Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noted a number of people I’ve been having conversations with have unwittingly put themselves down and in more than a few instances unintentionally put down many other people with the use of single word.
Yes whether in the community theatre group I’m with at the moment or at work, the word is possibly one of the worst four letter works you can use. The odd thing about this particular 4 letter word is that you can use it in any social situation and you won’t raise a ruckus with anyone for slang, swearing, vulgarity or causing embarrassment. Yet, as I say, by using the word in the wrong context, you can insult yourself and others and let your opinion slip out unintended but there for all to see.
Okay so enough of the cryptic beginning; what’s the word? The word my dear readers is, ‘just’. “Just? That’s it? What’s the big deal?”
Here are a few actual comments I’ve heard uttered recently.
“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
“I’m just looking for a general labour job.”
“I’m just looking for a job until I find out what I really want to do.”
“I’m just living in Oshawa until January.”
“I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’m just looking for a job in retail.”
Ouch! Each one of these statements is real and in each case the person gave no indication whatsoever that they insulted both themselves and others; offending in order: moms, those in general labour jobs, all those living in Oshawa and all those working in retail.
Please do yourself a favour and stop using the word ‘just’ in a similar context to the examples above. IF you’re only interested in my point to this blog feel free to stop reading here. If on the other hand you want to read on you’ll gain more insight into how this betrays your lack of self-esteem, self-image and can hurt your employment opportunities.
Okay all you moms out there, yes you. Are you a proud mom? Are you good at running the household, budgeting meals, housing and recreation costs on what you bring in? Are you the kind of mother that puts her kids as a first priority, raises them as best you can with the skills, education and good sense you have? In short, are you a good mom? Then why would you say, “I’m just a mom.” This short sentence composed of four words the longest of which is only 4 letters is a put-down to all moms everywhere and expresses the view that you yourself see motherhood as something of little value. More to the point it says you view the people who are mothers around the globe as in some lowly occupation of little social standing. I doubt that is your intent.
As for the retail example above, when you say, “I’m not really qualified to do anything so I’ll just get a job in retail”, you’re betraying to anyone listening that you have a low opinion of those in this profession. It’s like your saying, “Working in retail doesn’t really require any specific skills; anyone could do it”. Your personal opinion may and probably will offend a large number of people who would gladly educate you on the required skills to work successfully in retail. Oh and by the way, the employers who hire people to work in retail positions are doing their very best to make sure that they avoid hiring people who are not going to invest themselves in the work and see it as some kind of ‘pay for doing precious little’ job.
Now I grant that in our various societies around the globe there are certain professions that have more prestige than others. In some cultures its Doctors, Bankers, Architects and Professors. In some countries you might find it’s the patriarchs; the mothers who are esteemed and held in high regard. General Labourers might not be on your personal list of valued professions, but without them consider how the life you lead would be impacted. Once again, there are many highly skilled and valued people toiling quite successfully who are general labour positions.
Look I know you probably don’t mean to put anybody down let alone yourself. Watch your language and listen to yourself for subtle words like, ‘just’ that creep into your everyday vocabulary.
Here’s an interesting thing to drive home this point. When we meet someone for the first time or the first few times, we instinctively start to gather all kinds of information on them in order to figure out who they are and how to interact with them. Our eyes take in their body language and appearance, our noses pick up on body odour or fragrances. Our ears pick up on tone of voice, language skills and words. Our brains process all this information and do it amazingly quickly. All of this information comes together and we have what we generally call an impression of someone. As we gather more information, our first impression is strengthened or adjusted.
Phrases that start, “I’m just a…” suggest to our brains many things; possibly that the speaker has low self-esteem and views themselves as being of less value. This gives an advantage to the listener in dominating the speaker and possibly in ways which can be harmful and controlling.
Something to think about. Just saying.