I don’t know whether parents routinely tell their kids the old saw of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
I know my generation was raised with it. All the old lies that kept us in our place, kept us outcasts to the world, kept us fearful and easily controlled.
- “That boy is picking on you because he likes you.”
- “If you ignore the bully, he’ll just get bored and go away.”
- “They’re only picking on you because they’re jealous.”
- “Gossip can’t hurt you.”
- “I won’t be your friend if you hang out with xxxxxx” (emotional blackmail)
Or worse, being told you can’t express your anger, fear or any other so-called negative emotions, because any expression of those emotions means you’re just manipulating your peers.
I love this song, because it does point out that these issues are real. That words can cause real damage. Look into the history of someone who harms themselves (particularly the females, as 24.3% of females self-harm, and only 8.4% of males), and you will often find someone who is punishing themselves for a perceived inability to be “good enough.” Also, you will find it just as much in popular girls as in so-called ordinary ones, unlike with boys – those who self-harm who are male tend to do it because they are outcasts, and thereby doing things like breaking their hand pounding a wall gets them attention).
And telling your average teenager that almost every single one of their peers has just as much confusion, angst, pain and their own self-esteem issues doesn’t help. It doesn’t help because both genders are taught to hide their pain, hide their anger – to be good girls and boys.
Thing is, we ALL can do things to fix this constant cycle of bullying and aggression. But, it requires us to be willing to stand up and protect victims. It requires us to have the courage of our convictions. It makes us responsible to point out to our friends when they are being mean, cruel or just assholes. It makes us responsible to tell the truth. And it makes us responsible to teach ourselves (if no one else is going to) how to express our emotions – even the negative ones – in ways that are not bullying, not manipulating, not coercive and not any other form of damage to another person.