What Not to Say: Words You Speak to Yourself

In Oklahoma we say we’re “fixin'” to go to the store. I was raised in Kansas and “Bless your heart” meant compassion, but I recently realized that’s an insult in some places. My husband calls macaroni and cheese “cheese noodles” so my children have been raised with that. The words and phrases we use are a combination of our childhood, where we live and our habits. Yes, we speak largely from HABIT. And it’s time to think about what NOT to say.

I had an ah-ha moment a few days ago. It was about a phrase I use constantly, all day, every day. I didn’t realize how ingrained this phrase was in my vocabulary, nor what it represented and how it affected me until a coach pointed it out. So now I’m on a mission to retrain my brain and mouth and refrain from speaking this phrase.

My personal assignment? To stop saying “I need.” Saying “I need to answer those emails” and “I need to clean off my desk” implies that I’m not doing enough, I’m not enough and I’m behind. That language creates stress because it adds another item to my mental to-do list. “I need” is needy and powerless. And I didn’t realize how often I say it throughout the day.

This assignment will take some re-framing of perspective. Instead of “need” language, the focus will be on the benefits of the thing I will do. So instead of “I need to make a video for my team Facebook group,” it will be “I really want to encourage and teach my team, so I’ll make a video just for them.” See how that changes the motivation? “I need” creates stress and overwhelm of more to do. “I want to encourage and teach” creates excitement and creativity and a want-to.

You might not ever say “I need to ____.” But I bet you are using other language that is not serving you well. Maybe it did at one time, but you’ve grown and changed and it no longer serves you. Maybe you’re saying things like “I hate” or “I always” or “I never.” Those sweeping generalizations aren’t true, are they?

Let’s try this:  Be honest with yourself and choose one phrase or word that is not helpful to you. Decide what new words or thought process will replace it. Then turn up the volume and listen to yourself throughout the day. Try it today. Then again tomorrow. You may find this spilling over into other words and thoughts, in a good way.

For now, choose just one. No major overhaul. You’ll have your hands full with just one habit of speech. Make it a game—no fair shaming yourself when you slip. Your children will be happy to point out your slips of tongue, so you may (or may not) want to include them in the game. You might be surprised at how life-changing this could be. It’s already changing mine.

Do you say “I need to ____?” Or something else that is not serving you well? How will you replace those words and thought patterns?


  1. Teresa Murray says:

    Thank you, Charlotte! I was just praying that my words might bring life, truth and hope to others! So I am going to work on that!

    Do you know of any ttapp events or classes in the NJ area?

    Blessings, Teresa

  2. Donnella Looger says:

    Wow, I “would like” to replace the phrase “I need” for exactly the reasons you expressed. Thank you so much for the encouragement.

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Isn’t amazing how we don’t realize what those repeated words do to us? I’m working on my new habit daily!

  3. Diane Powers says:

    Excellent advice!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Hard-earned lesson! 🙂

  4. My thought to change is “I want to cry” I don’t say it out loud but when things are stressful, I definitely think it. My new phrase will be “it is well with my soul”

    Thank you for the encouragement!!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      LOVE that, Meredith!! Perfect!

  5. Thank you for sharing. Your words always come in such a timely fashion for my life. It’s amazing how much changing how you say things changes your mental image of yourself and what you do. Thank you again!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      So true, Linda! Our words create pictures in our minds so it ought to be a good one!

  6. Your words came at the perfect time for me. I know how to eat and exercise to feel better and lose weight, but I’ve really been struggling with motivation and getting started. For many years every time I’ve explored my motivation, I’ve always thought “I need to…”
    Why is it such a game changer to say”I want to… “?
    I know you explained it somewhat, but it also just feels so empowering. I don’t think I ever fully realized how important words are in shaping our emotions. Obviously abusive words from another person would make us feel bad, but the words we use to ourselves are so important too.
    Thanks for sharing with us Charlotte!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Some part of us resists “I need to” because there’s some part that thinks we don’t need to! So glad to encourage you in this area of words and speaking to ourselves!

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