Posted by: Lea | June 15, 2009

Words Hurt Too

Words vs Sticks and Stones

 

It’s rather insidious how a person’s self esteem and self worth can be torn down by words, one fragment at a time, without the person even being aware of what is happening until they have lost all their sense of worth.

I grew up hearing the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you,” whenever I would complain to my mother about hurtful things said to me by other children, mostly at school. I’m here to tell you that old saying is a lie. Words are extremely powerful and can inflict as great, if not more, pain as sticks and stones. Without receiving positive reinforcement, the hurtful things said to me over the course of my youth made me feel ugly, unwanted, unworthy and had a negative affect on my perception of the world around me and my place in it.

Self Worth

 

I’ve learned to value myself for who I am inside and to not allow people or society to try to mold me into someone they think I should be. This wasn’t always the case and the lessons that taught me this were hard.  It’s been a long difficult struggle to get to the point I have so far. But now at least I can be comfortable with the knowledge that I think and do many things differently than other people and that I will never fit the images that society projects as being correct and what people should strive for.

History Repeating Itself

 

I now see my daughter going through this, especially with someone she felt was a friend. At first I wasn’t aware of what was going on. But recently an incident got my attention and I started watching more closely whenever this friend visited. It wasn’t long before I grew even more concerned and started warning my daughter about this so called friend.

Little by little, my daughter told me about some of this friend’s behavior towards her and other kids. The more I watched and the more she told me, I made the decision that this friend really was not a friend. This friend would disregard what my daughter told them about our house rules, would not leave if my daughter asked them to and was outright bullying my daughter in some cases. I think my daughter was relieved when I told her this friend would not be allowed in our home any more. But that alone was not enough. I had to help my daughter to deal with the negative residue of this kind of treatment from a peer.

I had noticed apathy in my daughter’s behavior from time to time. Whenever I would ask her what was wrong, she would say, “Nothing,” and no matter what I tried, she wouldn’t open up to me. The last time I noticed her acting like this and her reply was still, “Nothing,” I asked her if she was depressed. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” Then I asked her if she was having negative thoughts? She nodded and said, “yeah.”

I explained to her how persistent negative thoughts lead to depression and that whenever her thoughts become negative, she needs to correct them. I started to explain how this could be done and how I could help.

She started crying. I held her and let her cry her pain out. When she had finished her cleansing cry and regained her composure, we talked some more. I told her not to compare herself to other people and to not let others compare her either. I let her know that she will find her value inside herself and those are the qualities she can build on. If there are things she wants to change, then she can change them.

I saw an immediate improvement in her attitude. She faced the day with a positive attitude, confidence and enthusiasm. My daughter was her old self again.

Choices and Keeping Your Power

 

When someone says or does something that you find hurtful or incorrect towards you, you have a choice. Either accept it in silence and allow it to continue, losing your self respect and self esteem along the way, or you speak up and let them know that they have crossed the line. The line being your personal boundary line. Even if they try to make is seem like they were joking, don’t let it go by unchecked. Don’t ignore your inner voice saying, “I didn’t like that,” or “that hurt my feelings,” etc. Joking or not, it was disrespectful and hurtful.

No one can tell you what you really feel, but yourself. That is your guide. Standing up for yourself takes your power back from those who try to make you powerless.

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Responses

  1. The most insidious aspect of childhood bullying, I think, is that it occurs when a person’s sense of self is still forming. So, if a real barrage of abuse comes, it may seem like there’s not a lot of self to stand up to it. And what makes it worse is that teachers and other adults often don’t think it’s such a big deal (or, in some cases, encourage it–I can remember, actually, one or two teachers in my junior high who, apparently, had so little sense of self, themselves, that they seemed to need the approval of the popular kids so badly that they’d actually take their side when they were picking on the less-popular kids). Or, probably most commonly, they blame the victim–treating bullying as the problem of the bullied. You took a much better approach with your daughter–being completely supportive of her and helping to develop a more positive sense of self that can stand up against whatever’s thrown at her.

  2. The most insidious aspect of childhood bullying, I think, is that it occurs when a person’s sense of self is still forming. So, if a real barrage of abuse comes, it may seem like there’s not a lot of self to stand up to it. And what makes it worse is that teachers and other adults often don’t think it’s such a big deal (or, in some cases, encourage it–I can remember, actually, one or two teachers in my junior high who, apparently, had so little sense of self, themselves, that they seemed to need the approval of the popular kids so badly that they’d actually take their side when they were picking on the less-popular kids). Or, probably most commonly, they blame the victim–treating bullying as the problem of the bullied. You took a much better approach with your daughter–being completely supportive of her and helping to develop a more positive sense of self that can stand up against whatever’s thrown at her.

  3. Words do hurt, and it’s almost impossible to take it back once spoken. It will be repeated in the minds of those who’ve heard it over and over again. We should really be careful of what we say and use words not for hurting another person but for encouraging one another.

  4. Words do hurt, and it’s almost impossible to take it back once spoken. It will be repeated in the minds of those who’ve heard it over and over again. We should really be careful of what we say and use words not for hurting another person but for encouraging one another.

  5. Good for you!! I agree. I like the way you spell it out here by saying. Well, words do hurt and often more than sticks and stones. I think much more. i also like what you did with your daughter. That is just so lovely. Wow! To be so present and patient with her is a huge gift. It will forge the rest of her life and I doubt she will forget that. AND it is active love on your part. So beautiful to read this and know that you are living this.

  6. Good for you!! I agree. I like the way you spell it out here by saying. Well, words do hurt and often more than sticks and stones. I think much more. i also like what you did with your daughter. That is just so lovely. Wow! To be so present and patient with her is a huge gift. It will forge the rest of her life and I doubt she will forget that. AND it is active love on your part. So beautiful to read this and know that you are living this.


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