Stephanie Sieberhagen

Relationship Specialist

Dr Steph's blog


Posted by on April 19, 2020 at 8:00 AM

As noted in previous blogs, the subtle meaning of words shift all the time. There are words that are in vogue now and by being so, they attract new meaning like a strong magnet. Suddenly there is a cluster of implied meanings that just congregate around an 'old' word, eclipsing the meaning we were comfortable with before, and giving us a new way to use this word.Before you know it, this word falls out of fashion again and becomes very untrendy. Just like it has become important to know about new tech; music or world events, we are also expected to know which words are trending and to use them correctly.

So it occured to me that the word, 'challenging' is such a word. Nowadays this word implies a world of pain. We are not allowed to say that something is difficult or problematic, as both these words suggest a negative mind set. We have to say that we view a situation as offering us a challenge. The inference is that we like challenges and that we are up to facing whatever this new situation might throw at us. But 'challenging' is becoming a bit jaded, and so instead of holding the original meaning of 'something to aspire to', we have, indeed, come to associate this word with only the negative.

The worst thing you can say about a person, is that you find them, 'challenging'. You might as well whip out a red letter and sew it to their clothing. The message is very clear - this person is slightly loopy, definitely not from our Whatsapp group and therefore to be avoided at all costs. Jobs, events or venues that are 'challenging' - face the same banishment from our social consciousness.

I want to re-visist the word 'challenge'. In the 17 and 1800's this word would have implied a duel. Either with words, or the more lethal kind. A mountain was seen as a challenge. So was a trying three month see journey. Struggling with a phone app or a dinky elevator, would certainly not have been framed as much of a challenge.

My invitation to you is to be on the look-out for the word 'challenge' or 'challenging' this week. Try your very best to embue this old construct with the courage and bravery of yesteryear. Keep in mind that embedded in that word is the expectation to be victorious. Not the implication that you will avoid failure altogether by not even giving it a shot.

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