Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s harshness? Criticism? Gas-lighting? Name-calling? Bullying? Shaming? Humiliating? Lying?
Well, “sticks and stones may break your bones but words….”
Just stop. Right there. Because “words can never hurt you” is absolute, dangerous, bullshit. Words can break your heart, poison your mind, even destroy your life. They can make other people hate you, even if they’re not true. They can plant seeds of self-hatred in you that grow into a fetid swamp, dimming your inner light until there’s virtually nothing left of the Good in you. They can even get a dangerous lunatic elected to be President. After all, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
When nasty, harmful words do come your way, you will hear the well-intended advice: “Just don’t let it get to you”, “They’re just words, who cares?”, “You can’t base your self-worth on what someone else says about you”. Or people cheerlead you (which is nice, don’t get me wrong), “You’re way better than that!” “You’re amazing!” “To hell with those losers, you don’t need them anyway!” “Believe in yourself” “It doesn’t matter what they say, just ignore them…”
Okay, so…all this is kind of true. It IS true that “self-worth” has to come from “within”, in that you can’t be dependent on another person for how you see yourself. Otherwise, you are vulnerable as hell to the whims of other people. It is also true that when someone treats you like garbage, it IS their problem; they clearly “have issues”.
So, “man up”! Gird for the battle of life! Stand on your own two feet. Be authentic. Express yourself. Be happy with who you are. Realize happiness is a choice, and all that positive-thinking stuff that we’ve filled bookstore shelves with. Take a good dose of the classic Dad/masculine/Jordan-Peterson-advice we’ve all heard over the Ages, and, toughen up, snowflake. The world don’t owe you shit. You get what you work for, so quit your whining and “boohoo I’m a victim,” and set some goals and then get at it! Square your shoulders, straighten your back, look ’em in the eye and have a firm handshake.
This advice works. For sure. There are literally millions of success stories out there and Anthony Robbins seminars and goal-setting strategies and football coaches and drill sergeants and people-who-turned-their-lives-around, to prove it. If you want to argue against the Rules for Life (however many there may be), you’ve got a steep uphill climb ahead of you, to say the least. Good luck.
One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead men got up to fight
Back to back they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other
A deaf policeman heard the noise
And came and shot those two dead boys
If you don’t believe this lie is true
Ask the blind man,
He saw it too.
You see, the unfortunate OTHER part of the truth is that this advice has a lot of unhelpful and downright harmful Bullshit in it too. D’oh! And this Bullshit cannot be refuted by a million Anthony Robbins telling you to ‘awaken the giant within’, or a million people-who-turned-their-lives-around. Because I guarantee you, if you look into the complexity of human experience, you’ll find lots of people for whom that good ‘ol Dad-advice just plain didn’t work. It made them feel ashamed of themselves. Not good enough. It made them burn up years and years of their lives “striving for goals” but never feeling like, they are enough, they have enough.
Simply put, trying to straighten your shoulders, doesn’t always give you straight shoulders. Sometimes it just makes you stiff and inflexible and gives you a sore back. …..just go ask a physiotherapist if the way to good posture is to force your shoulders back, and see what they say. The true key to good posture is to develop a strong core, to soften and stretch certain muscles, as well as strengthening others. It’s more than “straighten up!” A lot more.
Because reality IS complex, and even though a one-size-fits-all message is simple and compelling, “the simple” is not always “the true”. Otherwise, you really WOULD learn everything you need to know in life, in kindergarten. The more complex truth is that what works for one person may not work for another.
You already know this. One way of having sex is not “the best” for all people. One type of music. Food. Humour. TV show. Interior decorations. Temperature. Amount of sleep. Fav colour/number/animal/dinosaur/planet/philosopher/superhero/pizza-toppings. Humans are bloody complex.
To see the Bullshit part of the dad-advice, you have to look at when it doesn’t work. Find those examples. Study those variables. See if you can begin to tease out with greater and greater accuracy, the different contributing factors that determine whether squaring your shoulders and reaching for the elbow grease is the right approach, or whether it might actually be harmful.