We Are What We Tell Ourselves

We Are What We Tell Ourselves
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There’s something we need to address, right here, right now. Not all of you will like it or agree with what I’m about to say, and that’s OK. I need to get this off my chest, so here it goes. 

I hear so many people with chronic illnesses say, “I suffer from …” when talking about their health condition, and this is a problem. When interviewing people with chronic illnesses on my podcast, I often educate guests on why they shouldn’t tell themselves they’re “suffering.”

When you say “I suffer with,” it echoes to your brain that you’re suffering, rather than calling out your condition with, “I have …” Suffering is a bad word because it reiterates to your brain “I’m suffering,” “I’m sick,” and “I can’t do this.” 

If you want to be successful in life, get that job promotion, or spend time with the people you care about, then self-talk is one of the keys. Your brain has more of an effect than you may think. Our self-talk, or the language that we use in our minds to describe ourselves, has a tremendous impact on our overall well-being. It’s challenging to get out of the habit of using certain words, but as you change your language, you’ll notice a difference. 

If you tell yourself you’re suffering, you’ll suffer more. 

Tell yourself you’re in pain, and you’ll feel more pain. 

Tell yourself you can’t do it, and guess what? You won’t do it! 

That simple change from “suffering with” to “I have this condition” is life-changing. 

And it doesn’t stop with how you describe your condition, either. How many of us say, “I am so exhausted today,” “I am in so much pain,” or “I am so depressed, I can’t do anything.” You are what you tell yourself. 

Try stating you “acknowledge” the feeling instead.

“I acknowledge feelings of fatigue and will alter my day to accommodate.” 

“I acknowledge the pain, I will adapt my day around it, and I will not let it stop me today.”

“I acknowledge feeling low today, so I will do self-care activities that help me to feel better.”

Positive self-language can be a learned skill, and the bad habit of negative self-talk can start at a young age. Growing up, I was ridiculously anxious. I would worry about everything because I would tell myself things like:

I wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t pretty enough.

I can’t do this.

And that is a hard habit to break. We wouldn’t say these things to our best friends, so why do we think it’s OK to say them to ourselves?

Changing this habit took me some time to figure out. It’s taken a lot of fundamental analysis to pinpoint what I was saying and figuring out why I felt so low and anxious all the time. Doing this allowed me to break through and stop that self-talk. 

By changing the way I spoke to myself, I went from being a shy, anxious, and unconfident girl who wouldn’t talk to anyone to being a public speaker, podcast host, and media spokesperson. All of this was possible due to how I spoke to myself. 

It costs nothing to change the language you use in your mind, and it’s something you can do every day to reduce anxiety and quickly boost your self-confidence. 

Who doesn’t want more confidence? 

Try this exercise with me. 

Each morning when you get up, try repeating positive phrases in your mind or say them to yourself quietly:

  • I am confident.
  • I am strong.
  • I am brave.
  • I can do anything.
  • I am full of limitless potential.

You must repeat these every day, even multiple times per day. Also, if you don’t feel confident, brave, or full of limitless potential at the start, keep going. You are what you tell yourself. 

By doing this exercise every day, you’re setting up your day by changing the way you feel about yourself. Want a positive outlook on life? You have the power to be whoever you want to be today, and it’s your choice whether to think of yourself as a person who’s “suffering” or a person who acknowledges the discomfort and is willing to adapt to not focusing on it. 

A good day starts with what you tell yourself. Positive statements are one of my seven critical hacks for living well with MS. Click here to get my free cheat sheet

“Where focus goes, energy flows.” – Tony Robbins

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jessie Ace is host of the DISabled to ENabled podcast. A podcast that aims to inspire people living with chronic illness. She’s interviewed everyone from Paralympians, radio DJs, chronic illness bloggers, and marathon runners. She’s also a writer and illustrator for the biggest MS charities worldwide such as the multiple sclerosis today, National MS Society, MS Society UK, shift.MS, MS-UK amongst others and she has also written articles and illustrated for Momentum magazine, MS Matters and New Pathways. Jessie was diagnosed with MS at 22 years old and says MS makes her feel blessed every day to be able to live a new life and to connect with so many amazing people. Her own experience of being newly diagnosed so young was negative and scary – she wants to change this for other young people and support them through the process by being a patient advocate.
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Jessie Ace is host of the DISabled to ENabled podcast. A podcast that aims to inspire people living with chronic illness. She’s interviewed everyone from Paralympians, radio DJs, chronic illness bloggers, and marathon runners. She’s also a writer and illustrator for the biggest MS charities worldwide such as the multiple sclerosis today, National MS Society, MS Society UK, shift.MS, MS-UK amongst others and she has also written articles and illustrated for Momentum magazine, MS Matters and New Pathways. Jessie was diagnosed with MS at 22 years old and says MS makes her feel blessed every day to be able to live a new life and to connect with so many amazing people. Her own experience of being newly diagnosed so young was negative and scary – she wants to change this for other young people and support them through the process by being a patient advocate.

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10 comments

  1. Karen says:

    Wow! Thanks for the pep talk. I need to hear this every day. While I don’t say “I suffer”, there are plenty of other ways my self-talk becomes very negative. Sometimes it has to do with MS, other times with other aspects of my life. I wouldn’t speak to my worst enemies the way I talk to myself. The very first thought in my head every day is “You’re so fat.” Every single day. Nice, huh? I’m going to print this out so I can go to it regularly until my self-talk becomes much more forgiving and encouraging. Change my self-talk, change my beliefs, change my life. It’s like a verbal vision board! Thanks, Jessie.

    • Jessie Ace says:

      It’s easily done Karen, I still catch myself at times and have to pull myself up on it and say, ‘hey! We instead say…” and correct it. Take a look at my site, there are lots of techniques and things on there to help with that. The best I can recommend is changing that phrasing of “You’re so fat” to, ‘I am happy with my figure. I am beautiful. I am appreciative of the body I was given’. I think that will really help. Stay #ENabled lovely! Jessie x

  2. Maggie says:

    Thank you 🙏🏻
    I was diagnosed in 1995 with MS. The first 6 years my self talk was super negative. Once I changed my views on my life and how to talk to myself (and a lot of other important things) I found MS changing. No episode s since 2009!!!!!!

  3. Karen Olsen says:

    I love this. We are what we believe in ourselves. While we may have a chronic illness, it does not have to have us!

  4. Janette Murphy says:

    I so agree with you Jessie. For the past 45 years I have had Diabetes, and people are forever saying “ Oh yes, you’re a diabetic”. Now I constantly say “No, I have Diabetes”.
    It took me a long time to get to this “I have…” point, but it is ever so freeing.
    Diabetes doesn’t define me, just as Coeliac Disease and MS don’t define me.
    I have them, I manage them, I live WITH them, but they do not own me, and they are not the all of me. I certainly have to be conscious of them, aware of them, and take measures to protect myself and remain healthy.
    I co-operate with them, and whilst there are challenges there is life that can be lived, and is being lived, almost in spite of them!
    Thanks Jessie, your articles and podcasts are gems!

    • Jessie Ace says:

      You are amazing! They don’t define who you are, but they will if you let them! Thank you so much for your kind words Janette I really appreciate hearing that. Stay #ENabled, Jessie x

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