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Sticks & Stones & Verbal Acuity by Clare Fisher Psychotherapist

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

In 1830 Alexander William wrote “Sticks and stones may break my bones” (but words can never hurt me), the idiom ‘Sticks & Stones’ has become an institutional and personal response to school playground bullying.

This cultural phenomenon is synonymous with the concept that physical abuse is more palpable than mental/spiritual abuse. Scornful, rude, demeaning and insensitive language irrespective of the age or stage context, is traditionally deemed less damaging than a well-targeted kick to the shin.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will always hurt me. Bones mend and became stronger in the very place that was broken and where they have knitted up; mental wounds can grind and ooze for decades and be re-opened by the quietest whisper.” Stephen Fry From, Moab is My Washpot

As is often the common place I have been subjected to the words of others; their observations, judgments and opinions about my bodily aesthetics.

"Your legs are like footballers - tree trunk thighs then skinny calves!"

"You have really put on the beef!"

"Your fat!"

"You suit being heavy!"

"You don't even have any boobs, you are straight up and down!"

"Your boobs are huge!"

"Your too thin, are you ill?"

"You look like a drug addict!"

"You've got puppy fat, don't worry it will go!" (I was in my 20's)

"You have a soft body!"

"Your all skin and bone!"

I do not remember what I did last Tuesday, but I can remember these current and historical comments. I carry them in my subconscious and whilst my rational mind knows that my body is physiologically and autonomy awesome. To clarify my seemingly enlarged cranium (big head), my body is my home, my vehicle and is a conduit that enables me to feel, touch and sense. Isn't that pure awesome? Big bazookas, small bosoms, thick waists, wrinkly faces, slender arms, toned stomachs or soft hips - it's all awesome............

I would like to think that as Shakespears Sister once sang "I Don't Care!"

But it seems that I do care, and that words do hurt!

I work with clients who know that words about their bodies do hurt as they address their transference issues, challenge their body dysmorphia and tackle their eating disorders.

Self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence is based on how we perceive our intrinsic value and part of this value is often tied up to our physical aesthetics, so let us speak more kindly to ourselves. Our perceptions of self can also be strongly influenced by external factors, including the views, opinions and judgements bestowed upon us by others.

Let's try something new, let us not comment on other people's bodies either positively or negatively.

Ariana Grande Would Like You to Stop Commenting on Her Body Now, Please April 23

“I just wanted to address your concerns about my body and talk a little bit about what it means to be a person with a body and to be seen and to be paid such close attention to,” Grande said after making it clear that she wishes she didn’t have to address these sentiments at all. Grande went on to emphasize that commentary on body and health isn’t helpful, as even seemingly positive takes are unwarranted and potentially harmful.

"You have tree trunk thighs!"

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