Culture Identity

But Words Will Never Hurt Me..?

Growing up being labelled as everything from "ugly" to "uncouth" Sistem contributor Shahlaa talks us through a lifetime of words being used a weapons in the sad but uplifting piece.

Sticks and stone will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!? Really?

From as young as I can remember people have used their preconceived words to define my character. Words like ugly, uncouth, naive, stupid, slow, aggressive, bitch. These words were so casually thrown around me as a child, that after hearing them consistently, they started to define my character.  

The problem is it wasn’t only friends or strangers who influenced my character with their words. My mum’s words towards me still ring extra loud in my ears. I can’t remember how old I was, but definitely under 8, because my family still lived in our first house and that’s how I divide my timeline. “You’re not UGLY, you’re pretty, but Aliya’s (my sister) beautiful.”

It also didn’t help that my sister was so fascinated with makeup and hair which I found boring. My mum would remind me how different me and Aliya were through her looks of shame because I didn’t like to cross my legs and I was always spilling something. “Why do you have to be so UNCOUTH?”

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My Dad’s words weren’t about my appearance, he just spent unnecessary hours lecturing me about how NAIVE I was towards my friends who he believed were ungenuine. 

So if Mum and Dad could use any word to describe me I assumed it was normal.

That’s why it didn’t phase me when my brother ‘the brainy one’ said “You’re so STUPID!” when I would phrase things wrong. Or when my friends in school thought I was lying about my sister. “You’re too UGLY to be related”.

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I remember the day I fought for injustice, at the time I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I just saw a smaller student being bullied by a bigger student and I stepped in to intervene, got called AGGRESSIVE and it led to a physical fight. 

I remember the first time I told my boyfriend not to call me a BITCH, “That’s what my Dad calls my Mum, don’t call me that!!”

I remember telling myself ‘you’re so SLOW’, because I couldn’t figure out what some of these words I was becoming meant. There was no Google back then.. 

All these words that were used so offend to describe me as a child, are the same words I associate with myself now. I still use these words to describe my negative traits, even though I know I am more than these words. 

I wonder if other people didn’t label me with these words, would I be a different person today? That I will never know, I guess hindsight really is a bitch.

The statement that ‘words can never hurt me’ is a common misconception. Imagine if the word ugly was replaced with unique, slow with considered or aggressive with assertive. Would I have more self love and less excuses for certain behaviours, because now when someone calls me aggressive my response is ‘I know, I get it from my Dad’. 


So the next time someone insults you and brushes it off, remember the tongue is a weapon. The words you vocalise and associate with yourself are the words you become. Never underestimate the power of a word. 

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