"Sticks and stones may break my bones.
But words can never hurt me."
We all know the rhyme. We were taught it when we went to school. The idea was that it would make us impervious to all the horrible things that the bullies said to us.
The fact is it is bullshit!
Broken bones mend and, if you are lucky, you get a cool story to tell about how you broke it.
For instance, I have broken the same arm four times, FOUR!
The first time was when I was about three and my sister pushed me down the stairs - I've never found out how many stairs there were.
The second time was when I was about eight and stood up on a skateboard for the first time going down hill.
The third time was when a boy chased me in the playground and stood on my jandal (thongs if you're an Aussie, flip flops if you are American). I hate jandals to this day.
The fourth time was at the end of playtime when I fell of the jungle gym and landed on the metal bar that would now be buried in bark or some other soft matting, not the case back in the 60's.
( My arm is fine now, thanks for asking!)
During those same school years I was skinny little thing and was teased -often.
By adults: "Don't turn sideways or you might disappear all together"
By my father:" Your legs look like matchsticks with all the wood scraped off."
By kids: "Storklegs!"
And even now, all these years later, I can still hear those words like it was yesterday and feel the shame and humiliation that I wasn't "normal"
I am no longer that skinny, wee girl. I grew into a voluptuous woman and it took me a long time to get comfortable with the size I am now, a long time.
A few years back I was leaving a weight loss clinic that I had joined , briefly. I had lost a few kilos and was feeling great... until I walked out the door and as I crossed the road, feeling proud, a car full of youths drove past and yelled "Fatty" out the window.
Words hurt.. and they linger, long past the person who said them will even remember .
And the words that we say to ourselves are some of the most damaging and detrimental to our well being. We foolishly think that because we don't say them out loud, that because they are thoughts they don't have as much impact.
The reality is that we have them playing in a constant , repetitive loop in our head where they eat away at our peace, our confidence, our very soul.
While we can develop strategies for dealing with toxic people and trolls ( read Leonie Dawson's blog on trolls here it is harder to silence the inner voice.
It can be done but it takes time.
My number one strategy for talking nicely to myself is to post pictures of myself as a toddler, child and preteen in prominent places.
Would I really want to say that to her? Is that the way that I want to speak to myself?
It also takes a gentle hand because, lets face it, beating our self up for beating our self up is a loop we don't want to get caught in. Constantly reminding yourself that you will try better next time and being gentle with yourself works best. And just like alcoholics or drug addicts we have to take it one day at a time.
The media will constantly tell you a million different reasons that you should feel bad about yourself so we have to stay vigilant and tell that voice in our head to sit down and shut the f@#$ up!