The power of words is staggering. For me, they have created worlds, fostered passions and granted me immeasurable strength. Put in the right order, they can elicit every emotion we are capable of feeling. They can tear us down and build us up.
Becoming stronger doesn’t happen overnight, but putting together a solid game plan can give us the perfect foundations to start building. For me, that foundation consisted of several key actions and mindsets, but most essential was the action that transformed by day-to-day life: the use of mantras.
Reciting key phrases every day when I felt myself getting overwhelmed or confronted with conflict removed a lot of anxiety and drama from my life. Better yet, they made me stronger than I have ever been. Want in?
I learned this one on top of a mountain overlooking the city of Cusco, Peru. Taking us on a tour of ancient Incan ruins, we climbed through a lot of caves without headgear or ropes. While our climb wasn’t dangerous, I still felt a little anxious. Sensing my fears, our Peruvian tour guide suggested I approach the climb as the Incans did: with no fear. I emerged atop the ruins empowered, and without a sliver of doubt.
I began applying this mantra to everything that gave me even the smallest concern, which for someone with anxiety was a great deal. Climbing mountains, hang-gliding and eventually, walking away from toxic relationships.
While the fear was always still there, banishing it to the back of my mind gave it less validation. Somehow, fear had been a voice I had allowed to dictate my actions for years, and the words of a stranger convinced me to take away its microphone.
“No fear” became a daily mantra with which I reminded myself that my fears were all in my mind. So long as I applied caution, fear had no place in day-to-day decisions.
People’s attitudes aren’t your problem.
This one is gold. Empathetic people especially worry about what others think of them. Half because they care and half because we worry about absorbing all their emotions, especially if they are negative.
Dealing with people in our lives and jobs means eventually encountering someone who gives us a hard time without due cause. Name-calling, insults and worse, it’s difficult to be on the receiving end of someone’s temper. It’s easy to let these things get under our skin, but this mantra reminded me that someone else’s meltdown often isn’t personal. Most of the time, these people are having a bad day and need to take it out on someone, and they figured us for prime targets.
We have a lot going on in our lives and we have no responsibility to appease or enable aggressors we encounter. Taking on the issues of a stranger even by absorbing their anger isn’t good for us. Accept other people’s tantrums aren’t our problem and we won’t burden ourselves with their ill-managed emotions.
Your feelings are valid.
How many times have people told us to “stop crying”, “you’re overreacting” or “it’s not a big deal” when we’ve expressed our emotions? People say things like this because they don’t want to deal with our emotions, even (and especially) if they caused them. But when we are told these things we feel as though our emotions are unnatural, and as though we shouldn’t feel the way we do. In reality, our feelings are probably completely normal and we repress them to appease others.
“Your feelings are valid” became my mantra when I smashed my last set of rose-tinted glasses. I stopped making excuses for repeat abusers in my life and gave myself permission to embrace my feelings and showcase them when necessary. Most importantly, I stopped letting anyone tell me I shouldn’t just because it inconvenienced them. Before long, I left those toxic people on the other side of the bridge, gasoline spilt and match in hand.
It’s OK to walk away.
When it comes to relationships we are often advised to fix it if it’s broken and that is usually sound advice. A broken relationship with two people willing to fix it is still a promising one. Unfortunately, not all relationships have this potential.
Toxic relationships operate with one person creating chaos and disharmony at the expense of the other person to fulfil their own needs. Whether it’s a compulsion to create drama or the need to feel superior to others, toxic people don’t want to fix their relationships because they feel it wouldn’t be in their best interests.
Walking away isn’t easy for several reasons. We are attached to that person in some way, we might be dependent on them if they’re a parent, and the social stigma of walking away from a relationship are all factors that can keep us in a toxic relationship. Assuming we’ve just given up or not tried hard enough, the rest of the world might judge us for our decision, but that’s where this mantra comes in.
“It’s OK to walk away” is something to remind ourselves of every time we doubt ourselves making this choice, if we do at all. If we find ourselves faced with someone new who displays the same toxic behaviour, we already know the correct course of action to save ourselves the heartbreak.
It’s OK to fail.
This. How is it that we are born into a world where people demand perfection of us, when their lives are also littered with mistakes? Can they really hold every little miscalculation over their heads? Failure is seen as the ultimate dead-end. A black mark on our reputations that serves only to shame us. Who came up with this mad idea and made it mainstream?
Whether we fall down in public or make the career mistake of our lives, we feel embarrassed, worry about what others will think of us and wonder if we are any good at what we do (including walking).
Failure is a sticky, uncomfortable and often humiliating, but it is the greatest opportunity to learn. Some lessons we learn best when we fall. So forget shame, forget judgement and embrace the wisdom we are about to receive.
These mantras haven’t solved all my problems, but they have strengthened my sense of self, help me throw off the shackles of shame and allowed me to flourish in ways formerly thought impossible. Speak them and free yourselves of your burdens.