If you went to elementary school, or primary school as they call it elsewhere, you’ve more than likely been on the receiving end of some teasing and maybe even bullying. That being said, you definetly were told the common saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Or some variation of that idiom. To be completely honest, it made a lot of sense when we were kids. You could get a scraped knee, or a paper cut, and you would feel physical pain and then it heals. Somebody calls you a poopy head, and you just retort with a good, “I know you are, but what am I?” Of course you didn’t think about it this deeply when you were young, so most people didn’t really care all that much about name calling and bullying, so long as it was on the lighter side.
However, as you and I both know, as you grew up, especially during the teenage years and high school, words can hurt…very much so. Now, our parents knew this, and they knew how mean high schoolers can be. The one thing that surprised everyone was the invention, and inclusion, of the internet, more specifically social media. If you grew up with the advent of MySpace, or Facebook, you know exactly what I am talking about. These platforms were invented with the idea of bringing people together, hence the name “Social Media”. And while they certainly did bring people together, more often than not, they were brought together against other people. And as with anything in life, there were always outliers, people who don’t fit in anywhere. Now that’s all fine and dandy, it was basically an extension of “high school politics” anyways, but no one really predicted what it would quickly evolve into, or devolve I should say.
As I mentioned, social media quickly became an extension of the “highschool hierarchy”. Where the number of friends you had, correlated to your popularity in school and vice versa. There were two main problems with this though. First being that people like me, who didn’t fit in and didn’t like highschool very much, found their only solace was being at home, away from it all. Even then, most people didn’t have that great a home life either, but it was still better than being at school. That being said, the inclusion of social media stripped that singular comfort away. Being at home no longer meant you can get away from the highschool drama. The second problem, the biggest one, is that people became far more cruel online. They no longer were faced with the face to face repercussions of bullying some one. There was no need to be wary of teachers interveaning, even though they didn’t most of the time anyways. Instead of looking someone in the eyes and saying terrible things about them, all you had to do was type away on a keyboard. Although I’m not exactly sure why, this made people bolder and meaner when it came to what would be known as cyber bullying. They could unload on someone, and then just go back to their normal lives, without any issue. They could destroy someone’s self esteem, then go and have chicken nuggets for dinner and laugh with their family. All the while, those on the receiving end were still scarred by what transpired, maybe even more so because it was there for everyone to see. It’s not like they said something and it was done and over with. Once it was posted online, it was essentially permanent and public to all their “friends”. Yeah, it’s easy to say just back away, stay off of social media. However, during those years where it was growing like bamboo, you were almost required to have an internet presence, especially if you were in highschool. So much so, that even if you didn’t have any social media, you’d be picked on for that reason in addition to the preexisting ones. And it’s not like this all ended once you graduated either. Sure college was less focused on popularity, but it wasn’t without it. And there were even more reasons to be made fun of, like not drinking, not smoking, not going to parties, studying too much. The list is endless really.
As I mentioned before, highschool wasn’t really all that great for me. Between the bullying online and off, the fact that I was a bit of a loner, and topped off with my horrible self esteem and rapidly deteriorating mental health…you get the picture. It was unpleasant to say the least, torture at the most. It did get a bit easier in college, but I wasn’t out of the woods that easily. I got roped into drinking and drug use, I gambled and made poor desicions, I got horrible grades and eventually dropped out due to my mental health. My life has certainly been no walk in the park, but it wasn’t the worst either. I have definetly come a very long way due to my ECT treatment, and I even think I’ve gotten a bit wiser with age . My life is still not where I want it to be, but the progress I have made is remarkable, if I do say so myself. I’ve come to learn that what I enjoy, what makes me happy, I don’t need anyone’s approval for. I don’t care anymore what anybody says about my few hobbies, my few friends, my still unhealth habits, my mountain of debt (though I don’t enjoy that last one). I’ve realized that it isn’t selfish to worry about your own needs and desires over someone else’s, of course there is a limit to that, but you’re allowed to put yourself first. The real world is nothing like it was when I was growing up. I used to think that everybody only cared about what was in, hip, or random stuff that has little value in real life. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on Facebook, it’s quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter if you drive a beat up junker, so long as gets the job done. You don’t need the latest, greatest phone or watch, a thousand dollar handbag. None of that really matters. Sure there are those who disagree with me, but these people’s lives are shallow and filled with false happiness. They are only content so long as they drive a new BMW, or have designer clothes, so that everybody looks at them and gives them the attention they need to remain stable. I used to be a lot like that, so worried about appearances, but it doesn’t matter one bit, so long as you are happy with yourself. Not easy, I know, and I wouldn’t even say I’m there yet. But like I said, the progress I’ve made these past 2 years is nothing less than astonishing to me. It gives me something to be proud of, and it gives me hope for what is to come.
So all in all, words hurt. There is no way around that. There are hurtful people in the world, there always has been and always will be. It all comes down to how much power or control you give these things. You have to make your own happiness, no one or no thing can make it for you. Do what you love and love what you do. Dance like no one is watching. Just have fun with the short life that you have been given. It’s not easy, but it is simple. You will often surprise yourself.