Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones…

Have you ever been called names?

Have you ever been laughed at because of the way you dress, a feature on your body, or another unique characteristic?

If so, my friend, you are not alone!

I remember when other children made fun of me growing up. The kids would call me fat, ugly, geeky, and so many other cruel words. Those words would hurt my feelings and tear my confidence apart.

I would run to my grandma and she would tell me this saying over and over.

“Joy, you go back and tell those kids… Sticks & Stones may break my bones, but your words will never hurt me.”

But their words did hurt. I would tell my grandma that everything those kids said to me and about me, gave me so much pain which led to many tears.

My grandma would say in her wisest voice, “It only hurts if you let it.”

“Joy, why do you give their words so much power? Do you believe what they say about you to be true? Is a stranger’s belief about you more important than your belief about yourself? If it is, then you need to love yourself more.”

My grandma was deep.

As a child, I began to contemplate why I let what others say about me affect me in such a powerful way. Why do I let their words get me to the point of tears? Was it because I secretly believed them? Was it because to me, they were more important, so everything they believed about me had to be true?

The “Sticks and Stones” mantra really carried me throughout my childhood. It allowed me to become a more confident and secure individual. I began to never focus on what others had to say about me. I truly believed whatever they said to me was a reflection on them and something they were going through so I never took it personal.

It wasn’t until I started my career that the stick and stones mantra began to falter.

Later in life, I found myself at an organization that coached people on being self-aware. The organization’s interpretation of self-awareness was being mindful of how others perceived you and if those individuals had power, you should modify yourself to ensure their perception of you remained good.

The process of adapting to the culture of this organization became so triggering for me. Instead of becoming self-aware, I became self-conscious. Every move I made, I constantly thought about how others were thinking about my actions. Although I knew I had good intentions, I worried they wouldn’t believe me to have good intentions. I began to second guess all of my actions and decisions.

I came into the organization at an entry level position. I was the lowest on the totem pole. In my eyes, everyone was more powerful, and I was in a constant cycle of trying to please everyone’s idea of who I should be.

Everyone’s words affected me. If someone had an opinion on the way I dressed, I would change it. If someone had an opinion on the way I spoke, I changed it. If someone had an opinion on the way I wore my hair, I changed it and so on…

The changes I made to please those in power began to shift my foundation. Who I was as a person, the human being I knew myself to be, began to disappear and transform into this big melting pot of others’ ideas, opinions, and beliefs about who I should be.

I lost myself. I began to have serious panic attacks. I was diagnosed with anxiety. I had many health issues, and this was because I lost my “core”. I gave all of these individuals in power, power over my life.

During this season of my life, my son began to attend school. He began to run into the same routine that I had experienced when I was younger.

He would come home upset about other kids making fun of the way he draws, how he dresses, and the way he speaks. He even asked me to cut his hair and change his name from Romeo to Liam one day because he wanted to change who he was so bad.

On that day, I ended up calling my grandma because I was so upset about how my son was feeling and I needed advice. Grandma told me in the most loving way, “Joy, have you not taught him sticks and stones? Given what you are going through at work, you probably don’t remember sticks and stones, either.”

It all came back to me. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words will never hurt me.”

It came back to me like it never left. I fell to the floor in tears. Not tears of sadness but tears of relief. Hearing my grandma say those words to me flashed so many sticks and stones moments from my past before my eyes.

I began to reminisce about so many moments where I’ve overcame someone’s inaccurate opinion of me thanks to sticks and stones. So many times, where I stayed true to who I was despite what others were saying because of sticks and stones. Rising from this epiphany, I went into Romeo’s room and asked him about what made him want to change all of these things about himself.

I found myself giving him the same speech that my grandma gave to me. “Why do you value those other kids’ opinion? Do you think how their feelings about you and your name are true? Why do you give them so much power over how you feel about yourself?”

Then I told Romeo to repeat after me. “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but your words will never hurt me”. He repeated it until he memorized it. He smiled at me and I knew we were on the same page.

This moment healed me. I not only helped my son, but I found myself again.

I share this post to encourage you to never let anyone’s words break you. They do not know your worth. They do not have the control to determine who you are as a person.

Words do have power, but YOU have the power to decide which words you will receive and which ones you will reject.

I encourage each and every one of you to maintain your power, master your confidence, and never ever let someone’s word hurt you to the point of losing who you are.

Always remember Sticks & Stones…

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