Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will crush my spirit.

I was thinking this morning – and don’t ask me why, because I have absolutely no idea – about the power of words.

I’m sure 99% of people who might read this would recognize the old saying that I’ve paraphrased in my title.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

What a fucking lie!

Words can destroy a person’s soul.  But on the other hand, words can build it up again as well.

If you hear something enough times, you begin to believe it to be true, regardless of what the reality is.  For example, the words I heard constantly when I was growing up:

“You’re so fat.”
“Nobody will ever like you, let alone love you.”
“You’re worthless.”
“You’re stupid.”
“You’re ugly.”
“You can’t do anything right, can you?”
“You’re so lazy.”
“I wish I’d never taken you in.  But I had no choice.”

The worst part?  It wasn’t all from the bullies at school.  I heard it at home as well.  The funny thing is, to this day my grandmother/mom will deny ever saying anything remotely close to what she actually did say.  She’s in total denial regarding how she treated me when I was growing up.

I often wonder about those kids who used to bully me.  I wonder if they realized the harm they were doing.  It wasn’t just kids being kids – it was vicious.  It was abuse.  But did they realize it at the time?  I doubt it.  I wonder if they realize now the permanent, lasting damage they caused.  And I don’t mean just to me.  I wasn’t the only one that got picked on, ganged up on.  But I’m the only one living in my head, so I can only say how it affected me.

But the fact is, I heard those words – and any variation you could possibly think of – pretty much every single day of my life growing up.  So I believed it.  After all, why would practically every single person I knew in my life say the same things if they weren’t true?

So I developed what I call non-existent self-esteem.  Not low self-esteem – that would imply that one had at least a little bit of a good opinion about oneself.  Me?  Not so much.  As a matter of fact, I would truly struggle to find even one thing I liked about myself.

But there was one point in my life when I thought that maybe – just maybe – I was okay.

And once again, it all boiled down to someone’s words and how often I heard them.

I have to give all the credit to the last boyfriend I had before Hub.  For me, it was love at first sight; for him… I dunno.  I can tell you, however, that we were together for a year before I met Hub.  Our relationship wasn’t going to go any further than it already was, and I’d finally accepted that fact, so I was a little more open to meeting new people when I came across Hub in a chat room.

But while we were together, my ex (I’ll call him “R”) went out of his way to say nice things to me.  I don’t just mean giving the “right” answer if I asked something like “do I look fat in this?”  This was spontaneous.  It was all on his own.  And I believed him.  I didn’t think anybody else felt the same way he did, but I believed that HE did.  R used to tell me how beautiful I was.  He used to tell me what he liked about me.  Even the fact that I loved him so deeply was a good point to him, regardless of the fact that he didn’t love me.  It was probably the fact that I accepted him as he was without trying to make him love me or make him into anything other than what he was that he liked so much.  But where some men would push away a woman who loved them when they couldn’t return the feeling, he appreciated that in me. 

And after constantly hearing it from him, month after month after month, I started to believe him.  If he could come to me and say those things over and over and over again, then maybe they were true.  Maybe I wasn’t so bad.

I ask myself over and over again.  What happened?

You see, I broke up with R.  As I said, I realized and accepted that our relationship wasn’t going to be anything more than what it already was.  And for a while that was fine, but I was at the stage in my life when I wanted something more.  It didn’t necessarily have to be marriage, but I wanted more than what I was getting.  And I knew I wasn’t going to get it from him.  So while I wasn’t actively seeking someone new, I wasn’t going to discount the possibility.

And wouldn’t you know it, within weeks I’d met the man who was to become my husband.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love my husband.  As a matter of fact, I love him more than I could have ever even imagined.  More than anybody who came before him, and I seriously doubt that I could ever love another man the way I love him.  But for some reason, since I’ve married him, my self-esteem has gone down the toilet again.


I don’t really know.  I DO know that Hub doesn’t “say nice things to me” like R did.  He used to.  But he says that he got so sick of me disagreeing with him that he stopped.  Personally, I think it’s because he doesn’t actually think those things about me anymore.  Maybe he did once, but I don’t think he does now.  The difference between him and R is that R just ignored me and kept telling me anyway.

Sometimes I think it’s our choices in our life together that have had a detrimental effect on my self-esteem.  I used to go to work and provide for our family, while he stayed home and took care of the children.  That was largely due to U.S. Immigration (they screwed him over big-time, and he couldn’t work legally), and I didn’t have a problem going to work – just as I didn’t have a problem with him staying with the children.  One of us had to, and if I was the only one that could work legally, then that’s what I’d have to do.

But once we moved to the UK, we reversed our roles – by CHOICE.  I WANTED to stay home with the children.  I would have done it from day 1 if we could have afforded it.  At first it felt good, taking care of my children, taking care of the house and providing my family with a comfortable home to live in.

But I think that, over time, it’s worn me down.  Now I feel like it’s all I’m good for.  I’m not a “person” in my own right.  I’m a wife and mother.  It’s not PART of who I am, it IS me.  I’m a washer-woman, a housekeeper, a nanny, and a cook.  That’s it.

What does THAT do to a person’s self-esteem?

I mean it seriously got to the point where I wouldn’t eat when money was tight.  Why?  I would always say that it was because I felt like I was taking food out of my children’s mouths if I ate knowing that we couldn’t afford to buy any more food.  But if I’m going to be honest, it’s because I didn’t feel like I deserved to eat.  Besides, I figured, I had enough fat on me to sustain me for a year.

And then it got worse.  Hub had an affair.  It nearly destroyed me.  I thought of suicide so many times I couldn’t even begin to count them.  And while intellectually, I realize his affair had little to nothing to do with me, the effect of that affair is something I still deal with every day.

By having that affair, Hub validated every single bad thought I’d ever had about myself.

I MUST be ugly, or he wouldn’t have had the affair.  I MUST be too fat, or he wouldn’t have had the affair.  I MUST be stupid, or he wouldn’t have had the affair.  I MUST be worthless, or he wouldn’t have had the affair.

I realize that he never intended for me to feel that way, but what he doesn’t realize is that by having the affair, he destroyed not only my trust in him, but any shred of self-esteem I might have been clinging on to.  After all, if he could lie to me about where he was going when he was having the affair, how could I possibly believe anything else he’s ever said to me?

Words: they have power few people truly realize.  If more people realized the true power of the words they say, I think more people would take a minute to think before they speak.


~ by nuckingfutz on September 24, 2007.

3 Responses to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will crush my spirit.”

  1. EMO PAGE !!

  2. You must have not had an overall high self-esteem by yourself. If you did, you wouldn’t care what your parents or what bullies said to you. Maybe I’m just emotionless, but words never got to me. Words aren’t even real things. They are just ideas that society labels as things.

  3. even tho i am only 14 i have experienced a lot of the things in this article…i have been verbally abused…depressed… suffer from low self esteem….i think i am developing an eating disorder….i have considered suicide multiple times…rite up to when, how, n where….then something would happen….the phone would ring or mom would come home early or something…. i havent told ne1….my mom told me that sticks n stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me….n then would tell me that it looked like i was getting ‘thick’ in the stomach…or how she would try to bribe me to exersice….it makes me rly sad sometimes…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: