We all know the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This is such a fricking lie! It should say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart." In my experience in the past thirty-two years of my life, words have hurt me deeper than any injury I have ever endured. And not only do they hurt you, but they scar you.
The other day at work we had a training and we were asked to list words that people used to identify us or place us in a box. And one of my co-workers casually said, "Why is it we only remember the bad things people say about us?" What is is about the bad that sticks to us so well? I heard it said that it takes four positives to cancel out one negative. Why do you think that is? Why is negativity so powerful?
I know for me I grew up hearing so much negativity. I was not popular growing up, and was teased and ridiculed in middle school. I was told I was ugly, fat, a cow, a dyke. I was mooed at as I walked down the hall. Girls made up songs about me. I was shoved down, tripped, laughed at every single day for my entire middle school career. I also heard negativity at home, my brothers called me a "fat bitch" often and I was told more than once that I was lazy and didn't work hard enough. I heard these comments and variations of them so often, they became the background noise of my life. I grew to believe them and even allowed them to define me and who I was and who I could become. And I know that I didn't only hear negative comments growing up. I know I heard nice things from my parents and from friends, but I don't remember those. I remember the bad, what's up with that? I think for me, I'm naturally hard on myself and very self-critical, so to hear others being critical makes sense. And I also think that I heard so very many people say so very many negative things about me, that I just assumed that it had to be true. If it's the mass consensus, then it must be the truth. They say the truth hurts, and in this case it did. So I just accepted that all of these mean and cruel and limiting things that people said about me were truth. And if that was truth, then it meant that every nice or positive thing anyone said to me was a lie. Every time anyone said anything kind to me or paid me a compliment I wondered what they wanted and why they would lie to me - always questioning their motives and never believing what they said was true. How could what they said be true when there where so many people who said the opposite of what they said?
It is said that it takes FOUR positives to counter just ONE negative. So that means for every negative comment we hear from someone or every negative self talk or negative experience, it takes four positives to cancel it out! Wow! That's not the math I grew up learning!!! But it's true! And as I'm getting older and wiser and learning more about myself and who I really am, I'm learning that all of those things that I believed to be true about myself growing up are lies. All of those things I allowed to define me are not truth, they are simply false words that greatly out numbered the true words at the time. The true words are that I am smart and compassionate and beautiful and hard-working and funny and loving and caring and strong and organized and loyal (and many, many more).
And as I move forward in my life and one day become a wife and mother, this is a lesson I am going to carry with me. That each time I think about speaking a negative, as easy as it seems to take back later, when I realize I didn't mean it, it is NOT easy to take back. It is four times more difficult to erase that it is to say.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will leave scars! Words are so much more powerful than we think they are. My head and my heart and my sense of self are forever scarred from the words that have been spoken to me. And as far as I have come to know who I really am and what words are truth, those ugly words creep their way in from time to time. It's hard work to repair the wounds of words that hurt.
So remember the amazing power of your words and use them to affirm and love yourself and others!