Four Not-So-Small Words

Do you have a word, or a motto that resonates with you? Or even two, three, four words … when strung together help drive you forward, or keep you calm?

I do. Actually, I have several.

A search on the web for inspirational words or quotes, and your screen will be filled with almost too many to choose from: fearless, inspire, achieve, breathe, relax, dream big, I survived—the list goes on. These special words and mottos are celebrated on Pinterest boards, jewellery, and tattoos.

Some people may scoff, thinking that these bon mots are just boring old words, plucked from the dictionary, or a magnet long forgotten on the side of someone’s fingerprint-covered fridge.

Inspire? Really? Doesn’t that word sound like some five-cent piece of pop psychology, stamped on a mug, or rubber charity bracelet just waiting for some poor sucker to snap it up?

Some may think so.

Some may laugh or make fun of these words and phrases.

I am not one of them.

A life preserver

These mottos, the very words that people lean on when the going gets tough, when they have had a bad day, or just need a little something to keep them going … often serve as a personal life preserver. These words help keep people afloat, help them get through their days.

It’s a free country, right? You can laugh at whatever you please. Who’s it hurting?

But to the person who holds those words or phrases dear, they often mean everything. They’re not a tacky collection of letters mass produced for weak-willed people to use to bolster a false sense of empowerment or security. No, they’re personal. Sometimes they’re secret. Sometimes they’re shared, and if they are, it doesn’t matter if the rest of us ‘get it.’

They’re not meant for us.

In my new coming-of-age novel, London Belongs to Me, my protagonist, twenty-one-year-old Alex Sinclair, is a quote-aholic. She has a Pinterest board. She spouts of lines to her long-suffering friends. She obsessively seeks out quotes that speak to her, and one special collection of words is even tattooed on her skin.

But Alex’s most important pick-me-up line is the one that rattles around her head when she’s waging war within herself.

You see Alex, like many other women—like me—has panic attacks. When her throat closes up, and she doesn’t know where her next breath is coming from, she remembers four little words. The phrase is simple. It’s not wordy—but it doesn’t have to be. Who cares if she’s a wannabe playwright who tussles with words every day. If four basic words strung together help Alex get her shit together, so be it.

There’s magic in the simple

Often the simplest of words or phrases are the most powerful. They cut through the noise and offer help when nothing else can.

In an age when people are struggling to find something—anything—to believe in, when elections are a mess, people are disconnected, bullying is on the increase, and many are the target of nasty comments doled out online (troll culture is alive and thriving, people—we’ve all been on the receiving end), it’s refreshing to see that some individuals still aspire to be positive, to be hopeful … and if a special word or mantra gets them to where they feel safe or empowered, so be it.

So be it.

Sometimes the littlest phrase makes all the difference.

Do you have a special inspirational word, or motto? Feel free to share it in the comments.

If you would like to read the essay I wrote for Psychology Today about my own panic attacks, please click here.

(all images: Creative Commons; text created with Adobe Sparks Post App)