“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”
Try healing the playground cries of "Four eyes fatty bum-bum" with six weeks in a plaster cast.
Ten years after suffering these daily school-time jibes I had laser eye surgery twice on both eyes so I could bin my glasses. They were Satan’s spawn and I absolutely detested putting them on every day.
As for the “fatty bum-bum” part, although cruel, in my head I never thought I had a problem with my weight. That bit didn’t bother me so I never got upset about it. I thought the problem was with their perception and I dismissed it as stupid.
Two insults; two different impacts.
The first part caused me so much self-loathing it led me down a path towards the surgeon’s knife.
The second part caused me such little bother I would happily munch chips in front of the bullies not giving a fourteen year old’s toss what they thought of me.
Sticks and Stones
When someone throws a stick at you, it may break your bone (*1). You have a cry, pop to A&E, give it some TLC and nurse it until it is healed.
But when someone says your nose is so large your family could use it as a ski run in winter, suddenly … you make a decision. Is it true?
If no then you laugh it off and get on with your life.
If yes then you have a cry after which….. you kindly rub a fat wad of salt into the open wound.
You look for photos where your nose looks enormous.
You listen out for people talking about large noses.
You even start to interpret innocent sentences as malicious insults.
Someone asks you if you can smell burning and you feel like you have been punched in the gut. Or the nose. Or the very depths of your melodramatic soul.
What is going on here is what psychologists call “confirmation bias”. This is where you (without even knowing it) seek out evidence to back up what you have chosen to believe.
You think that your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis?
Your opinions are actually the result of years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you believe while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions. (*2)
The problem is that the beliefs you (unknowingly) have chosen to hold about yourself, and you (unknowingly) continue to reinforce are central to how you view yourself as a person and the decisions you make.
Believe you are demotivated?
Believe you are terrible standing up to present?
Believe your colleague hates you?
Believe you can’t cope?
Believe you are right?
Believe you are happy, sad, ugly, pretty, confident, stupid, funny, clumsy, witty?
Believe you are Gandalf?
Whatever you believe about yourself or your world you will continuously seek out information to confirm it. Your ear will listen out for and will hear the insults or compliments, and will see the evidence that helps you prove that your belief is right. After all, we all want to be right, right? Even if it is about how much of a minger we are or how our day just couldn’t get any worse… (oh look it just did).
Just like the cries of “four-eyes fatty bum-bum” led me to the surgeon’s knife, but not to anorexia, it is what you choose to listen to, to hear and to believe that ends up becoming a reality to you.
Every single thing in your life you have chosen to do and chosen to believe.
Have you chosen wisely?