I'm sure you've heard the following phrase: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
I cannot express how many times I heard this growing up and how I took it to heart — reminding myself that words did not matter, which was utterly confusing when words would cut through me like a knife.
Words would burn and sizzle; heal me and lift me; break me and make me.
"I just said that I didn't mean it."
"Don't listen to them; they didn't think before they said that."
"Don't take what they said to heart."
"Don't care what people think or say."
News flash, your words matter.
Language has immense power. Tone and word choice and timing. They all matter.
Walking into the gym one night, a sweet older man who is always carrying a smile commented on my body. Suggesting that I looked better than before. "I can tell you're doing the work!"
I responded with thank you, but on the inside, this comment was killing me. I could feel my chest tighten.
Immediately I spiraled. Did I not look okay before? Did I look overweight? Was I gaining weight? Was I losing weight? Was I not working out hard enough? What had I been eating lately? Sugar? Carbs? Do I need to meal prep better? Do I need to cut this out of my diet?
I mean, this list goes on and on.
And I have a history of spiraling regularly.
He doesn't know my history with weight loss or food. He knows less than 1% about me. But the heaviness of his words had an impact on me. He didn't pause to think maybe I shouldn't comment on someone's body. He didn't analyze his remark and think maybe she has a history with body image issues.
And I'm sure some people will fire back and say "don't' take that so personally" or "why does his opinion matter so much?" Or label me as sensitive and weak, which I would counter that even bringing this topic up is far from weak. Carrying the weight of emotion and being self-aware takes an enormous amount of strength, and so does honesty.
But the issue isn't with me valuing this person's opinion because I don't.
The issue at hand is the domino effect that proceeds the comment.
The issue is that our world is SO focused on the outer that it corrupts and disrupts the inner.
A human being's value is not contingent upon their attractiveness. Plain and simple.
And I propose that we comment less on a person's body and more on a person's character.
It is as simple as most people do not think before they speak. Myself included. And as I learn about the effect of unintentional words, I also learn TO BE INTENTIONAL with my words. I try to think before I speak. I try to make fewer comments on someone's body and more compliments on their dazzling personality.
So if you're reading this, join me in being intentional with your words. Let's make a difference in the world and bring the lightness of kindness and compassion with our words.
And if you're feeling extra, share your intentional words with me! I would love to hear your thoughts and practices!
Art Credit: MHN