I’ve been giving some thought lately to the words I use. Some of them, like awesome and dude, almost certainly annoy a lot of people I speak with, but I really don’t care because they are meaningful to me and I enjoy using them. Others, though, seem to be in my vocabulary even though I haven’t given them much thought. How often do I say that something is crazy? Or insane? Probably several times a day if not more often. And what do those words mean? The way I’m using them, they mean wild or unexpected or rare, but that’s not the entire story they tell and I’ve started to realize that by using them I’m saying things I don’t want to be.
Having been in an education-related field for many years, I’m pretty careful about a lot of the words I use. I don’t believe in being PC for PC’s sake, but I am pretty cognizant of the way that words can hurt even unintentionally. I don’t ever say that anything or anyone is retarded, for instance, and I am usually pretty sensitive about words and phrases that might be taken the wrong way (I would refer to my Patronus, but not my spirit animal, because the latter is someone’s faith/spirituality/culture – not mine – and I don’t want to trivialize that). When I’m addressing a group, I remember my teacher training and try to use neutral words like people or folks, rather than guys or even ladies and gentlemen (binary worldview = lame). But I haven’t been at all respectful or even cognizant of the way I’m using words that refer to mental health until very recently. I’m not sure what sparked this thought, but I’m glad I had it. More and more people I know are speaking and posting publicly about their mental health, and I want to celebrate that because it’s been really inspiring. I definitely don’t want to be using words that make fun or disrespect. The last thing anyone needs when they’re already struggling is to be made to feel less than.
I’ve also been realizing just how often I use vague words that are barely meaningful when I could choose to be specific instead and actually communicate with precision. Why wouldn’t I strive for greater clarity? It’s embarrassing to realize that I’ve been so ignorant of my own actions, but I’m taking this as an opportunity to learn rather than feel bad about my failings. Here’s to self-improvement!