“She’s so weird…”
I was 9 years old and at my best friend’s birthday party. I was having a great time until a girl I hardly knew leaned over and whispered those words to my friend. She was talking about me.
One would think that I’d be over it 10 years later. I’m well aware that I should be, and I’ve tried hard to forget that moment, but I can’t. It dug deep. That little girl took a knife and stabbed me, etching those words deep into my skin where they would remain forever. It hurt then, and it hurts now. Sure, the pain has faded greatly; the wound has been reduced to a scar. But it still stings a little when I look back on it, and I have a feeling that this will remain the case for the rest of my life.
After that party, I became more self-conscious about my actions and personality. Those words prompted me to begin to analyze everything I did or said. It likely contributed to my frequent self-loathing and why, deep-down, I’m always paranoid that everyone thinks that I’m too weird or annoying or awkward or just overall unlikable.
“You’re such a whiner crybaby!”
“You’re suffocating me.”
“You’re so annoying.”
“You’re a terrible friend.”
“You’ve never done anything for me.”
“Nobody ever wants to talk to you.”
“You act so fake.”
If the words that hurt most left physical wounds, those are just a few phrases that would appear on my skin. All of those, and many others, have cut deep into my self-esteem, causing me to try hard to alter my actions and change my entire personality. And not in a good way. We all can use constructive criticism and we all can improve ourselves because, of course, nobody is even close to perfect. But these things, most of which were said to me by friends, are not constructive criticism. The snippets may not seem like it, but I know that within the context of the situations, they were harsh and unnecessary. All of those words have taken away more and more pieces of me, making it harder and harder to recognize my good characteristics. Now, I constantly worry about what others think of me. Now, I try hard to please everyone. I try hard to be 100% likable. But, of course, I have failed. It’s impossible to make everyone like you and, unfortunately, I think I crack most when I’m with the people I love, because making strangers and acquaintances like me is a near-impossible task that is draining and entirely too much pressure.
I know, I know: “Sticks and stones may break my bones….”
Am I just overly sensitive? I don’t know. It’s entirely possible. But also, as much as we pretend that words don’t hurt and that we’re unaffected by things that people say, that’s just not true. I know that I am not the only person with deep, permanent emotional scars. I know that I am not the only person who has, on occasion, been reduced to emptiness because I so desperately wish that I could be someone else, someone who wasn’t weird, fake, and a crybaby. I know that I am not the only person who constantly over-analyzes every single interaction I have with other people.
To the people who said all of those things, they probably seemed small. In some cases, hurting me was not the intention, and many of those people likely don’t even remember saying it. I won’t pretend that I haven’t said hurtful things, myself; as much as it pains me to think about it, I’m sure that I’ve unintentionally caused scars in other people, too.
But the point is, we can’t just decide what does and doesn’t hurt other people. Words can make someone stop smiling or laughing because someone has told them that the way they express their joy is weird. Words can cause someone to stop doing their favorite hobby or activity, for fear of others’ judgment. Words can—and do—change a person’s entire life.