Somehow during our playground days, certain phrases, facts and games are psychology embedded into us for life. Even as we learn to discern and dislodge children logic from real logic, it still remains deep within us.
“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
It’s an idealist statement, and one probably fit for a utopian society but, if I’m being honest here, no matter how many times I told myself that phrase, as either a child or an adult to this day, words could never not affect me.
One ordinary late night in my apartment after work, I was sitting in the livingroom with my roommates, friends and boyfriend. Three of us were sitting on the couch and my roommates were playing video games on the floor. We were laughing and talking which was quickly becoming a daily thing in this house when, my roommate D turned around, looked at me after a point I’d made about being introverted and chimes in and says, “Sarah, you are so not introverted.” Suddenly, in just an instant, I was thrown off my guard and didn’t have any words to respond. I didn’t know how to explain how this seemingly very loud, boisterous happy-go-lucky girl they had grown to know was actually a very fragile new skin that I was still growing into. I didn’t know how to explain a flaw I thought was obvious as my pink elephant.
I may have come a long way from running from childhood bullies in tears, hating the way I looked, or mentally locking apart of myself away from people so I don’t get hurt but, a small part of that fear still remains. There are days I feel like I have to be dragged out of the house like a horse by its bit because I just can’t summon the courage to leave it. There are moments when I just feel like all I’m doing is waiting to play the martyr, just waiting for the people I care most about to hurt me. And there are times when I just want to believe the worst in people. I had this fear that there was something wrong with me for feeling this way, so I kept people away.
Being introverted for me was never about not having friends. At any given time there would always be people I considered friends. There have also been plenty of people in my life who I like well enough to call acquaintances and talk to from time to time. If I really wanted someone to talk to, I could strike up mundane small talk with a stranger while waiting for a bus. You can surround yourself with people and still be lonely. Instead, with the occasional exceptions, I chose to stay in my room and lock myself away from others. I blew people off, canceled made plans at the last second and I kept myself distant.
Not many people like admitting their inadequacies or insecurities to the world and I don’t stray too far from this particular genre. Like most people, I strive to see myself in the best of light. I fight to be strong so others don’t see me as weak. I work hard at pleasing others so I can keep peace, even at the cost of mine. By keeping myself distant, I felt like I could control what people knew about me and therein, how I could get hurt. It never worked of course. Eventually, I would find myself inconsolably upset, in tears, and back to where I originally started and every time my world grew a little smaller.
And this is how I lived for a huge chunk of my life, alone but never with more than a handful of people at any given time that I kept in contact with. And every year that group that grew smaller and smaller till I realized I had literally pushed away every person I held dear to. I am not going to lie and say that a part of me wasn’t happy to be alone. Years at a time, I found ways to find solace in my own company, to hide myself away. But it was always in small isolated moments when I would realize how lonely I actually was. Because, I didn’t want to get hurt. Because I trust people too much and too little at the same time. I want to believe in the best in people and yet it seems like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m always waiting for people to let me down.
“Sarah, just trust me!” I was told one night by a rather frustrated manager, while I impatiently waited for the green light to go home. The sentiment might not have sent the message it was implied, I had been a little anxious to leave, but it impacted me in a different way. Three little words, just trust me. Trust? For all the optimism that I’ve been stereotyped to have ever since I could remember, I realized my trust lies very cynically. I trust people to talk behind my back, screw me over, for myself to fail and for everything to eventually fall apart. I trust the worst in people and in myself.
So I figured, if I can change the negative attitude how I feel about my body, can I change how I view about others? Can I trust other’s enough that I won’t get hurt? It’s hard, this trust thing. It’s easy to believe that as long as I keep apart of myself locked away that when the enviable happens, that the words of others won’t hurt. It’s easy to play the martyr, and I don’t want to. It’s harder to let go and put my faith in hands of others. It’s hard to have blind faith. But nothing in this life comes easy if you really want it. I can never know the character of a person, no matter the tests I set for people, if I don’t believe the best in others.
The truth is, I want to believe, I want to trust. There are a lot of things I want. It’s somewhere in the depths of that dreaded stomach pit, lie all of my fears. I want to believe that the bonds I’ve created are genuine and the feelings that I feel are returned. Some of those requests are reasonable while others are a little delusional. But everyday that I spend a little less time worrying, wondering, or over analyzing are moments when I seem to be simply just happy. Life may not be perfect and I’m okay with that. Like I learned to love my body for what it is, so will I have to learn how to come to believe the best in people. At least I hope so anyway.
So here’s to sticks and stones never breaking my bones and may let words never hurt me.