Wednesday, May 7, 2014

(Guest Post) What A Nameless Stranger Taught Me About Self Esteem

 I wholeheartedly believe someone screwed up by coining the expression, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Because, whoever conjured up that phrase was clearly a god or goddess among us mere mortals.

Last week, a nameless and faceless commenter called me a “naive little shit” following a post I contributed to another site. And, yes, it hurt me. It was the kind of comment that friends kept telling me to ignore. They told me it didn’t matter. They assured me that the person was an idiot and I didn’t need to care because I had gotten published on a popular website. And, in retrospect, all of those things were true. But, none of them mattered the first time I noticed that someone I never met threw such palpable venom my way.

Writing is personal, and maybe I lost sight of that when I opted to expose my writing to an audience I had never known. So, when someone spewed acid at me, it felt personal. It felt like a match lit to all of my hard work and the confidence in my ability to string sentences together. It was a blatant strike at the very words in which I took so much pride. It was a needle to my balloon of excitement after having been published on a well-known site. It was a poke, prod and punch at my self-esteem. I questioned whether or not it was a good idea to have submitted the piece. I wondered if I really was just another twenty-something with an inflated ego that did not match her life experience. I didn’t doubt my ability to write, but more so my ability to connect with other people in a positive way through my work. I worried that all of this time I had been blinded by a biased line of cheerleaders who had been so supportive of my work.

But, those doubts and anxieties did not fester for long. It only took a day or two to embrace the experience for what it was—part of the growing pains that come along with being online writer. Ironically enough, when I submitted the piece and had to select why I wanted to be published on this site, I clicked the option that said, “To grow as a writer.” And I did grow as a writer. I learned that you are not necessarily weak or fragile because someone’s words affect you. Instead, you are strong and tenacious for deciding just how much and just how long you allow those words to affect you.

Maybe I say all of this to say that other people, even strangers, do have the capacity to affect our self-esteem. Maybe they don’t affect it permanently. Maybe they don’t affect it for long. But, they do have the capacity to affect it. They have the capacity to leave an imprint on us, even if only for a moment. Even if it is the kind of imprint that soon fades as our emotional shape is restored back to its original form. Words are paramount. Words are what I have built my career on. Words are what I have built my relationships on. Words are what I have built a good fraction of my self-esteem on. Words matter, especially when it comes to how we perceive, respect and, ultimately, love ourselves.

Tyece is the creator of Twenties Unscripted where she writes a sincere, sassy and sometimes smart-assy take on growing up. You can follow her@tyunscripted.

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