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 my 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.  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.  

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