I can remember chanting this in grade school but it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized the depth of this chant. “Sticks and Stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” can be a powerful mantra to remind us that OUR thoughts can override the thoughts and words of OTHERS but it can also be an empty flippant remark to those who’ve had their self-esteem eroded by damaging remarks.
Words can hurt.
I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago during a conversation with a group of friends. The women, all around the 50 mark, were discussing a comment that had been made about how everyone wanted to lose at least ten pounds. Upon stating that I was happy with my 145 pound body and didn’t want to lose ten pounds, one member of the group commented that “well you could lose ten pounds.” As quickly as the words the left her mouth she apologized but her opinion had been made clear. With no knowledge of what my body looks like naked at 135 pounds, this women felt that I would look better sans ten pounds. Fortunately, as much as I respect the opinions of others, I have come to value my own opinion. Her opinion did not send me into a spiral of body despair. I know what is healthy for me and it is not being 135 pounds. I was shocked that this intelligent woman would choose to discourage my healthy body image but twenty years ago those words would have hurt.
So if I wasn’t hurt why do I bring it up in a blog? Well… the comment made me ponder the impact this women has as a hidden mentor. These are the types of comments that can grind away at self-esteem, especially if delivered from a family member or close friend. These are the types of comments that innocently escape our lips and unintentionally pierce the souls of others.
Our words can encourage or discourage, they can both build and destroy self-esteem.
Being in the fashion industry, I am often made aware of the adverse effects of poor body image. I have seen women become bulimic and anorexic in an attempt to live up to an unrealistic ideal body image. I have seen genetically heavy-set women struggle to lose weight against a predisposed metabolism. I have seen slight women struggle to gain weight so that their bums and breasts would be more ample. I have witnessed women hiding inside obese bodies to escape abuse. I have worked with women who yoyo with weight. Sadly, I have worked with very few women who were at peace with their bodies. It is for those women and the women for whom I am a hidden mentor that I choose to be at peace with my body and to love my mirrored reflection.
This does not mean that my body is media ready for a magazine spread. It means that I choose to love my body the way it is. Please note that I have said CHOOSE. Being at peace with your body and loving your mirrored reflection is a choice. Sure others may think that I should lose 10 pounds and judge my love of cheese, chocolate and wine to be unhealthy, but I choose to be at peace. I choose to be at peace because there is a difference between well-groomed and vanity, between nurturing and obsession between self-respect and fanatical self-control. I am a huge advocate for healthy eating ,stress management and regular exercise but I will never have the body of a Victoria Secret model because I choose not too. By choosing to be at peace I am happy. I have self-love and consequently I can love others freely and without judgment.
Being comfortable with one’s appearance is not always a natural process. If you have been raised to be self-conscious, as I was, the journey to self-love can be arduous. The process is unique to each women but the signs that you are on the correct path are easy to read. When you can look at another women and identify her by means other than her appearance you are headed in the right direction. If you find yourself describing another women only by sensitive body image traits (chubby or skinny, flat or large busted, slightly over or underweight) then you are not on the correct path. It is only when we can describe ourselves and others by means other than against a “movie star ideal image” that we are on the correct path.
Sticks and stones can break our bones but words can damage deeper.
This is especially true if the words come from family and close friends. We are all hidden mentors. The words that leave our lips reveal our truest beliefs. Listen to your words and be sure that they are delivering a healthy message. Be wary of the quiet the inner voice that erodes self-esteem.