this is easing up on myself and remembering that usually, the person who is thinking the most about what I’m saying isn’t other people, it’s me.
The less I’m in my head, the more I get to be in the world and work on having good conversations by being myself and getting more comfortable with that. Of course this is easier said than done. But hopefully by acknowledging these things, I have a new goal on improving my mental wellness, and that will always be a win for my mental health.