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Sticks and Stones


Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me

 My mom said it to me plenty of times as a kid, as many parents, teachers, and any adult who has tried to resolve “petty” drama between prepubescent children has as well. It's a common phrase that has been uttered for almost 200 years.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me

I am calling bull on that. Words are powerful. Far more powerful than any stick or stone. At least in my opinion and experience, but I think I can speak for many others too. Words can stick and have the power to erode the heart and mind unlike anything else. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me

“You are such a diva.”

“You care too much.”

“You are so dramatic.”

These are just a few of the statements that have been said to me. Mostly out of anger, frustration, misunderstanding. But regardless, these are some of the statements, the lies, that have sat in my conscious and subconscious that have been shaping the way I see and think of myself. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

"I am far too much for anyone to handle."

"I am not enough to be loved."

"It is all my fault."

These are some of things I have told myself over the years, most of the time, without even realizing what I was doing. I pointed out my failures and shortcomings much, much, much more often than I encouraged and loved myself. If I am being transparent, I still do this. And even though for the vast majority of my life I have prided myself on being an expert on loving myself, I haven't been great at positive self talk or being a good friend to myself or protecting myself. I have said hurtful things to my own heart. 


Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

I don’t know if it’s more nature or nurture, but somewhere along the way in my 26 years, words became INCREDIBLY important to me. But I paraded myself around, boasting a high sense of worth and priding myself as unaffectable. I “didn’t care” what anyone thought of me or said to me (such pride...). I had no idea that impact of words, especially those negative words from those that I loved most, including the words I told myself, was immensely shaping my perspective of myself at a subconscious, yet very powerful, level. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me

Up until two years ago, I thought I was solid, nothing could rock me. I was fine. And I told myself and others that every chance I got. But there was a shift in my life--besides living in a new city, with a new job, I was newly single for the first time since I was in high school. And when I was alone with my thoughts, past words and lies from my ex boyfriend and plenty of others echoed in my head.  And as I was looking for answers or a reasonable explanation for the pain of feeling abandoned, the only words that made sense at the time were the echoing lies, swirling around in my head. 

“You are such a diva.”

“You care too much.”

“You are so dramatic.”

"I am far too much for anyone to handle."

"I am not enough."

"It is all my fault."

My boyfriend had left me for another girl. So in my immense pain, I blamed myself. I was the root of why the dice fell the way they did and why it hurt so badly. I didn’t know why I was doing that, since I had such a strong—yet incorrect—sense of self. But beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind, it was my fault. Not his. Verbally, I said it was his fault and told myself that. But deep down, I was sick with the idea that it was because of me. The idea that something was innately wrong with me was something I couldn't bear, but it was seemingly the only clear explanation in the chaos of the hurt I was experiencing. It was my fault. I did care too much. I was being dramatic. And the list went on and only snowballed. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me

It has been almost two years since I started to unpack the lies that had been growing inside my heart and taking over my mind. In the beginning, I didn't even realize there were lies to combat. But I desperately wanted to make the deep pain of rejection and betrayal go away. And in that search, I began to uncover the lies. I started to realize that this hurt wasn't only caused by my ex boyfriend--I didn't protect and love myself. I fed the flames, the lies, with my own toxic thoughts and ideas. It was so passive, because I was not actively speaking truth and love to my own heart. If you aren't actively holding up a shield, you might as well be standing arms wide open as fiery darts are piercing you. When I finally realized this, I had been burned so many times, I didn't even know what I looked like without charred skin and painful wounds. I thought that what I was feeling was just the way it would always be. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

If you are reading this, there's a good chance you have cancer or someone you love has cancer or you at least knew or know someone who did have cancer. According to the legitimate and always accurate Wikipedia, "Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body." Without diminishing the agonizing effects of cancer itself, I can't help but parallel cancer to the lies we believe about ourselves. While there are over 100 types of cancer, there is an infinite number of lies we believe about ourselves and much like cancer, it looks unique to everyone. And without treatment, like cancer, these lies take on a life of their own, only to cause pain and destruction and deterioration of all that is good in our lives. And cancer and lies never affect just the person dealing with them first-hand--they play out in our lives to affect everyone around us. Maybe it does't happen right away, but it always does. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

Life is hard and life is messy and the power of our words has SO much to do with the difficulty and messiness we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Words slip off my tongue so easily that I am sure I have offended and hurt nearly every person I have ever said anything to. Even minor jokes that I have made have shaped into lies that someone now believes about themself to their core--I know that's true because that has happened to me, countless times. Your words matter--words to others and words to yourself.

I'll say it again for those in the back...YOUR WORDS MATTER--WORDS TO OTHERS AND WORDS TO YOURSELF. It is a lie that words can never hurt you. Do not buy into that. I am still (and probably will always be) in the process of unravelling what I know about myself to be true and what lies I am believing. It's hard work. Healing from anything is never passive--it requires active effort. So if you are reading this and certain words come to mind that someone said to you or you think about yourself and it makes your heart sink, know two things: what you feel is valid, but it doesn't have to be that way. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

Just because someone said something or you think something to be true, it doesn't mean it is. There are probably lies you believe right now that you don't even know you believe them. And they are hurting you. It doesn't have to be that way. But healing from the lies takes work and energy to learn how to get to the bottom of those lies and how to combat them. I am not an expert in this. Like, at all. So I can only speak from my experience with this. But it has to start somewhere. At this risk of this article turning into a cheesy how-to, I am going to give you a little guide in hopes that it will help serve as a launching pad to that will bring you peace in your own journey of healing from lies:

  1. Recognize and admit that there are probably lies you believe to be true that have been spoken over you, probably by someone you care about. Maybe it was a parent or a teacher or a friend or a significant other, but if you are a human, another human has been human and said something to hurt you, whether it was purposeful or completely unbeknownst to them. It happens. But you have to recognize that the lies do exist before you can do anything about them.
  2.  Recognize and admit that there are probably lies you believe to be true that you have, in the past or present, told yourself. This probably will take some time and introspection and maybe incorporating steps 3 and 4. But all of us believe things about ourselves that are not true and it's not healthy. In order to grow and heal from these, we have to first uncover these lies we tell ourselves. This can be tricky, because sometimes they are so hidden and seem so innocent, even if they are eating away at us. For me, one of the biggest lies I am still working on not believing is that I care too much. I heard this from my ex boyfriend, probably a few times when we were in a fight, but it has stuck with me deeply, and has manifested in many parts of my life. I started telling myself over and over and over that I just care too much. So any time I even talk to a guy, I question if I am being overbearing or annoying because I do believe that I "care too much" and that it's not a good thing. 
  3. Talk to a trusted friend about this. Or a mentor. But talk to someone in your life that loves you unconditionally. And actually tell them what's going on. Ask them point blank for their point of view, if they see you believing certain things about yourself that are lies. It's amazing how a different perspective can help point out blind spots we didn't even know were there.
  4. Talk to a trained professional. I am such a HUGE advocate for counseling/therapy. It has been a game changer in my life and I hate how taboo it still is in 2018. As a culture, we are fine going to see a trained professional for our physical health, but have so many reservations about seeing someone for our mental and emotional health. My advice...do it. Just do it. Even if you have been before and didn't have the best experience or you have been to counseling for other reasons, just do it. It might take a few visits to find a therapist you click with, but once you do, it's amazing how a trained, outside perspective can help you uncover and heal the lies in your life. If you need help finding somebody near you, start by checking out https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists or asking friends for referrals. More people are in therapy than you think! 
  5.  Reconcile. This looks different for everyone and it's a two part step. Think of it like bonus material ;) 
    •  Sometimes you need to tell someone that their words hurt you and you need to forgive them. I know I need to do this with some people in my life. I think forgiveness has to happen, even if you are never able to tell the person. Again, it looks different for everyone, in every situation. But it is SO vital in healing from words said against you. Forgiveness is about actively choosing to let go. 
    • Sometimes you need to reconcile with yourself. You need to address the elephant in yourself, that the lies you once believed or are believing are NOT true. You need to forgive yourself for believing it (I can't be the only one who has the most trouble with this one...) and start telling yourself  TRUTH. For me, that has looked like writing Bible verses and positive affirmations on notecards and taping on my bedroom door and in my car. I see them all the time. Some of them just say, "You love others so well--never stop doing that!" and "You ARE enough!" and "You are a child of God--don't forget that today!" They're just little reminders to help me keep perspective of who I am and what I believe about myself.

All these have helped me so much in learning about myself and I have grown immensely much because of these things. But I believe to my core that if you aren't consistently taking action to fight off the lies, you will slip back into believing them. This isn't a one-time list of things to do and you'll be this self-actualized version of you. Healing takes time and it takes continually working at it--it never just happens. Another nonnegotiable for my journey of self-care and healing has been prayer. This life is about so much more than just us. We were created in the image of a loving God and it breaks His heart when we believe we are anything less than that. Cover your lies in prayer--it helps to suffocate them. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.

Your words are powerful. They have the capability to bring life or to bring torment in the most influential ways. Remember this as you interact with people and in the quiet moments when you are alone with your thoughts. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Do it for yourself, for your family, for those who have deeply hurt you--I promise you, they are hurting too. Do not let the negative power of words erode and deteriorate your heart and mind. Take action in this! We all have experienced the effects of lies, but it doesn't have to be this way. Seek healing, however that may look for you, and don't stop fighting for truth. You deserve that. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, AND words can DEFINITELY hurt me. But they don't have to.


 


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