Words hurt. I know the old saying about ‘sticks and stones’ but the truth of the matter is: words do hurt. I have a memory as a child that someone had told me I was an ugly duckling. I was crying and I told my mother what was said. At that moment I truly believed I was an ugly duckling and I would never grow into the beautiful swan. I was a kid, I was awkward. My mother’s reaction shocked me. She was outraged, she was furious. She wanted to know who had said such a horrible thing to her child. I smartly refuse to give up the name. I have since forgotten everything except the words. The name of the person was unimportant. My reaction to it was not. I was devastated. My mother told me forcefully that I was not an ugly duckling, I was beautiful. I would continue to be beautiful throughout my life. Never mess with a mom.
Jump ahead a few years to high school. A fellow classmate came up to me and asked me if I wanted to get rid of 10 ugly pounds of useless fat. Ever a sucker I said yes. She told me to cut off my head. As I have grown older I have learned that comments like this are meant to hurt and they are meant to be funny to those people who think it’s hilarious to watch someone else’s pain. I have learned that the speaker is more important than the words in incidents like this. At the time I was still at that awkward age where we are unsure of ourselves. Being called ugly didn’t help.
I remember these two instances because it’s something I’ve had to fight my whole life. These were words spoken in anger. I should not have given them a moment’s thought and yet here I am several decades later still reliving the pain they caused all those years ago.
Fortunately I am also able to remember the positive comments that have been made to me over the years. I remember the first time a boyfriend told me I was pretty. Pretty heady stuff! I can remember an essay of mine being held up in English class as the correct way to research a paper. The teacher expounded on the amount of time I had obviously devoted to this brilliant essay. I was suitably chagrined because I had only written it the night before. My friend knew, the teacher never did. I remember in University being told that my performance the night before was inspired and brilliant. More heady stuff. I remember a boss telling me that he was amazed at the way I had handled a difficult customer. Words do make a difference.
I hope that in my travels I have said more words that are positive in nature than negative. I would like to think that my words have inspired and cajoled, comforted and amused. We communicate every day with each other and our words matter. How we say them matters. How we present them matters. We matter. Choose your words as carefully as you choose the ingredients for a fine meal. It will make everything taste better.