When Words Hurt

By Wendy J Olson, Healing Coach + Founder and Executive Director of Grit Plus Gumption

I remember the first time someone called me the B word. Yes, that word that people typically reserve for women, and especially women who own their power and are confident. People don’t like that.

I was 9 years old and it was my best friend’s brother, Daniel. I kicked him in the balls. He kicked me back. I can tell you, it still hurts. 

I was doing something he didn’t want me to do and when I said I was going to do it anyway, he called me a “bitch.” I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I just wasn’t doing what he wanted me to do.

That word hurts. Even when people try to use it as a positive and take back the word, I can tell you for me at least, it still stings.

Was it then and there that I learned to be pleasing and nice to every man I came in contact with, every person I interacted with as to avoid the harm that word caused?

Probably not.

I’d been taught my entire life that nice girls are polite. They say please and thank you, and that it always pays to be agreeable. Something I’m still unlearning.

Glennon Doyle said in a podcast this past year that she hates when she laughs at peoples’ jokes that are demeaning in nature. It’s like her body betrays her. I can totally relate. I’m still uncomfortably laughing when men make inappropriate comments about my body, or look me up and down like I’m a meal about to be eaten. I laugh, I fawn, to try to protect myself from further harm.

But the truth is, It’s not funny. And we need to speak truth to bullshit, as Brene Brown puts it.

What We’re Doing About It:

In our 12 week story work shop, we take one of our four narratives to focus on sexual abuse. This can be over or covert, more subtle, but is any example of an instance when something happened that derailed or detoured your sexual development. Knowing ourselves in this way is so important because it helps us move forward in a healthier way, working on staying in our bodies and realizing our full selves.

Red Flags

How can you tell if what someone said hurt you? There are many obvious ways, but there are also more subtle ways that maybe we haven’t recognized before:

  1. How does your body feel when you hear that word again, maybe not even in the same context?
  2. Do you still carry some of the names people have called you? Are you naming yourself these things unknowingly still today?
  3. Have you taken on the traits of the names people have called you?
  4. Be on the look out for child-like language. When you describe something as “yucky,” or “icky,” this is a good sign there might be a childhood wound here.
  5. How do other people talk to themselves inside and outside relationships? An outside perspective from someone who doesn’t know you well, AND is a safe person, can help you find and name the places you may still be wounded. Seeking mental health professional help is a great way to find the ways these wounds are still showing up.

Green Flags

How can we tell when we have moved past something harmful in our lives and what are the signs we are healing?

  1. When we don’t take everything so personally. Sure, some things will hurt, but they should be fewer and far between. Not that we should ignore these warning signs in relationships, but that we can separate when things are about us and when they are not.
  2. When you’re in a relationship, especially a marriage, arguing is normal and for the most part can be a part of a healthy marriage. If you’re arguing, you’re talking. (Disclaimer: arguing is
    NOT fighting.) Therefore when your partner is having a bad day and they rant or rave about something, and you can easily see, ‘This is not about me,’ congratulations. You are healing. People say things when they are anger, triggered, and upset. Nine times out of ten, they don’t mean it. And when you’re healing, you’ll be able to recognize the difference.
  3. When words that used to hurt you don’t anymore, or you can set a boundary easily with someone who uses that word by simply telling them it bothers you. Remember, their reaction is NOT your responsibility.
  4. When you set boundaries. When you can set boundaries and enforce them without care or concern for what the consequence is, you’re healing. You may not do it perfectly, but when you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.
  5. When you can talk about your past hurts and harms without dissociating or getting triggered. This takes A LOT of time and practice. But trust me, one day you’ll get there and you won’t even notice until you’ve done it.

If you found this information helpful to your own healing journey, please consider donating to Grit Plus Gumption and supporting another woman’s healing journey as well. You can make a tax-deductible donation using this link. We thank you for your support!

Wendy J Olson is the Founder and Executive Director of Grit Plus Gumption Farmstead, a 501c3 nonprofit. She also works as a healing coach, facilitating the Allender Center modality of Story Work, (Narrative Focused Trauma Care. ) She walks with women through their stories of past hurts and traumas, guiding them to freedom and healing.

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