Be Careful What You Say to People. Your Words Have an Impact
If you’re as old as me then you’ve probably come across your fair share of verbal and emotional abuse.
When I was 16 I had my very first IT lecturer tell me that I’d never amount to anything. I was struggling attending college at the time; although I loved the course, and the people that I was attending it with, sitting in the house doing nothing seemed far more appealing at the time. By now the college had enough and was giving me my marching orders, and one of the last things she said to me was that I would never amount to anything in my life. It struck a chord in me because this was the first time I had been talked like this to by an adult that was not my family.
Anyway, those words stuck with me for a long time, even now, 23 years later and they are still with me; not as potent as they once were, but still a faint memory nonetheless. They hurt, they damn hurt. I wanted to tell her to take her college course and ram it up her fat arse.
So there I was, given my marching orders from my course because I had preferred to drink alcohol at home and pretend to my mum that I was going to college — she didn’t know, she was working hard away from home, she didn’t get back until night time. I left after her, and got home before her. She had no clue, even after I had stopped going.
Those words were still with me the next year when I had completed a whole new mode of study.
Again, they were with me two years later when I landed myself a job in the civil service and earned my first proper full time income. They were also there with me when I completed my teachers training, and also when I landed my first job lecturing in the community. Lastly, they were rested right on my shoulders when I ended up in middle management in the voluntary sector; when I pushed myself for awards, when I pushed for awards for others — and when I sat on steering groups and trustee boards.
Yeah, those words have pretty much have been pushing me to do amazing things for most of my life. I can remember when I came back from England to see my family and I wanted to stop off at the old college building and cram my qualifications, my awards, my successes down her stupid throat if she was still working there. But sadly life has moved on, the building is no more and the IT team is wildly different.
Now it has little effect on me, because well, I’ve made my mark, and I’m moving into areas I never thought humanly possible, for me at least. Those words she said when I was younger really have no effect on me now, they are but a distant memory of how I clung onto her words and used them as a battering ram to progress in my life. They were useful to me at a time when I needed them.
Luckily for me my mum was my cheering squad, and for most of my life she had told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be — so this lady at college with her stupid opinions, I was going to push back against her words with a vengeance like no-one had seen before. And I did, yet if it hadn’t had my mum helping me along I could have just accepted it as fact. And that wouldn’t be good. I think you have to be careful what you say to young people.
I say sometimes they can help when they hurt, but not always. Not all words can have the same effect, though. When my dad told me that I was a useless waste of space; he had told me enough times in my life that at one point I had stopped going for opportunities I should have because his words were always chipping away at me. Always whispering that I was not good enough when I went for the things I wanted to go for, but in the end didn’t. It can be tough, when the people that are supposed to protect you the most really don’t, and the words that they speak to you, even in jest, can have a major impact.
In all honesty I think three quarters of the time my dad was only joking. Like the time when there was a group of us at the table, and he was joking with his friend about the time when they were going to REALLY get me drunk and sign me up for the foreign legion. I look back at that now and giggle at the thought of me joining up for a makeshift army unit, off to fight half-cut in what was once was Yugoslavia. Yeah, I would stick out like a sore thumb. But at the time I didn’t find it funny at all, the laughter I feel about the scenario now was quite the opposite when I was nineteen. I just didn’t think he cared all that much about me at all.
It was his way. I understand that more about him now because of the way I can be with my own son. I have to watch what I say to him because once or twice I’ve said things in jest to him and he’s ended up in tears. Little sensitive boy we have, just like his mum and dad.
I see a lot of people in this world wonder why I can be so positive when the world clearly isn’t so, yet I can also see the negativity that seeps out of their pours transcended through their parents and their social circles. Not that I know either, but most people that are negative are so because they’ve been socialised in such a way. Or nurtured in that way. I’ll explain.
When I was younger I had a mum that told me I could be anything that I wanted to be. Mix this with my father that laughed at anything I remotely did wrong and would quip it with something like, “probably not a good idea to try that, now was it?” — so eventually I became this man that was bursting to try everything under the sun because I believed that I could do it, but was scared to for fear of shame and ridicule, because this is how I felt when I failed in front of my father. See the connection? Now he didn’t just say this once — it was every time. It’s just the way he was. Enough time passes by and now I have a complex and the shame that comes with it.
I’ve realised I have to be careful with my words around people in general. I’d like to think that words can’t hurt, and they often don’t when it’s some random who doesn’t know me, but when it’s someone I love, think about, am friends with, or care about — then I take what they say very seriously, and I try (not always the best) to take them seriously also.
This is why I say find nurturing, and positive groups. These types of people lay waste to the negative paradigms we build in our childhoods. They encourage us to do things in a way we couldn’t imagine. They sit there and cheer us from the touchline, signing out our names in big star jump-like strides.
Surround yourself in nurturing groups of people. You won’t regret it.