The Power of Words

Power of Words
Written by Katie Gilstrap

Words have power. Their meanings shape the perceptions that frame our beliefs, drive our actions and ultimately create the world we live in. Their strength stems from how they make us feel when we read, speak or hear them. Say “run” in the gym, in the workplace or in a crowded theater and you’ll get three completely different but intense emotional reactions.

Some of us use the same negative words over and over again out of habit. But the problem is that the more we hear, read or speak a word or phrase, the more power it has over us. That’s because the brain uses repetition to learn, searching for patterns and consistency as a way to make sense of the world around us. You may not remember the exact end date of World War II, but odds are you still know what 5 x 5 is because you had to repeat your multiplication tables, drilling them into your memory.

We’ve all experienced having a song stuck in our heads for hours on end, unable to get the melody out of our brains. Repetition is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to imprinting something into our minds. It’s of particular concern when we consider a phenomenon called the Illusion of Truth Effect, which basically proves that any statement we read, see or speak regularly is seen as more accurate than one we’re exposed to only occasionally.

Amazingly, the phenomenon means it makes no difference whether the information is true or false. The only thing that matters is how often we’re exposed to it. Research from the University of California at Santa Barbara revealed that a weak message repeated twice becomes more valid in our minds than a strong message heard only once.

If we’re not fully conscious of what we’re exposing ourselves to, consistency will trump truth every time. Now consider how many times you’ve falsely called yourself stupid, clumsy, ugly or anything else — you might begin to understand how your internal dialogue shapes your self-image.

Consider these tips for making words work to build a happier, healthier world for you:

Censor the Self-Critic

Everyone is doing the best they can at any moment in time, including you. Be kind and offer yourself the same empathy and compassion you’d extend to anyone else.

Stop All Self-Deprecation

Never make your body, something you’ve accomplished or anything else in your life the butt of a joke.

Resist Gossiping

It’s impossible for your words to resonate in anyone else’s body but your own.

Take a Break From Negativity

Instead of saying that a meal was terrible, say “I’ve had better.” You’ve basically said what you wanted to say without putting negative energy through your body — you even used a positive word to do it!

Amplify the Positive Energy of Words

Use your words! Instead of saying, “I had a good time at the concert,” ramp up the positive energy by saying you had a great, terrific or fantastic time instead. These stronger words feel much better and generate a bigger energetic response in the body.

Limit your Exposure to Negative Nancies

You know the type — friends who never have anything positive to say. Limit the time you spend with them or find better friends. Negative energy has a way of dragging everything surrounding it in, much like a big black hole. Avoid it when you can.

Surround yourself with positive, uplifting words

Put affirmations on sticky notes around your home and office that say wonderful things about you, your family or your goals. Wear clothes that have positive messages or phrases on them. Imagine the kind of positive energy you’ll be generating for yourself when you’re wearing positivity all day long.


As you keep doing these things, you use the power of repetition in a highly effective way for your benefit. You have the power to change your world, and using words consciously is one of the quickest ways to shift the energy you bring into your life.

About the author

Katie Gilstrap

Katie Gilstrap is clinical faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth
University, teaching at the undergraduate, graduate and executive levels.
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she has founded The Barre
Boutique in Richmond, Virginia, writes for various health and medical
organizations and designs, leads and secures grant funding for study abroad
programs focused on international business in Greece, Spain, Prague and
Scotland. Outside of her time at VCU, she leads workshops in the Middle
East for the Henry Ford Leadership Academy and serves as a faculty mentor
for the European Innovation Academy. No matter where she is around the
world, she is dedicated to living her healthiest life!

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