Words, Words, Words.
I remember being invited to my first sleepover when I was ten years old. I was beyond excited – each moment was spent dancing, colouring and discussing the latest Babysitter’s Club book.
The next week, however, was one of the worst of my formative years.
One of my teachers, who was my sleepover buddy’s aunt, accused me of stealing my friend’s possessions. I had taken this enormous bag with me to the sleepover – my family’s overnight bag was akin to Mary Poppin’s famous carpetbag – and the upshot was that I was blamed when a couple of things went missing. I burst into tears, and my teacher, thinking they were tears of guilt, pressed further. Her most threatening statement was that she would put me on a lie detector at the police station. I was ten! I had never misbehaved at school, let alone stolen anything.
Her words, however, stayed with me for a long time. I felt like the word ‘thief’ was branded on me, alerting others to be wary.
I realise that my 10-year-old reaction was extreme, but, if the words of teachers and childhood friends can stay with us, then how much more lasting are the words of those closest to us?
Recently, I was in a relationship with a man who was very encouraging. He loved my personality, my profession, and my looks. With each encouraging word he said, my confidence and sense of self grew – to supermodel proportions! Soon though, my shininess wore off and, instead of seeing the things he loved, he began to see my flaws. At first, I was cute and intelligent; then, I was lazy and unfocused. He wanted me to change, to be more like him, and I let his words sink deep down. I was worthless in his eyes, and I was becoming worthless in my own. This is a dangerous road and, luckily, I had friends who helped me see sense.
I guess, deep down, I knew that his words were false. I understood, unequivocally, that God loved me – and not in a trite, Sunday-school-mantra kind of way. There’s that famous scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary where Mark tells Bridget that he likes her just as she is, flaws and all. That’s exactly how God feels about us – only on a much grander scale. It says clearly in the bible that nothing we do can separate us from His love. So who was this guy to tell me that I had to change to be more loveable?
Even so, I found it difficult to forget the things he had said to me. Over time, they had become truths, rather than one man’s perspective.
In an attempt to help, a wise friend gave me two tasks to complete. Firstly, she told me to write down all the negative words he’d said, and rip them up. She explained that life was too short, and I had to let them go. Secondly, she said to write down any encouraging words people said to me, and that soon, the positive would outnumber the negative.
She was right on both accounts.
Ultimately, we all experience both positive and negative comments throughout our lives. If I asked you to recall the most negative thing someone had said to you, chances are you’d remember it word for word. Likewise, you would probably remember the positive just as vividly. We can’t control what others say to us and if we determine our self-worth based on others’ comments, we’ll either end up with an inflated ego or feeling worthless. The alternative is to ignore what the masses say, and to listen to the one who created us instead. And He thinks we’re invaluable.
Are there any words that you need to rip up?
Written by Jaime Ramsay
Photography by Elaine Kwok