Aug 26, 2014

Words Can Hurt Me



I can remember being eight-years-old, having my grandmother tell me "sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you."  It's a mantra that I've heard hundreds of times since then, in lectures from well-meaning family members, in after-school specials, and from guest speakers in my high-school.  At times - after school-yard games of tag and sleepovers I wasn't invited to - the phrase was one I repeated to myself in an attempt to feel better.

As well-intended as the phrase is though, somewhere along the road, it crossed a line from productive to harmful.  Somewhere along the way between pretending bullying doesn't exist and trying to make it's victims feel better, our society has glorified the concept; as though being ostracized for years of your life makes you an inherently better person, stronger and more well-adjusted than those people who didn't spend years handing their lunch money over to the class bullies or cowering down from a girl who knew all the right buttons to push.  

I can honestly say that I'm a different person now than I was nine years ago, when I had my parents buy me a new outfit and drive me to a school dance that wasn't happening, only to find ourselves walking into the middle of a high-school basketball game instead.  In more ways than one, being told that my being the "new girl" meant I had no rights to friends and that that was something I needed to adjust to did make me stronger, more willing to stand up for myself and what I believe in.  

But if I could, it's something I'd take back in a heartbeat - that eighth-grade year when I spent Friday nights alone with my parents, and the beginning of high-school when I couldn't wait to be finished with Catholic school and the hell my last year there had been.  

Our world already provides plenty of chances to grow up, hold your own, and find strength in yourself and your opinions.  What we don't need is one more chance to be pushed down, told that we are somehow wrong, and forced to make it through.  

Coming from a person who's dealt with a year of having no friends, of being told that I am somehow wrong: words do hurt, and being bullied has not made me an inherently better person.  It's nothing to glorify, and the pain it put not only me through, but also my brother and parents is nothing I'd wish on anybody else - regardless of how "strong" it may have made me.  

10 comments:

  1. Girl, I love this post and I feel your pain. A couple of years ago (maybe 3-5 years ago so more than a couple) I had an AWESOME group of friends. And one in particular who was my best friend. We talked daily about everything. Well, most of those people are now married and/or have children. I am the only single one left. None of them talk to me anymore - if they do it is VERY rare. It's like they think they will catch the "single disease" by remaining my friend. I've been cut off and talked about, so on and so forth. So, here I am at 29 with virtually no friends (except blog friends). How do you even go about meeting new friends at this age? Sigh.

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  2. I really needed to rear that today. Thank you :)

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  3. "Our world already provides plenty of chances to grow up, hold your own, and find strength in yourself and your opinions. What we don't need is one more chance to be pushed down, told that we are somehow wrong, and forced to make it through." YES.

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  4. you're welcome, Hannah! I think it's something we all need to address once in a while

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  5. Thank you, Stephanie! I'm so sorry to hear that about your friends... I can't believe that actually happened, as though by being single you're suddenly no longer good enough. There are plenty of great people out there though, and I'm sure you'll start to meet them! When you figure out how to meet new people though, let me know!

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  6. I may have learned a lot through the years of being bullied, there was definitely a lot of good that came out of it. I learned a lot about myself and my own strength, but there was a lot of bad that came from it too. i was a happy and confident girl before we moved and I switched schools, after just a few months I was depressed and had no faith in myself. It's been years now and I've never fully recovered my self confidence and a lot of the anxiety I face every day didn't exist before those years. I never had panic attacks before those years. Sure I've learned and grown a lot and I might be a different person today with out them, but they left a negative mark too.

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  7. I'm sorry to hear that it's something you dealt with as well. And that's exactly what I think people need to realize - being treated like crap by your peers isn't this life-changing character-building experience. It's awful, and for a lot of people it has life-long effects that I wouldn't exactly consider positive. I think glorifying it makes the people who didn't come out feeling like a better person feel even more like crap.

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  8. Wow. I never thought about the side of "the new girl." I never had to change schools growing up (which doesn't mean I had a million friends) so this is definitely an eye opener, in that sense of your post. Bullying has definitely gotten progressively worse throughout the decades and I was lucky to escape mostly free — although being a pasty ginger in a predominately tan, blonde high school wasn't always easy. Thank you for the reminder that there are so many different ways to by bullied that I'm just completely unaware of.

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  9. Yeah - I legitimately had a girl tell me "well we don't like you because you're new, and that's something you're just going to have to deal with for a while." Uhm, okay, because that makes COMPLETE sense. It seriously just felt so great to be able to leave that school and transfer to a public school after that year, rather than moving to high-school with those girls!


    I know it's definitely something that could have been much worse, though. I ply dealt with it on that scale for one year, and luckily my parents knew what was going on and got me out of there as soon as they could.

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