There are lots of old sayings that hold great wisdom. Things like “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” make good sense. But there are a few that make me chuckle, roll my eyes and shake my head. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Whoever said that was a big liar.
Last week I bared my soul and shared something on social media that I figured would just bring laughs at my expense. Instead, people opened up about similar things in their own lives. I shared pictures of my calendar from this school year where I have written what I was wearing every single day since August. I have a calendar just like it for every year since junior high or early high school. I shared the pictures not to point out my weird habit but to explain something very different.
You see, my strange little habit of keeping track of what I wear each day stems from middle school when the “mean girls” would make fun of the girls who wore the same clothes too often. Typically, those were the very poor girls who only owned a few outfits so re-wearing those outfits often was necessary. They had no other clothing choices. I was too shy to stand up for the poor girls and too terrified of being made fun of myself, so I started keeping track of what I wear every day to make sure that no one could make fun of me! When I would wear something more often than about every two weeks, I would spend half the day anxious and listening for whispers over my shoulder. That’s probably where the people-pleasing, approval-seeking part of my personality came from.
I pointed out to my followers this week that I realize how ridiculous it is now, at forty-two, to still be doing this. I fully realize that no one cares what I wear. No one else even pays attention to what I wear, so I could wear the same clothes every day for a week and likely no one would ever say a thing about it. But somehow, the damage done in adolescence is still enough to make me fearful of what others think about my wardrobe.
Those who commented on my post on Facebook shared similar stories of painful things that happened to them in those same formative years that have stuck with them into adulthood. Mean comments, rude statements, being made the object of jokes… those things hurt far more than we realize. They especially wound young people who are still forming their sense of self and working on becoming confident adults.
Please encourage your children to always choose kindness. Remind them, and demonstrate, compliments to others, positive encouraging words and seeing the treasure and value in others. It could very well turn the world around!