Strange Life Lessons

A while back (on the scale of 1-3 years ago, I think) I realized something that had been holding me back.  Something important dawned on me, but it has not been an easy lesson to swallow.  That lesson being: language shapes reality.

Even typing it is hard.  My brain keeps thinking that it shouldn’t be true.  Language, as spiffy and awesome and cool as it is, shouldn’t really do much more than describe reality.  Or fantasy, if that’s your thing.  In any case, language is a tool for communication – an awesome tool that I like lots – and it’s true that it’s possible to influence people by what you say, but that’s not the same thing as language shaping reality directly.  But apparently, it does.

So far I only have this lesson in a very basic way, and I couldn’t say if it goes further or not.  So, sometimes I observe people doing something new or challenging.  Someone will say “I want you to try this,” or something along those lines.  Their response tends to be “Ok!  Yes!  I can do that!” said with what strikes me as an unreasonable amount of enthusiasm.  It always seemed like just a bunch of noise.  Dishonest noise, at that.  I mean, how do you know if you can accomplish something until you try it?  What if you’re all “I can do it!” and then you can’t?  Didn’t you just make yourself out to be a liar?  I mean, sure you can probably do it eventually, but that’s different.  So in that situation, if someone was giving me a challenge, I would simply respond honestly.  “Well, I’ll try.”  “I don’t know if I can do that, but I suppose I’ll give it a shot.”

In retrospect, I am honestly not sure how I figured it out.  In any case, turns out I was sabotaging myself right from the beginning.  If, from the start, I verbalize with confidence, somehow it becomes more likely that I will succeed.  This totally breaks my poor little brain, but from everything I can tell, it’s true.  See, I know that acting confident is important in many things.  Rock climbing and horseback riding, for instance, both require that a person act with confidence.  Doing something tentatively does not ever work.  I had figured out that I could act confident even if I didn’t feel confident.  Now it seems that it’s easier to act confident if I sound confident.  The language I use and the manner in which I use it shapes the reality that happens next.

I wonder how much this is (or isn’t) true for other things.

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