Your Language is Offensive: 6 Ways Your Self-Talk Is Holding You Back

At some point, someone has said something vague or confusing to you, or gave you such a specific task to accomplish that you were offended. It felt condescending that they would give you such a menial assignment.

At some point, someone has said something to you that made you think to yourself, “I’m going to go out of my way to not help him/her.”

And at many points in your life, it’s likely that someone else’s language has hindered your ability to understand or solve a problem. Chances are even higher that it’s not always somebody else doing it to you, either. 

In fact, you probably use ineffective language towards yourself all the time.

The way we speak to ourselves causes stress and anxiety, decreases our intrinsic motivation, and can prevent us from taking action. Often we don’t notice the destruction we are causing until it’s too late. If you have routinely struggled with achieving the same goal for years, it’s a good idea to put your language under the microscope.

Your Language Is Offensive: 6 Ways Your Self-Talk Is Holding You Back

Your Language Is Offensive: 6 Ways Your Self-Talk Is Holding You Back

As with solving any problem, awareness is the first step towards improvement. You cannot fix something you are unaware of. Take time this week to assess how you speak to yourself in certains situations. Think critically about the areas of your life where you struggle the most. See if you can tease out some information.

Left unchecked, these language patterns can influence you in the opposite direction of your goals.

Each language pattern below below offers an example and a simple solution that will help you start understanding and fixing a faulty language pattern right now.

Here are six ways you speak to yourself that may be holding you back from achieving your goals:

1. You are too vague


“I’m going to start working out and eating well again so that I lose 50lbs.”

You don’t clearly define the approach you’ll take, and it leaves you feeling overwhelmed. There is a lack of clarity on your desired outcome or the process you’ll use to achieve your goals.

Solution: Chunk down your efforts into manageable tasks, and communicate those daily or weekly tasks to yourself accordingly. Avoid thinking about the end result that is three, six or twelve months away. What’s important to know and achieve today?

2. You are too specific

“I will wake up at 4:30am every day for the next three months and have completed my routine by 5:30am sharp.”

You corner yourself (in your mind) to only one choice, yet you’ve proven that this path doesn’t work for you in the past. As the sayings go, you can’t run east searching for a sunset, and insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.


The strategy you select to achieve your goals matters. You may need to branch out from what you’re comfortable with if you’ve cornered yourself into only using one strategy that hasn’t worked before.

Solution: Loosen the reins on your strategy a little bit. Your strategy probably works, but if the parameters are too confined, it might diminish how effective it will be. What ‘requirement’ could you soften up on that wouldn’t matter much?

3. You presuppose

“Because no one is ever productive in the morning, I can’t get to the gym until after work.”

You assume something is a certain way, and it inhibits your ability to make the right choice surrounding your goals. In this example, presupposing could be a problem if your schedule or other commitments are tight to begin with.

By deciding that no one in the history of the universe has ever worked out or grinded in another capacity before 7am, you give yourself less options for getting done the tasks that matter most.

Solution: Challenge the relationships you’ve created in your mind. Does A have to take place for B to work, or is this a limiting (and inaccurate) belief? How do you know?

Your Language Is Holding You Back - Beware of Limiting Beliefs

4. You omit important information

I’m fearful.

You say something general, but omit the part of the statement that will help you solve the problem.

What are you fearful about? What hesitations do you have? By deleting the most important part of the sentence, you give power to some unknown entity. Achieving your goals is nearly impossible when you give away your control.

Solution: Think critically. What specifically are you fearful of? Keep that answer in your head, and problem-solve accordingly.

5. You nominalize

“I really want more success in my life.”

Turning a verb into a noun, you make blanket statements that leave you feeling trapped or confused.

Think about it — how exactly does one go out and obtain more success? If “success” matters to you so much, how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Being unable to answer that question is stressful, and often will lead to feelings of failure.

Solution: Reverse it. Turn the noun back into a verb. What do you want to succeed in? What would you like to be challenged by?

6. You “should” yourself

“I need to do this for 30 days straight. If I don’t, I’ll feel like a failure.”

You use words and phrases like “must,” “should,” “have to,” and “need.” All of these feed a dictatorial style of finding motivation, which isn’t sustainable. Think back to the teacher or coach you had that forced you to do things as a kid. How often did you go out of your way to do more than expected?

Probably never. That’s what happens when you “should” yourself, too. Among the many reasons this isn’t an effective way of speaking to yourself, it’s stressful. You are not empowered and your subconscious mind feels like it has no choice.

Solution: Use language that empowers you. Say things like “I choose to work late at night because working for myself is a goal of mine.”

Remember that you always have a choice and can change anything you want if you make the choice to do so.

Power yourself with your words

On the path to achieving your goals, you will talk to yourself more than anyone else. As you grow, you will find that the conversations you have with yourself change about as frequently as you put in the work.

If you find yourself overwhelmed or stuck, you may want to take a look at the language you are using to speak to yourself. It is on you to form a relationship with the higher version of yourself that will last and contribute to you achieving your goals.

Effective language will be a combination of clarity, drive, and empowerment to make your own choices. Heed this advice and you will be able to rise above the challenges you inevitably face on the path to your goals.

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