I got to spend last weekend with one of my favorite people in the world (you know who you are!) and we had a conversation that I later realized was wonderful. The conversation was about people we knew in high school. It was about ourselves in high school. It was about the mean things people used to say and the (now-embarrassing) ways we used to react. Actually I was the one who did most of the reacting.
During the conversation I kept thinking to myself, “Those people are probably not like that anymore. It’s been years; they’ve had new experiences, gained responsibilities, and hopefully changed into better people.” I was telling myself that none of the misogynistic “jokes” made in their immaturity should be allowed to mean anything to me now. Let bygones be bygones and all that.
It was only after my friend left that I thought about us, the people who heard the hurtful words. I thought about myself, the person who has replayed the comments hundreds of times, then replayed the responses I wish I could go back and withhold. It finally dawned on me that if I can release them from being dumb enough to say things that hurt me, I can release myself from being thin-skinned enough to take those things to heart. I can assert to myself that, as assuredly as a high school boy can become a caring man, a high school girl can become a gracious woman who knows the truth about herself.
It’s not that “words can never hurt me” as we claimed on elementary school playgrounds, but that I can choose to believe the truth about myself and leave the lies behind. I’m no longer the girl who used to believe them.