Language is Self-Care

Written by: Andrew Ware
February 27, 2023

Are You Running Slow or Easy?

A reflection on positive language toward ourselves and thereby others

One of the greatest things about finding writing/publishing sites like Substack is exploring what other people are writing about. Check out my recommendations page for other Substacks I subscribe to and love to read.

However, one particular post caught my attention recently from

Coach Bennett’s Substack

Shut up! You’re fast!

Let’s just skip the part where you tell me that you’re slow. I already know you’re slow. What’s with that look you’re giving me? Oh, no you don’t! Don’t pretend you’re hurt! You were literally about to tell me how slow you are! Yeah… that’s what I thought. Besides, the only reason I know you’re slow is because I know you’re fast! How about that for turn…

Read more

Take a look real quick then hop back to this newsletter.

I love both the theme and the natural voice he writes with that makes it feel like your coach (whoever that might be) wrote it. As a runner and coach myself, I have been guilty of labeling myself as slow and I have heard other runners who I have helped label themselves in the same manner as well. However, it is articles like this that punctuate the fact that a word like “slow” is so subjective that it is hard to truly label oneself in that way.

I think, more importantly, that language can play a vital role in self-care (and thereby tangentially how we care for others). 

As a pastor, I have been labeled as semantically inclined (if that is even the proper title for the accusations that have been cast against me). As I understand it, I am careful with my words and choose them with purpose and intent. 

For example: I have stopped using sympathy and replaced it with empathy. I have tried to strike hate out of my vocabulary (though often I fail). I even try to be intentional about words that could be received in a harmful way

I am still growing in perfecting a language of love, but it does get me thinking about how we use language to identify and talk about ourselves. This article I read merely confirmed a mindset that I have had that “slow” is a terrible word for runners to use to describe themselves. It fails to capture the true accomplishment of a person who runs (or engages in any manner of active movement). This idea of slowness is a fallacy of a comparative mindset both when we compare ourselves against others or even compare ourselves against who we desire to be. Also as we see in the article, it often fails to truly encapsulate what we might truly be capable of.

No Runner is Slow

The thing is that, as runners, we cannot identify ourselves as slow. We must name that we are what we are and get out of the comparison game.

Who cares that my coach can run a mile in less than five minutes? I remember one of the first times we did one of my speed workouts together I mention that my speed pace was probably his easy pace. His reply affirmed my suspicions, but his response comforted me because he said that it was MY speed pace and HIS easy pace, and both should be celebrated as accomplishments in our own minds. They were ours and they were who we are—why compare ourselves to one another?

I am not slow (and neither are you who is reading this); we are just us. I am Andrew and my capabilities are defined by what I do. Therefore, I have tried to adopt the language of pacing as a runner. This is MY “easy pace” or MY “threshold pace.”1 I don’t call myself slow, I just name my pace/run as easy or recovery if I am feeling I need to back off a bit more than usual. There is nothing wrong with that because it is where I am, it is defining my abilities rather than negatively attaching words that put me down. 

I am not slow, I am just running according to my abilities to make me the best running version of myself I can be. 

The Lesson of Language

I feel like this lesson can speak a lot of the language we use to describe ourselves. When I start using slow I put myself down, and my own self-worth can be impacted. Instead, when I use easy, I name the ability I am capable of.2 So too, when we get rid of the negative language of self-talk and replace it with language that defines us by who we truly are, we do the same thing. 

It seems like if we were able to find healthier language to talk about ourselves, looking deep and understanding words that cause us pain or harm (even if a small amount), then perhaps it would make us more attuned to how our language can hurt others as well. 

The Letter of James is my favorite book in the Bible because I have always found resonance in how the author lays out the ideals presented within its chapters. In Chapter 3 the author says:

“Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly. Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell. People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!”

Clearly, the author of James knew that the tongue, and by nature language in general, could be a dangerous thing. A warning against teaching also becomes a lesson in language. A lesson of the harm we are capable of causing to ourselves, others, and even to God. However, it does not have to be that way. The tongue can also build. Language can be healing. If only we were intentional about how we use it. 

We must, however, begin with ourselves. If we use harmful language to ourselves, how can we ever expect to be able to have similar empathy to use healthy language with others?

Your Turn: I would love to hear your thoughts:

  • How can you be more aware of how you talk about yourself?

  • What language, words, or phrases do you need to put away to find a healthier sense of self-worth?

Reflect and leave a comment on your thoughts around these questions or the idea of positive language and self-talk

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Author

  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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