“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” ~ Unknown
It’s an old adage that spans centuries and continents. It’s heard in playgrounds, over garden fences, through sibling bedroom doors. It’s uttered by the very old and the very young alike, in various forms and adaptions, but always to the same moral: Words can’t cause physical harm and therefore we should disregard verbal cruelty, give it no credence. In this digital age of ours however, we are finally beginning to understand not only how flawed this ideal is, but how harmful it can actually be. To refuse to acknowledge the power of words is to enable the malice they are capable of.
Words are important.
More than ever, during the COVID-19 pandemic, words are all we have to show our loved ones that we care, that we’re safe, that we miss them and can’t wait to cuddle them again when this is all over. People en masse are beginning to truly appreciate the impact of what they say, not only as they speak but also the permanent tattoo they leave in our memories.
Words. Are. Important.
Anyone that knows me or who has read my other blogs knows that I have my own mental health struggles and it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart. I believe it’s crucial that we speak about our emotional pain and normalise open conversation about mental health, particularly in men, so that future generations needn’t suffer needlessly in silence the way so many of us have.
During a recent dark period, I found myself dwelling on conversations throughout my life with people who’s opinions matter(ed) to me and three in particular have been at the forefront of my mind for a while. I have no doubt that they were said with the best of intentions, but nonetheless, over time they did the exact opposite. They fed my anxiety, my self-loathing, and my intrinsic belief that I am not good enough as person.
“You’ve got a great life, what have you got to be sad about?”
“You’re either too loud or too quiet, there’s no in-between and it puts people off. That’s why you find it hard to make friends. Try being a bit less extreme.”
“It’s just a bad day, you’ll get over it.”
These three statements were said by three separate people over the period of about 15 years, none of them recent but all of them still rattling around my thinker. All three were supposed to be words of comfort after me confiding some corner of my darkened mind to people I respected and turned to for advice, but when these conversations resurfaced during my therapy two years ago, only then did I realise how my brain had interpreted them.
I’m not good enough as I am.
I need to change who I am in order to ever be accepted and loved.
My pain and my feelings are not valid.
These people were trying to help me, thought they were helping me, but they were careless with their words. The resultant damage is something I’m still working on today, something I will probably work on for the rest of my life, but an equally important part of the life lesson here is learning how to forgive. Forgiveness is not something that we give to others, it’s something we give to ourselves. Two of these three people are still in my life now and I’ve chosen to move forward in my relationships with them, knowing that they themselves are learning and growing every day, and that brings me some peace.
This post is just an example of how, in my opinion, words are the most powerful weapon humans will ever have access to. They can drive people to commit acts of unfathomable kindness or unspeakable evil. Every significant event through our entire history as a race began with a conversation or the sway of someone else’s opinions. I believe words are like plants. They begin as a seed in our subconscious and as they grow, they sink their roots deep into the essence of who we are, colouring our choices and shaping our character, exactly as plants affect the landscape in their own unique ways. We have no choice over the seeds others plant in us, but the choice always remains ours as to whether we wish to plant flowers or weeds in others.
Words are important. Choose flowers.
Love and light,