Life in “Market Earth.”

How “Overused” Words Turned into a Wakeup Call.

It is a cold wintry day; the Arctic front shows off with record low temperatures and I am prepared to defrost the engine of New Year’s resolutions for a fresh start. As I listened to one of the guided meditations of an Inside Timer challenge, I was struck by a phrase I keep hearing nowadays – “I know it sounds cliché but…”  

A carousel of emotions rolled one after the other – surprise, resistance, rebellion, anxiety, sadness, and determination. The guided meditation was talking about “following our hearts.” I could sense an underlying embarrassment that prompted the need for justification. My own bias? Yet why? Why do we feel we need to justify the use of those words? 

The new year invites me to not only explore career paths but the why I wake up every day. As I move along revisiting events and memories, piling up experiences and lessons, reflecting on what needs brushing off, and, editing and re-editing my resumé, the tension between what appears to be unavoidable and what my whole being craves for grows unbearable.

I wonder if “split personalities” or “dual lives” have become a skill in our times, one born from and sustained by a global view of power preying on the sense of separation, disassociation, and unawareness prevailing in many layers of society. 

Voices sending opposite messages about approved or disproved practices, attitudes, and philosophies of life flutter around alongside the mental health crisis, wars, and social media likes. We are exhausted, lost, or running on an autopilot about to be out of charge… and service. 

What shall we do? Do we keep looking outside ourselves for answers or do we turn within?

And if we go within, what does presencing look like in daily life?

Mindlessly consuming vs. differentiating context

Are certain words or phrases like “follow your heart” just overused, or is there a problem with what they underline? Have spiritual and human truths become cliches? Or it is our thoughtlessness and lack of awareness that made them irky?

What makes these words comforting or disturbing is the power to construct an image without fail. Words grounded in familiarity, universal truths that roll off the tongue with ease might be unoriginal and unsophisticated, however, they can defy norms and make us feel less alone. 

Our social media culture depends on followers and likes. This way of measuring success is limited and often misleading. Vanity metrics do not speak about the quality of our audience or the impact of our content. 

“Following the heart” might be an insignificant example, but what about DEI? Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are everywhere now. Awareness about the importance of and the need to promote initiatives to create an environment of respect and fairness made me reflect upon the fate of these concepts. Will they be stripped out of context and become empty shells? What makes repetition of ideas or concepts an asset for change and what makes it noise?

This tiny moment of mindfulness – be it in the name of safety, playing cool, or adapting to the times – set me on a path of exploring what does it means to allow opinions and economic or political power to take “meaning” hostage. 

Do we need to appeal to synonyms to voice what remains true to our essential selves to avoid shame or being shunned?

The power of words and context

How we ascribe meaning to things is -consciously or unconsciously- a personal choice. We can go with habit or reframe it. Covering up aspects of our personalities we believe are unwelcome and/or stigmatized, intentionally downplaying who we are as a result, takes a lot of creative energy and a big toll on productivity and mental health. 

That is how I feel when I need to justify the use of words that have become clichés and yet speak to an inherent truth of life for me. I was reminded of a Harry Potter quote:

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic… capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Albus Dumbledore

Keeping a gap between our professional and public self is about maintaining and respecting boundaries according to job culture and not affecting productivity or making it uncomfortable for others. But I wonder how this role-playing attitude and the stated values versus the incongruency of those values in practice influence our quality of life and mental health.

Not all grey days are the same

Overused expressions and clichés can bypass new thinking, generalize experiences, and strip them of the myriad of subtleties life has; they can be distorted or used to escape difficult interactions, hide ignorance or uninterest – I am not denying any of this. They can have many layers of meaning too and inspire us. How we “use” them makes all the difference.

What I am advocating for is self-reflection and curiosity, for a choice and the openness to a vocabulary that when used with a pure intention and genuine understanding invites compassion, empathy, and invites us to look within.

Shields of cognitive dissonance

When I feel the need to swallow a word that has deep meaning for me or bite my tongue and nod unconvincingly at the ‘editing” being done to my line of thoughts or ideas by others; there is a silent battle going on between my convictions, knowledge, and the willingness to become a better communicator, writer, and human being.

Simple truths expressed wholeheartedly, without rhetoric, might sound cliché; yet sending them to the bucket of “overused words” sends their deep meaning to the trash too. By doing so we deflect further inquiry. We devalue the power they have in the context of integrity. 

The idea that expressing our inner world requires a list of acceptable synonyms to voice its truth is alarming. Can we imagine more, see more, and advocate for a more natural, genuine sharing? (Hopefully genuine is not banned too).

Did I communicate cliché or a Power word?

Marketing/ branding advise us to stay away from some words and use power words instead. Power words can spin gold from mere syllables! Yes, used wisely, they inspire, ignite purpose, and can weave peace. As easily weaponized, they stir conflict and sow confusion and fear. It is hard to escape unscathed from their persuasive influence, brands and audiences alike succumb to their hypnotic rhythm.

Social media amplifies the whispers, reshapes interactions, and offers a fertile ground for linguistic evolution. How we express, and what we express, morphs in this swirling vortex of words that not only mirror but shape our ever-evolving world. 

Words are Sacred

Even though branding myself seems to be “necessary” in the current global economy, I am not a brand, a product, or even just a customer at the other end of the equation. I might express my gifts through a brand. However, I will not be robbed of my wealth of words and their meaning.

Reclaiming the value and relevance of words that speak to our inner core or simply encompass the idea we are trying to convey is a way to stop complying with agreements that suppress dissent and attempt to control our thinking – and consuming habits.

Clichés or buzzwords may be the simplest, most straightforward way to convey something. How do we choose? We go to the source, we look at context and congruency, we listen actively, and choose the relevance or significance they have for us. 

If following your heart is what your heart asks for, scream it at the top of your lungs. If following your heart has brought beautiful and fulfilling experiences in your life and you feel called to share, do it without shame. 

We the people can distinguish fake from real, even if it is at some unconscious level. Trust builds on intention, not rhetoric, and the energy underlying the words we speak. 

Whatever is that I am, can grasp the power that remains in some words banned as bland by the marketing world, and see through their context and intention.

Follow Your Heart! Stay True to Yourself! Be Authentic! 

Defend the words that have meaning to you!

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