ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

The Power of Words

Words can hurt and words can heal.  Most of us have felt the sting of a cruel joke or felt humiliated by teasing.  Bullies seem to know just the right buttons to push and the hurt can last long after the abuse has ended. Once a thick-skinned kid who couldn’t care less what other people thought of me, when middle school started I began to feel a little unsure of myself. I was definitely an easy target – dorky (the first of my peers to get glasses!), clumsy, overweight, and with a mouth full of braces.

Bullies take advantage of a person’s insecurities. In my case, they called me names like “stupid,” “ugly” and “fat.” I tried my best to convince myself that no amount of teasing could ever get to me, reminding myself that “sticks and stones could break my bones, but words could never hurt me.” But unfortunately, this is far from the truth.  Verbal insults make you doubt yourself and your abilities. I became terrified that my personality and physique were inherently flawed. My confidence sank and school became an increasingly poisonous environment. My desperate desire to be accepted led me to become preoccupied with popularity. I went on crash diets in the hope that being skinny would make the teasing stop and begged my parents to buy me expensive clothing so I would look cooler. Even after the bullies matured and the teasing had stopped, I continued to feel self conscious, powerless, and depressed.

It was the kind words of friends and family that helped me overcome these emotional damages. My friends reminded me that I am lovable, friendly and intelligent. Their carefully chosen, supportive words of encouragement made me feel confident and strong. With their support, I was able to pick up the broken pieces and leave that part of my life behind.

My middle school experience taught me firsthand about the power words can have both to destroy and to heal. Words can be the most powerful of weapons and we should all be careful not to misuse the influence that they can have. Even name calling as a joke can be extremely hurtful. Let’s all be mindful of the words we use because we can never underestimate the impact that they might have on other people.

How did (or does) middle school experience affect your self esteem? Did it build you up as a person or hurt you? Write us your comment- we are curious about what your experience was like.