“Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never harm you.” That was her line. That’s what she said and she said it often. She said it when I was a youngster when family and friends hurled names at me. She said it throughout my teenage years when everyone was becoming their better selves but had awkward means of doing so. She said it as I went off to college and heard those who were in roles of authority question my way of life to the point of unsettlement. And she said it when I asked how to help my own children through some of the exact same circumstances I had faced many years ago in my early life.
It was my mom’s mantra. And it was oft used by her.
My mom wasn’t one to tolerate a “woe is me” attitude. She accepted very little crying or moping about language battles. What could take a lifetime to teach, she said with 13 words. “Someone called you stupid? Are you? Well then sticks and stones….” “Your feelings are hurt because they told you girls can’t do that? Do you believe them? Create new rules. Ignore them. And for goodness sakes, stop you’re crying. Sticks and stones …..” “Your professor belittled you in front of the class, and you’re thinking the best you can do is whine about it? Straighten out that skirt and figure it out. Sticks and stones …..”
For a long period in my life, it seemed like every conversation ending with that phrase.
My mom was a pushover mom in many ways. She was the go to for money and time I needed an extra dollar or two. She was the one to ask for a new dress or shoes or any piece of fashion because that followed her interests. She was the one to reach first when involved in large scale blunders as her punishments were simple compared to my father’s corrective choices.
It was easy street with her in many ways.
But not in the world of word wars. That’s where the tough love program started. She had no intention of allowing me to believe that someone out there could crush me with words. She wanted my skin to be as thick as it needed to be to ensure that word wars had no lasting impact on me. She was a great support system for me. Like any youngster, I would run home babbling about someone who had said something unkind, unpleasant and sometimes revolting to me …at me …about me. She always listened. She always pondered. She always offered sympathy. And she always let me have that moment that exists between exasperation and sensibility to gain my traction.
But in the end, she gave me the one – two dust off, turned me around, pushed my momentum forward and added, “Sticks and stones…..!”
Looking back, I can tell that it was a part of her scheme to build confidence in me. She knew that the there would be moments and times that I would need to have confidence in my arsenal, and that I would need it at the ready. So she brought on the quick and easy “sticks and stones” speech whenever it fit, which she thought it did in many circumstances.
Confidence is a tricky thing. Truth be told, I am not exactly sure where it comes from and how it develops. I am not certain that I know its exact definition. And I often wonder if I have enough or have too much. When I do think about it in a more detailed fashion – which is like now – it becomes one large pondering conundrum and before I know it, I am more confused and seemingly less confident about it than I was moments before.
Bottom line, the only thing that I am confident about confidence is that it is a needed quality.
Which may explain my generally wacky lifestyle. For, I do believe that confidence grows in positive environments. I believe the more positive I am in my actions and attitudes, the more I surround myself in positive situations, the more likely my confidence will grow. I tend to eliminate negative anything from my world intentionally. The books I read, the television I watch, the music I listen to all brings that which is positive towards me and takes that which is negative away from me.
I live ‘a rose-colored glasses, cup half full, sugar is better than salt, a why-not-be-a-little-naive cause it is a key to happy land’ life, everyday. I even generally steer away from language that is less than positive just to keep myself on track. Holy cow, holy guacamole, and rats are my go-to terms and they seem to work just fine, for me. Most mornings, I wake up and make sure that I spend time wondering what the new day is going to bring to me. I want to start my waking time thinking that something awesome is going to occur. And it usually does. But that’s me.
I know that confidence and confidence building is individual.
Izzy Jo’s “sticks and stone” certainly does not fit into every situation and it does not work for everyone. It is one tool that my mother shared with me and it can be effective. It takes time and effort for all of us to find the right tools and it takes commitment and determination to constantly use those tools. Creating a positive force field and bouncing out of bed looking for wonderment works for me in terms of maintaining a good confident balance in my life. I suppose what I hope for others is that everyone finds that which increases the confidence in their lives.
And during those moments when I fall back on being the best positive self I can be and fail to bound out of bed towards the wonders of the world and lose the confidence I need to weather potential storms, I hope that my family and friends take note, and share with me their tools.
Cause my toolbox is far from full. The vacancy sign is always flashing, my friends.