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“You” Language

My client was talking about how he continually beat himself up so as to prevent anyone else from doing so! We were discussing Communication Theory 101—listening and speaking—and to demonstrate his poor communication skills, he kept interjecting examples of where and how he “screwed up”. It was his belief that he needed to put himself down before someone else did. He told me that this discounting of self came from an internal voice, which was a product of the people and experiences he had earlier in his life. The way he described it, there were people who had judged him, were overly critical of who he was and what he did, and who modelled negativity. They encouraged him to be down on himself and on his life until their messages took on a life of their own—an inner voice. During the course of my sessions with people such as this client, I have found that the language common to self-deprecation is you language. This language takes the form of a blaming, dumping language that further erodes one’s self-esteem.

“You” language is often the first language learned in the environment where you grew up—family, school, church, community. When we are confronted with “you” language in these settings, we feel blamed, less important, incompetent, dumb, and we develop a self-limiting script. Later in life, we then use this “you” language to put others down before they put us down, and to put ourselves down before they put us down—in other words, we beat them to the punch! Unfortunately, a negative script developed in childhood establishes entrenched patterns throughout our adult life. It’s bad enough that the child experienced such putdowns at all, let alone having to repeat them over and over again—to themselves—now as an adult!