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In my last post I was talking about why we settle in relationships and how to break ourselves of it. As I was writing that post it occurred to me that the main reason we settle is low self-esteem, and one of the largest causes for low self-esteem is the verbal abuse we suffer from others. those who have never experienced verbal abuse typically have a better self-image and better relationships.
As someone who suffered from verbal and psychological abuse from childhood through into early adulthood, I can personally speak to how damaging it is to your self-esteem, how long that trauma lasts and how hard it is to recover from. Some people never do recover, and it’s this abuse that leads many people to suicide.
The sad thing is that most people don’t realize that they’re verbal abusers. They have little terms like “good-natured ribbing”, “helping them develop a thick skin”, or sadly “just telling it like it is”. They take no responsibility for the power of their words. And even more sad is how many people think there’s nothing wrong with the things that they say to others. They feel that we should just butch up and take it. They make us believe that what they say is true, and being offended or hurt by it is just another of our weaknesses.
“God you’re so stupid!” – “A person your size can’t wear those clothes.” – “You’re too ugly.” – “You’ll never amount to anything.” – Those are just a few examples of verbal abuse. Every time you say something negative and hurtful to someone, you may as well be smacking them. Sometimes words hurt as bad as a kick to the gut. Some phrases are as painful as a punch in the face. There’s actually a series of ads that illustrate that quite powerfully. Click the images for a larger view where you can read the text.
Verbal abuse happens to people of all ages, and is done by people of all ages. Even kids are tearing each other down, and parents are doing permanent harm to their children. Bullying, both verbal and physical is becoming a rapidly growing problem. Sadly, people are just sitting by and letting it happen. They think words are only words, and there’s nothing wrong with what’s happening. The truth is, many of you out there have been guilty of verbal abuse at some point, and a staggering number of you continue to do it on a regular basis. You get pissed off or hurt when people say hurtful, untrue and demeaning things to you, but you still keep on doing it to others.
It has to stop somewhere. We need to become more aware of the power that our words have on others. We need to take personal responsibility for the words we say to and about people. We need to take a stand and stop people that verbally abuse others. Verbal abuse leads to so many long-lasting issues. It’s not something that we can continue to sweep under the rug like it’s not happening. Each and every one of us needs to do our part to ensure that we aren’t verbal abusers and stop those who are.
Thank you for this. I was verbally abused and bullied in my life. It was hurtful and caused a lot of problems. I did not turn to drugs or alcohol or abuse others in order to cope. I helped myself the best I could. I tried to get counseling but could not afford it. I lacked sufficient insurance so I got sucked into the mental health system. I found it degrading. Later I found out that I DID NOT have a mental illness like I was told, but was dealing with emotional trauma. Being given a psych label was the only way my Medicaid would pay for counseling.
Despite the trouble you had, I’m glad to hear you’ve become a survivor.
It is sad that people suffering from verbal/emotional abuse have so few places to turn. When I was young even the school counselors wouldn’t take me seriously. When I got a bit older I was put on anti-depressants and other drugs. They made me feel like a zombie, then suicidal. It was one night, sitting on the living room floor with a bottle of liquor and a bottle of pills, wanting to just die to escape the pain, that something touched me and I decided to live. More than that, I decided to fight like hell. You’ve gotta believe that something is out there watching over those of us who pull ourselves through.
Part of why I talk about things like this is so people know they’re not alone. It hurts even more to feel like there’s just something wrong with you, or as in your case that you’re mentally ill. Every time I post something like this I always remind people: If you have no one else to talk to, feel free to contact me. As a survivor and an ordained interfaith minister, I’m someone you can talk to. I’ve helped people before, and I’ll continue to do so. Having someone to talk to can really be the difference between survival and becoming totally lost if you don’t have your own inner strength yet.