Do You Use Words That Make Life Feel Toxic Or Stuck?

words shape your life

I woke up today super-early thinking for a second as I am about to leave town for a week with no Internet:

“I’m going to be crazy doing things that I can’t manage to finish….and then I should leave for the airport earlier… or what should I do…”

And then I sat down and realized I needed more sleep! How could I possibly get anything done with a thought like that guiding me?!

Language is super-powerful. After all, we shape our world and experience and express it all in language. Even though there are more subtle ways of communicating, like body language and the inflection of your voice, its words that we use to decipher and understand life to a great degree.

Like anything else… words themselves can become clutter.

The good news is that happy words outshine the negative in our collective culture, at least in the English language.

Wired reported on the influence of positive words in media:

“A massive language study, spanning Google Books, Twitter, popular songs lyrics and The New York Times, has found that English tends to look on the bright side of things. Positive words outnumber the negative.”

Awesome, right?!

The thing is… there are still lots of words flying around filled with fear and self-denial and toxic stuff.  We may never get rid of all of them, but a few stand out as being well worth mentioning for their head-spinning, life-confusing properties! 

power positivity


Here are a few words that I’ve seen become tricky for myself and for others.  These words reinforce stories and patterns that seem to be endless.  The good news about words is that they can always change!

CAN’T…  “I can’t” is very final.  It doesn’t leave much room for “I can.”  There are many things that we truly can’t do, like swallowing a botte of poison (!) but this is a little word that gets used often when resistance pops up… even to good things!

How many times have to said ” I can’t…” in the face of problems you can solve?

Has “I can’t” ever been helpful to you to get things done that you want to do?

It’s one worth being aware of, as “I can’t…” is a self-fulfilling prophesy, since if “I can’t” well, I just won’t!


I used to like to refer to myself as crazy.

The last time you saw someone really eccentric, did you call them crazy?

While crazy can mean, in slang, super-good, like ” What a crazy cool outfit!” whe referring to people, crazy is “mentally deranged; demented; insane.” (full definition HERE)

While there are lots of ways to use the slang of “crazy” to be funny and cool, crazy is another word that, similar to “I can’t” makes things very final.

It’s also not very specific.

I would joke when doing really interesting things or overpacking my schedule as I am apt to do that I am a crazy person for doing what I’m doing.

Have you done that?

Have you called your ex lovers crazy, or your friends crazy, simply because they are doing things that you don’t particularly like or want them to do?

Funny how this word gets used in so many ways even though at its core its pretty serious.

Rather that slap on the word “crazy” and call it a day, now I’ve come to search for more specific words to describe all these ways of crazy.

After all, you can’t really change “crazy” because its broad and general.  You can look at “eccentric” or “over scheduled” or “really ambitious” or “doesn’t have a lot of empathy” or any other really specific situation and actually wrap your head around it, you know?


When you “should” do something there’s a pervasive idea that one way is the right way.  Constantly telling people what they SHOULD do is like saying “I am right… you are wrong.” Think about it… it’s a weird word in some respects.

Should is a tricky word because it sounds very well-meaning.  There are actually some things everyone should do… but it is a slippery slope to constantly tell yourself what should happen, or to tell other people what they should do.  Its a closed circuit.  It leaves no room for other options, just the “right” one.  Its also really toxic to others!

Psychology Today has a great articles about the language that creates a toxic life.  This article spotlights one word that can really put stress on relationships: 

“…many toxic thoughts/statements begin with “Should.” In this way we tend to “should” all over our relationship partners.” Shoulding all over our partners, even in the privacy of our own minds, can come out in our tone or actions. This can leave your intimate partner feeling like a different word that beings with “Sh.”

If you guessed that this Sh word is SHAME, then you are correct. The good news is that if your “Shoulds” are replaced with “Would Like” the resulting toxic thoughts can be avoided. Try it:

Instead of, “You should know how I feel.”, try thinking and saying, “I would like you to please hear me out on this.”

Instead of, “You shouldn’t bring that up.”, try thinking and saying, “I would like to consider what you are saying, please let me sit with it for a little while before I respond.”

“I can’t” and “crazy” and “should” are just a few words that can go awry in the English language.  If English isn’t your first language, I bet that culturally there are words that similarly stop life in its tracks and sort of generalize something negative.

Do you have words that you now avoid because you’ve seen their impact on your life… and didn’t like it? We should start a little database of them!  Please feel free to share below! Have a gorgeous day!!!

xoxo Dana

P.S.: The Catalyst Camp is coming to open up your life to the new like never before! It’s 8 weeks of de-cluttering, letting things go any lightening up life in radical ways.

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maggie November 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm

I love this post. I am guilty of “shoulding” a lot…and I think it is something I need to cut out of my vocabulary.


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