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Sticks and Stones...

Let me tell you a story.

It starts in middle school. It's the first day of a new year for a child. They're so excited to finally be starting middle school (they're a big kid now) and can't wait to see all their friends from elementary school. Sure classes may be tougher, but they can handle it. After all, just starting your teen years means you're super cool and mature right? And all the friends made will stick with you until the very end.

First day of middle school goes amazing for this little kid. And every day after is just as amazing, if not more so. The friend group grows and stays strong even as interests and extracurriculars change. No one is made fun of, and the joy that child felt with their peers at recess as a toddler doesn't ever go away. They can unapologetically be themselves, even if it's different from their friends and fellow classmates.

That's the dream, anyways.

Unfortunately for most of us, this story is simply just a story. A lot of people first figure out just how mean people, especially bluntly 'honest' children, can really be. A herd mentality of us vs them is usually developed in the forms of cliques and very tight, exclusive friend-groups. In media this phenomena is usually exaggerated, like in cinematic masterpieces such as Heathers, Mean Girls or The Clique (okay maybe not masterpieces but they were crucial to my childhood). Nobody may actually be driven to committing low-key crimes to sabotage one queen bee, but the feeling of one group that rises to the top through sheer bullying and dictates what's cool or not is pretty relatable.

Most kids in middle school or high school want to fit in. And while the extreme lengths we see the younger age groups go to in an attempt to achieve acceptance and conformity is something most adults grow out of, the damage is usually still there. Lifelong insecurities from a middle school bully can follow us around from our teens to our fifties. A too-big nose, crooked smile, obnoxious laugh, or weird interest that's 'uncool' is something we become ashamed of, try to hide and cover up, regardless of how untrue the insult was.

A lot of times, those 'flaws' were pointed out or made fun of during an off-handed comment, one that bullies usually don't even remember saying later. But the person it was said to remembers. I bet almost everyone in the world knows exactly the moment when their biggest, unknown flaw or deepest, repressed fear was dragged into the light of day for everyone to see. Can still hear and picture the exact kid or adult that said it to them, all those years ago.

Words can be devastating.

But words can also be empowering.

When was the last time you were kind to yourself? What was the last internal monologue you had when you did something embarrassing or made a mistake?

A lot of people have a pretty self-depreciating inner voice. I know I do. Sometimes it's things that mean kid in middle school said to me; other times it's my own internal anxieties manifesting themselves into a loudspeaker of shame and self-loathing. It's one that's brutal, not honest. Destructive, not life-giving. And it goes on a loud, unending loop twenty-four hours a day.

But why do we tell ourselves things we would never say to someone else? If your friend made a mistake, you'd probably be more inclined to show them grace and forgiveness than verbally attack them for it. When your coworker genuinely forgets a deadline or has an error on a presentation, are you going to sit there and shower them in a barrage of snarky comments? Probably (hopefully) not.

So why be mean to yourself?

Truthfully, if I said half the things I think about myself to another person, I'd probably be considered one of the most calloused, meanest people on earth. And that's no way to behave, especially to myself.

Which is why I challenge you to be kind to yourself. Forget all the terrible, cruel things people have said about you. Remove the insults and replace them with kind words from your family and friends. Fill your inner voice with love and positivity, not self-hate. Stand in front of a mirror and find the things you love about yourself if you have to!

Just show yourself love.

You're amazing and wonderful and unique. You deserve all the kindnesses under the sun.

It's okay to value yourself.

Love y'all!

Proverbs 16: 24- Kind words are like honey. They are sweet to the spirit and bring healing to the body.

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