Words. We use them every day – whether vocally or written, they are a part of our life, our culture – they help us to communicate with one other, to convey thoughts, they can inspire our imaginations, our creativity, they can motivate us, provoke us, seduce us, even cause us to fall in love. But they can also instill fear and create self-doubt, they can inspire us to hate – both ourselves and others. Words can either build us up or they can tear us down. They can either affect us positively or negatively but in both cases, our self-esteem (and even our health) can be affected by them.
Some people scoff at this idea – that their words can have any kind of serious or lasting effect on others, but here is what I think…
If hearing positive words can make you feel good or happy, then it should make sense that negative words will have the opposite effect, right? I mean, unless of course you happen to be the most confident peep in the world and negative words just bounce off of you like bullets do to Superman..then this post probably isn’t for you. 😉
Unfortunately, though, most of us don’t have unlimited supplies of confidence..or any at all.
I first learned of the self-esteem damaging power of words at a very young age, when my once beautiful skin became overrun with ugly, red blemishes. While adults pretty much have the ability to use discretion with the words they choose, most children don’t. I honestly believe that the “brain to mouth” filter doesn’t go into effect until we are in our teens..sometimes later (and with some people..never).
I remember the first time a boy from school told me I was ugly. I was confused because that word wasn’t one I was used to being called, so I ignored it. But when all of his friends and some of my classmates started calling me that (and worse), I started to think that maybe I was the one who was mistaken, but why would my parents lie to me? Were they only telling me I was pretty and special because I am their daughter & every child is beautiful in their parent’s eyes or were they simply just trying to protect me from the truth? Once the seeds were planted, and with the daily “watering” from my peers , it wasn’t long before the confidence I had had began to diminish. I quickly went from being an outgoing, confident, “I can do anything” type of child to being a very quiet, withdrawn, self-conscious person. This outlook lasted pretty much the majority of my life.
Even today, at age 45, I struggle with my self-esteem. Even though I am married to an amazing man who compliments me daily, even though I have family who tells me I am worthwhile, it’s the negative words I heard growing up that always seem to outweigh the positive. They kind of linger in the background of my mind, ready to rear up whenever anything good is said to or about me. Ready to remind me that I am still that “ugly, zit-faced loser” that no one likes or wants anything to do with.
I’m trying to break this cycle, I’m trying to allow the positive words to stay front and center, trying to let myself believe them, but it’s hard. It’s hard especially when my skin is still breaking out and the scars (though much less noticeable) are still there – like constant reminders of my “ugliness”. Why is it that people are so judgmental of those of us with less than perfect skin? Why do they feel the need to make us feel so awful about existing (I once had a boy tell me I was so ugly I should just die!)?
I will say that though depression has been a constant companion since I was 9, I have never managed to hold grudges or hate those that put me down. Blame it on my Christian upbringing, but I tend to forgive rather quickly. And I’ll be honest, my faith has kept me strong and determined and has given me the courage to bear my soul on the internet like this. That being said, I’d like to state that the point or intent of this post is not to make anyone feel or look bad for their words to me, but rather to allow me to share a part of myself that I have kept private for so long. It’s cathartic to finally be able to talk about how being made fun of has affected me. And like I pointed out earlier, children don’t often think of how their words will affect others – they don’t understand what the consequences will be, they just speak what they see or feel. Does knowing that make it any less hurtful or damaging? No, of course not. But it (along with my faith) helps me to be able to walk the path of forgiveness more easily instead of allowing resentment or hatred to fester in my heart.
My other point for talking about this is that I want to help others going through what I did. I want to help them find their lost confidence and repair their self-esteem. I want to fill their heads with positive and uplifting words. I want to tell them that they are beautiful – blemishes, scars, flaws and all, no matter what they are told. I want to give them hope that they can and will have the clear complexion that they long for.
Words. They can either build us up or tear us down. Heal us or hurt us.
Let’s use our words to inspire, encourage and instill confidence. Imagine what a beautiful world that would be!
Peace & Love,