Words Matter

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I haven’t written here for a long time. Honestly, I didn’t see much point. The things I was saying didn’t seem to be reaching very many people and the ones that needed to see/hear them most don’t even look at my blog. The few that do seem to stop by and read, well, I’m pretty much ‘preaching to the choir’ there.

Recently, while discussing a fandom issue on a Twitter thread, a couple of people expressed the wish that I would continue with my blog. I guess if it helps or makes even a single person think then it has fulfilled its function. It isn’t up to ME to dictate how my writing affects others, it’s up to ME to write it and let the universe handle the rest. Makes sense given what I want to talk about here today.

First, I am going to ask…beg really…for people to respond to this question either here on the blog or via Twitter. Please look at this picture and tell me if you think any of these girls are ‘fat’…. ‘porky’……. ‘chunky’ ….. or any of a number of other adjectives used to denote being overweight. I seriously want comments on this – as detailed as you will like to get them.

 

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Now, this is an old picture so no feelings will be hurt. I happen to know that one of those girls (they were all….16 or 17 in this picture) was told repeatedly by her family that she was overweight and needed to trim down. She was told she was fat and would never make anything of her life if she didn’t fix it. At school she was called a variety of names all indicating that she was overweight. Can you pick which girl this was said to?

She believed what people said; believed it so completely that she dressed differently from her friends, constantly stressed about how ‘fat’ she was and never felt good enough for anything. I happen to know she reached adulthood consistently gaining weight and now, as those words that she was bombarded with from the time she was a young teen said, she is indeed fat/overweight. Very likely she would be told she is obese by a doctor – though she tests out fairly healthy. Joint issues are beginning to manifest and the extra weight likely isn’t doing her heart any good, but overall healthy.

Words matter. How might this woman’s life have been different if she would have told – especially by her family – that she was a perfectly normal teen? If she had been encouraged to be more active at a younger age? (She’s a bookworm, has been since she was six and likes to do crafty things – all sitting down activities.) I wonder if she would have had more confidence and followed her dreams rather than working in jobs that she was good at but never really enjoyed. Would she at this stage just be slightly overweight rather than obese?

Words matter. I am using this story to illustrate that. The tongue is one of the strongest muscles we have; it can build up or tear down. If you have never read them, I highly recommend two books: Hung by the Tongue and The Tongue: A Creative Force.

Words matter. What we say matters. How we say things matters. How often is ‘constructive criticism’ actually more DEstructive and meant to be? What we say to others, tweet to others, respond to others – blog – matters. It has cause and effect. Should we keep silent in our own worlds? Of course not – but we should be ever aware of the words we use and how we use them.

Some people are very secure in themselves and their chosen professions and so can take a lot of criticism in stride without too many negative side effects. Many are not in that place. I encourage you to ‘speak’ to people from a place of respect: both for yourself and them. They may look different, think differently than you, believe differently or have different ideology – but they are still a human being just like you. You may not agree with them, but respect that they believe differently. Discuss those differences! Learn about and from each other! Have respect. Words matter.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not perfect. I screw up on a regular basis. I have probably ‘said’ things here in this blog I shouldn’t have or that came across badly. I try to be very mindful when I post anything as to how it comes across and might affect others – but I get angry sometimes and just don’t police myself well.

I just pray I never do to anyone else what was done to that girl that so irrevocably affected her life.

Words matter.

Namaste

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14 thoughts on “Words Matter

  1. Gail says:

    I think the girls look like normal teens…However, when I was 14 I was ‘chunky’ and teased til I wanted to fall off the Earth. Family especially can be so cruel, maybe they don’t mean to be , but the effects are long lasting. I can’t tell you how many diets I tried until I finally came to the conclusion my body was meant to be the way it was because of genetics from the gene pool of my parents, and grandparents. I dumped the diets and started to eat properly and healthy, and tho I never became slim, or svelt, I did start to like myself and my weight slowly became normal for my shape. And this finally happened when I was in my late 20’s, so words can make a difference in one’s life. I spent all those years being miserable because of someone’s opinion of how I looked. Unkind words can impact a persons self esteem no matter what the case may be.

    • rynawolfe says:

      Thanks for taking the time to respond Gail. I myself don’t think any of the girls look ‘fat’. The one who was put through that is in her 50’s now and still struggling with image and self-esteem issues. Getting better – friends are working had on her!

      I’m hoping people will take this idea and apply it to other areas too – especially fandom issues. All I can do is put it out there – people have to do with it what they will.

  2. traceymfs says:

    Great sentiments. Words have a power we often don’t perceive and can linger far longer than the intended comment. All the girls look a good healthy weight, but we live in a world where even looking almost anorexic is too fat. I know how she feels as I live with that image too. Nothing i do shifts the weight because of the underlying belief. I am very slowly coming to terms with it, but it is mightily difficult.
    Thank you for voicing opinions. It’s important that we keep doing so and maybe one day someone will be touched and that may just change their life for the better.

    • rynawolfe says:

      Yes, be careful in how we body shame even when that isn’t our intention. True weight issues – both ways – need to be addressed, but all bodies are unique and ok. I’m hoping though that people won’t stay stuck on the ‘fat’ thing…but expand that idea to other areas and ideas.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment…I really appreciate it.

  3. bwismer5 says:

    I ABSOLUTELY AGREE! None of these girls is anything but a healthy teen-ager. My guess, however, having been there myself, is that the one hiding in the back on the right in green is the “fat” one. I think they all look great. I’ve seen in my own life how distorted a view of ourselves we can get – looking back at pictures of my younger self and knowing how unhappy I was with that wowzer body! OMG!! Finally after all these years and all the ups and downs just more concerned about health and fitness and that really leads to inner peace. Thanks for all you do.

    • rynawolfe says:

      Um…actually it was the one in the jeans because she felt too ‘fat’ to let her legs be seen in shorts. Had been told that by her family – that she shouldn’t expose her fat legs in public.

      I so appreciate you taking the time to comment. I often wonder if anyone actually reads what I write so…the comments really help. Thank you.

  4. Jackie Campbell @ jackieincincy says:

    I am the girl you describe ( not literally ), now at 60, still having all those issues. Feel like I have wasted my life worrying too much about it. I get your point here. Words matter. People spend way too much time criticizing the things that don’t matter. If I could get back the time and energy I spent hating my body, well can’t be done. I see my teen nieces doing the same things to themselves. Why do women seem to struggle so much with loving themselves and their bodies?

    • rynawolfe says:

      Perhaps because we are so bombarded with the images from Hollywood and advertising that if you want to be loved and happy you have to be skinny and beautiful and land a rich guy. So much better if we could promote the idea that people have worth no matter what their size/shape/color/sex. There are some things, physically, that women just can’t do as well as men without serious sacrifice/training….our musculature is just different. That isn’t good or bad, it just is. We as human beings need to take care of ourselves and be healthy – emotionally & mentally as well as physically. Doesn’t mean super skinny or super smart…means balance in your own life and your balance won’t be the same as anyone else’s. If we can get that through our kids heads – ALL kids – the world would likely be a much happier/stable place. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Sherri Lewis says:

    I completely related to this and could easily see this being about me! I think all the girls are perfectly normal and agree that things could have been very different if we had just been accepted rather than having all the focus on the few pounds that were contested been on other things. I still struggle with self confidence issues as I have all my life, am now very over weight and I am now 67. Thanks so much for posting your article.

    • rynawolfe says:

      Sherri, I’ve had similar comments several times. I think this idea is true for many of us…and not just about a few pounds. Intelligence, creativity, ethnicity….pretty much anything. I’m right with you on the ‘very overweight’….I’m working at being healthy and able to move more than being skinny. Living on a boat, flexibility is rather necessary. Bless you – thanks for your comment.

  6. Donna says:

    All three girls look adorable! I would be lucky to consider any of them a friend & would never believe any of them had a weight problem. Sadly, I do understand your point. Just recently I discovered a letter written by my grandmother to my mother criticizing one of my sisters in what I believe was an unkind manner. Even after all these years (40+), those words felt like a knife to the heart. Please don’t stop writing. Even if it IS the choir, we love to hear you preach! Keep spreading the word! Good words!!!

    • rynawolfe says:

      Thank you Donna – I really appreciate that. Looking at that picture….I don’t think any of them are ‘fat’ either – or even chunky. I can tell you the one on the left in the picture did something like 200 sit-ups every night to keep her stomach flat. The one on the right often deprived herself of foods she really loved to keep her clothes fitting and the one in the middle played volleyball, basketball and did a year of cheerleading in junior high – but didn’t feel she could compete for senior high. They all struggled yet, I look at them and think “what great looking gals”.

  7. CVic says:

    I am the girl in the picture. All through my youth I was made fun of and told “I would be so pretty if only I would lose some weight”! I became heavier but was still healthy. I had big three very active children and from the stress of three pregnancies and raising three overly active children I am now in poor health and in chronic pain. Be very careful what you say to people of any age because words have power. Power to lift up and encourage or the power to tear down and discourge!

    • rynawolfe says:

      Yes that exactly! I imagine there are many that could be the girl in the picture – not just over weight. Beauty/looks, abilities, talent, creativity…so many things. I hope you can work at getting healthier and feeling better. Blessings.

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