3 Words I Won't Say Anymore

by Melanie Forstall
Originally Published: 
Mom, wearing a grey and white sweater and jeans, and daughter dancing joyfully in the living room.
monkeybusinessimages / Getty

My intent is to raise my daughter to be kind, to think about other people, and to be inclusive. I also want her to be confident enough to throat-punch someone if warranted. I’m not advocating violence, of course, symbolism only. At the young age of 10, we are already figuring out how to navigate the complex world of the differing sexes. It’s very unsettling to watch the entitlement and assumptions of the boys around her. I find myself having to coach her in the art of “dealing with it,” which is why, it’s important for her to be confident enough to stand up for herself and throw punches whenever they are needed.

It is my responsibility to teach my daughter how to confidently exist in this world and make zero apologies for being. My lessons will not only come from what I do and tell her, but also, and possibly just as importantly, from what I say.

What I say as a mother, but also as a professional woman, matters. My words have the potential to become my daughter’s inner voice. The words we choose can also unknowingly impede us in the workplace. I am dedicated to making sure that what my daughter hears from me has a positive impact on her today and for years to come. Learning these lessons now will hopefully help her stay true to herself and minimize the likelihood she will get in her own way as a woman.

There are certain words we use far too often and usually without even thinking. Simply, these words need to be removed from our vocabulary. The three words I will no longer say are: perfect, just, and little.

perfect |ˈpərfikt| adjective. Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

I admittedly use it often. Whenever my kids show me something they created, designed, wrote, whatever it is, I often find myself saying, “I love it! It is perfect!” When I throw around the word perfect to describe them or their creations, I am unwittingly sending a message of perfectionism. I’ve been there, and seeking perfectionism is not pretty. Prefect is an unattainable, unrealistic, and frankly, a totally unnecessary trait.

As a parent, mother, adult, educated person, I see no place in my life for perfection. (Perfect people are rarely fun.) I know I am not perfect and wouldn’t ever claim to be, so, what message am I sending my child every time I tell them that their whatever is perfect? Am I giving her the skills to handle mediocrity?

The word is unnecessary and there are countless replacements for it. Additionally, I know it’s a word I should stop saying because I rarely hear a man say it. Men don’t call things “perfect” and they are entirely comfortable with that. Men offer suggestions when needed, and offer tips for improvement without apologizing for it. The last time I heard my husband use the word, he was describing my pre-baby boobs. In this one instance, he was right — they were pretty dreamy.

just |jəst| adjective. Simply; only; no more than.

Generally, any time you put just in front of a statement, it becomes belittling. You rarely hear someone say, “It is just tuberculosis,” because using the word just modifies what you are saying into something meaningless or devalued.

It is also an unnecessary modifier.

As a woman, especially in a professional setting, I have stopped using the word. As women, we do not need to justify anything we do. Saying or writing things like, “I’m just checking in…I’m just following up…I was just about to say…” get in our way. We have to maneuver through this world the same as everyone else; therefore, we do not need to justify what we do, write, or say.

You want to know another reason why we should stop saying it? Because men don’t say it. Men don’t email me and apologize for following up. Men don’t excuse themselves when talking. Men don’t apologize for sharing an opinion. Therefore, we don’t need to do this either.

little |ˈlitl| adjective. Small in size, amount, or degree (often used to convey an appealing diminutiveness or express an affectionate or condescending attitude).

Please, women across the stratosphere, stop using this word to describe your life. There are endless words in our beautiful language that can be used to describe things related to me or my family. Yes, technically my son is little, but only by the standard that he is the shortest member of the family. Outside of a conversation about the actual size of something, there is no use for this word. “Her little bag…his little friend…my little family…a little creation.” It’s a modifier that is used, often out of habit and it’s unnecessary and sounds condescending. Even worse, when we use it on ourselves, it’s apologetic.

What we say affects what we do. What we say affects how we are perceived in the world. If we change the way we think about these words, and change the way we use them, it might just change the way we interact within the world. If these changes help me, and they have, I can only hope they will also help my daughter.

This article was originally published on