REMOVING THE WORD “JUST”
By: Lauren Anderson
The other day, I was at my good friend Ann’s house hanging out and having a wonderful Sunday.
I had a text I needed to reply to, and I wanted my response to sound good, so I showed her the draft before I hit send. You know, like you do sometimes with friends. Most of the time I pride myself on being able to write my feelings with the intention I’m going for, but sometimes on a Sunday after a couple glasses of wine… it takes a village.
She reads it quickly and says, “Ditch the last sentence entirely, and take out the word ‘Just’.”
I say, “Really?” Then I do it, of course. I mean, Ann gives great advice! And as a marketing firebrand, I trust her about optics implicitly.
I re-read my shorter, cleaner text. She’s right. The new brevity of the message made it delightfully pithy, and funnier. Which is what I was going for in tone. And taking out the word ‘Just’ made me sound more convicted.
But Why? ‘Just’ is Just a Word
Ann says, “I have a writer friend that hates that word. She wants people, especially women, to remove it from their writing entirely. She says it’s diminutive and it undercuts your message. She said, when you use it, it sounds like you’re apologizing for what you need, or what you’re trying to say.”
I nod my head. It’s no surprise I am someone who loves words and think they are important, and (say it with me now) what we say, and how we say it matter! So I can easily agree with where this writer friend is coming from.
Sometimes a word just strikes the individual in a way that can’t be denied. Good or bad. I get it. I’ve got my own list of words that infuriate… But ‘Just’? That’s such a tiny in-between type of word. A throw away! How could it cause so much pause?
Then I think about it for a minute. Uh oh… I use the word ‘just’ all the time in my writing!
When I write, especially here in this blog, I want to sound conversational in tone. So I try to write how I would sound if I was sitting across a table having a cup of coffee with a very close friend. Because so much of what I share here is super personal. I want it to read as personal as it feels to write.
If you ever wondered why I use so many commas– that’s why. Cause I’m trying to write how I actually talk. And the commas can help dictate when the reader should take a breath if speaking the words out loud. Proper grammar be damned!
But before we roll too deep into the nuance of my writing style, and I bore you all to tears with process– let me round down into my point. I’ve been using the word ‘Just’ in my writing, because I must use the word ‘Just’ in my speech! Dang it! It’s like I didn’t even know what I didn’t even know… ya know?
So Here’s What I’m Thinking About Now
Our language and how we speak to ourselves, and to others, is important. I know this first hand, because changing my language and the way I was speaking to myself, was one of the first avenues into having a better relationship with my body. It has also been one of the most significant changes I’ve noticed since I started down this fitness/wellness path.
When I started speaking to my body like I would speak to a friend, I noticed I became more forgiving, more loving, more patient, and more excited about what my body could accomplish. You know, the same way I feel about my friends. Go figure! I noticed I started rooting for my body, and trying to be it’s biggest fan. Just like I do for my crew.
The deliberate practice of changing my language, helped me see my body for what it is.
Something that is worthy of my love and attention.
(Cue the tears… oh wow. Just a side note: Every time I think about this, and how different I treat my body from the way I used to, I can’t help but get teary. I was so needlessly cruel before. And for what? It only hurt me, and gave my power away.
And now that I no longer speak to myself like that, I can sometimes hear that same cruelty when I listen to other people talk about their bodies. And it pains me, because that used to BE ME. The hardest part is when I hear it, I know I can’t bring them into that understanding. Because I also know from experience, we gotta do that work for ourselves, and only when we’re ready.)
The gym also gave me new language to think about. New words to use. Like “Body Composition” for example. When I need to talk about what I want my body to look like, and how I want it to function, I now use that wording.
Using that term allows me to lift away from the idea that bodies can only be measured in degrees of thinness. Because talking about bodies that way always felt dangerous and gross before.
Or the word “Athlete”. All the people at the gym are referred to as athletes. When I first started going to Solcana, I felt like a fraud. But the more they used it, the more I was willing to open up my narrow definition of what I thought that word meant.
I even refer to myself as an athlete from time to time, when speaking to others. What a coup! And a super powerful feeling to think of myself that way, when I NEVER EVER could before.
Cut to Monday at the Gym
I’m still thinking about the word ‘Just’. I have been intentionally trying to speak without using it, and I notice the changes. I noticed my language sounded even more assertive. And my speech started to reflect more accurately that I knew my own mind, and that I was comfortable taking up the space it deserves.
But how?! It’s only one tiny word! It’s really so fascinating if you geek on stuff like this. Like me. I’ll show you! So there I was…
I’m at the gym, and I notice that we will be working on a deadlift at one heavy rep at 94% max. That’s gym-speak for: REALLY FRICKING HEAVY. 94% of what you can do on your best day. I feel a little nervous, cause apparently they’ve been working on deadlifts for a few Mondays to get here.
Well, I haven’t been coming on Mondays in awhile, so I’m feeling a little out of my depth.
I ask Coach Bobby for advice. He tells me to modify, and work up to a one rep at 75% of my max. I am relieved. Still a challenge to be sure, but not anything that could potentially hurt or stress my body needlessly. Especially when I haven’t done deadlifts in a while, let alone at a max weight.
I nod my head and say, “Okay, so I’ll just do the 75 percent then. Thanks.”
Ah! There’s that word! Creeping in like a bandit, when I was feeling “less than” because I had to modify. All day I had successfully removed it from my language– UNTIL NOW. Interesting right? Just me? Because I find this correlation fascinating.
Coach Bobby doesn’t know about my newfound challenge to remove the word. And yet, he responds in a pretty telling and awesome way.
He goes, “Lauren, 75 percent is no joke. It will be a challenge and it will feel pretty good. The important thing is that you’re here, you’re gonna do it, and you’re still gonna feel it.”
It’s like without saying it, or even knowing it on a conscious level, he responded to the the unspoken “apology” in my voice. All because I used the word ‘Just’. I know it had to be the word too, because I made no actual literal apology, and my tone was not apologetic in any way.
It happened later in the workout too, when I had to use 10 pound dumbells to do Clusters because I forgot my wrist brace at home. I said to Coach again, “Oh no! I forgot my wrist brace, I guess I’ll just do 10 pounds then instead of 15.”
And again, Bobby responded, “Lauren, that’s totally fine! Do what feels best.”
The literal word snuck in, when I was feeling inferior and trying to make an excuse for myself. When no excuse was needed and I didn’t need to feel bad. Even after being intentional and having thought about the word and it’s presumed impact.
I was just kinda shocked by how automatic it slipped back in, the moment I felt submerged by own ability. In other words, when I thought I had to do it different, my first instinct was to apologize for it, or diminish my effort.
And think about how often we do this! “Hey, can I just get a minute of your time?” As opposed to, “I need to speak with you. Do you have time now?” The first sentence seems so much less effective. And even kind of sounds like you don’t think you or your needs are worthy of a minute!
Is that what I want to say about myself? HELL NO.
Or does anyone else get riled up when DIY experts say, “It’s just that simple!” When clearly they are professionals and have spent their lives working toward perfecting their craft.
Or even, “I’m just a brown belt in karate.” LIKE THAT’S NOT IMPRESSIVE?!?! Like, if you’re not a black belt you must downplay the years of practice it takes to get to brown?
I think you see where I’m going here. I don’t have to be-labor it.
So Where Do I Go From Here?
In two days, I’ve flipped over into new territory. And once again it started with how I speak to myself, and about myself. There is this thing I say all the time, “Change your language, Change your life!” I started saying it awhile ago as a joke, when I would have a too-passionate opinion on a word or phrase. Because my friends know what a wordy-word-nerd I can be.
But I’ve come to really believe it.
Because using the word ‘Just’ made it sound like I was sorry at the gym, and in that text. But when you think about it, there was nothing to feel bad about. There was no reason to diminish my work or my thoughts. And it seems to only bubble up when I am feeling unsure, or apologetic for myself.
So now that I’m conscious about the word, I’ll notice when it comes up, and continue to remove it from my lexicon. Not because it’s a villain, and that words are bad. But because it has power. More than I previously gave it credit for.
And when things are powerful, I think it’s important to be intentional, and consider how I use it.
I don’t want a tiny filler word to project things about me that are false. Or potentially damaging.
The fact that I was there, ready to rock, and willing to give it my all– is what’s important. Doing what was right for MY body at that given time.
I know my own mind. I know my body. And I take up the space I need.
No ‘Ifs’, ‘Ands’, or ‘Justs’ about it.