A persons hand picking up a small piece of paper that say's "good" that was next to a small piece of paper that said "bad" to represent - Words That Stay With You Forever

Words That Stay With You Forever

When I was at school, I often heard the rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” If only that were true. The stuff I remember most is the harmful words that people have said to me. These words have stayed with me and have hurt me time and time again when I’ve remembered them. Words can stay with you forever.



Hurtful Words


An article by The Telegraph reported on a study that decided to put the rhyme to the test. They conducted four experiments, concluding that physical and emotional/social pain can hurt the same when they occur. However, emotional/social pain has the unique ability to hurt us the same, over and over again when remembered. Whereas remembering physical pain is just the fleeting memory that you were hurt, rather than reliving the pain you actually felt at the time.


Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will stay with you forever Share on X


I became suicidal by the time I was eight years old after years of racial abuse (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek: A Personal Lesson In Abuse) I suffered at primary school and on the streets of my hometown. It’s one of the reasons I hate going back home to see my family and friends.


Let me add some context to all this for you. When I was born, I was the only Black person in my family, I’m a mix of Afro-Caribbean and British White. At primary school, I was the only Black person. My home town is still 98.8% White at the last census.


Groups of kids would gang up on me, racially abuse me, and try to start fights with me. When this happened at school, none of the staff would try to help me, even though they could see and hear what was going on.


I’ve heard a lot of racially disgusting words over the years, especially during my childhood, some of them not even racially accurate. I’ve been called a Paki on one occasion, and when I told people I’m of West Indian descent, I got native American abuse instead.


Scouring pad


I’ve always struggled with my appearance due to the years and YEARS of racial abuse (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek) I had to endure. I spent my childhood wishing I was White. When I finally snapped and started to drown in suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm, I took a Brillo pad to my arm to try to wash my skin colour away. This was because one of the more common racially abusive comments I would get was that I was really White, just dirty, and that’s why I was Black. Thus, when I broke, I wanted to find out if that was true.


The racial abuse caused me to develop an identity crisis I’m still yet to fully recover from. It was also a big factor in my development of borderline personality disorder.


Sometimes it’s not just someone saying something once that sticks with you, but rather being told repeatedly by numerous people the same kind of things that break you.




One Time

But sometimes it can just be that one single time something is said to you that gets lodged in your mind forever. As I said before, I’ve always had problems with my appearance. I spent my teens and early 20s wishing my arms weren’t so skinny. Now in my late 30s, I wish I could lose the weight off my belly that my comfort eating and reactive hypoglycaemia have helped put on.


So when someone I thought was a friend just casually dropped into a conversation that they thought I was ugly, that really had an effect on me. Who says that to a friend?


This single comment reverberated with me when I developed permanent traction alopecia (Life With My Hair Destroying Behaviours and Traction Alopecia: The Hair Pulling Question), causing me to have to shave off my dreadlocks. This only happened because of the body and identity issues I developed due to my childhood racial abuse, which caused me to engage in hair-destroying behaviours (I couldn’t stand my dreadlocks not being perfect. Not a single hair could be out of place).


I have felt lost ever since I had to cut off my dreadlocks. They were the only thing that made me feel more than ugly, like I was told I was.


That’s how powerful a single string of words can be, especially when said by the wrong person at the wrong time.


The picture is split in two with the top image being of a woman writing in a notebook and the bottom image being of a scramble panels spelling out "choose your words" to represent - Words That Stay With You Forever


Another comment that has stuck with me ever since I heard it was when my mum told me at 14 that I ruined her life by being born. Like I had a choice in the matter. She said it because I wanted to quit a Friday evening class I used to go to, which I quit because three people had jumped me at school and I was struggling mentally. She lost her time to hang around with the other parents. Her religious views have always pushed everyone away, so she’s never really had any friends because of it.


I’ve spent my entire life wishing I’d never been born. I grew up in a town and went to a school where it felt like pretty much everyone else there also wished I hadn’t been born.


I have a dad who wouldn’t care if I was never born either (What Makes A Father On Father’s Day?). So when the person raising you, your mum, also tells you she wishes you were never born and how you had ruined her life because of it, that sticks with you.


When people (such as your parents) don’t like who they are inside, they find it easier to project how they feel on to others to try to get rid of that feeling, instead of looking at themselves and thinking: “How can I work on myself?”

Annalisa Barbieri


That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the shitty comments my mum has said to me. I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was 8 years old, and it’s a daily battle I have to live with. My childhood messed me up, but all my mum has ever said over the years in regard to it is: “You just need to get over it”, like my mental health problems can magically go away.


More recently, my mum has been telling me over and over again that my physical health problems are: “Like getting off the sofa too fast.” I have persistent postural-perceptual dizziness (PPPD), reactive hypoglycaemia, and an autonomic disorder that causes fluctuations between inappropriate sinus tachycardia and supraventricular tachycardia. This causes me to be dizzy all the time and I can struggle with my sense of balance. It’s nothing like getting up off the sofa too fast.




But at its worst, when I try to exercise, I’ll become so dizzy and weak that I lose all muscle control (including my bowel and bladder) and struggle to keep from passing out. No matter how many times I tell my mum that, she keeps comparing it to getting off the sofa too fast.


Last summer, I had had enough of my mum belittling my health problems with stupid comments like that. After hearing that one from my mum again (Happy Mother’s Day?), I hung up and ignored her calls. I was going to help her set up her first smartphone by talking her through it over the phone and using a remote viewing app. But no longer. I hate talking to my mum at the best of times, but I’m sick to death of her belittling my health problems all the time.


No matter how many times I’ve explained shit to her, she doesn’t care, and she doesn’t listen, and then she trivialises to the point that it’s actually not a health problem. Even though I have official diagnoses that say otherwise.


What makes people say and behave in a way that, at best, is plain ignorance, at worst, just to hurt other people (What Is The Mentality Behind Pill Shaming?).


I hadn’t talked to her until a couple of weeks ago. Due to the coronavirus, she now suddenly believed my health issues were putting me at a big risk of dying if I got infected. Now she’s calling me almost every day, and I hate it. Talking to her has always been bad for my mental health.




Pain Is Pain


It doesn’t matter if it’s physical or emotional pain when it’s deliberately inflicted; it hurts us more (Psychology Today). That may be true at the time the pain is inflicted either emotionally or physically, but if the study reported in The Telegraph is true, then the emotional pain is the only one that can be repeatedly experienced at later dates.


Words hurt just like sticks and stones Share on X


I would argue that the intent of the person saying the hurtful words isn’t the only thing that matters. Rather, the perception of the receiver of those words might matter more about how damaging the words being said are. I’m in no way blaming the receiver here, but rather, things can be said without meaning to cause harm, and might in most circumstances not be taken as harmful. But if the receiver is depressed, stressed, etc., then something that normally wouldn’t affect them could be quite damaging to them.


I know when I’ve said stupid stuff when I was in school; it was because of all the stuff I had to put up with in regard to the racial abuse I suffered. Mental health and supporting children in need just weren’t what was done back then, so I didn’t know how to work on myself, let alone have the awareness to ask myself that question.


Your words just left me shattered on the inside. Just remember words hurt more than punches.

The Daily Gazette


Happy Words


If you’re lucky, then not every word said to you that sticks with you is bad. Some might be good, even great.


Even with all the problems I had at school, several teachers told me that I was wasting my intelligence. Which meant they acknowledged that I was more intelligent than my school behaviour and work were showing. That has always stuck with me, especially now that I know I’m dyslexic (My Life Before My Dyslexia Diagnosis and How Being Diagnosed With Dyslexia Changed My Life).


I used to work at a substance abuse charity, and a client I hadn’t seen in years randomly came up to me one day and told me how I’d helped them change their life, and how grateful they were. My single greatest moment. I’ll never forget that encounter, as that line of work you see a lot of relapsing, and often good news stories are thin on the ground.


A few times I’ve had people come up to me in nightclubs and tell me how good I was at dancing. Random kind words from strangers have always stayed with me, whereas kind words from family and friends just don’t mean anything to me at all. The legacy of my childhood.


As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with words that have stuck with you in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.


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63 thoughts on “Words That Stay With You Forever

  1. I’m so sorry to read about your hard experiences with bullying, that’s all absolutely unacceptable :/ I was born as the most privileged person starting from my looks, being a white, green-eyed blonde. And thanks to that I’ve been able to grow a thick skin, and I never cared what anyone thought of me. Or so I thought!
    As you point out, it only takes one person and one word. For me it was my ex who pointed out that I should lose weight. I’m as skinny as a stick, and I knew it, and I told him he can fuck right off, but those words still haunt me to this day. The pain of someone you love not appreciating you as you are can seriously destroy a person!

    • I’m sorry you former partner said such a thing, especially when you were already skinny. Sounds like they are trying to damage your self-esteem so they could have more control over you

  2. I am truly sorry for the abuse that you have endured and completely agree with you regarding how words stick with you.
    I was bullied relentlessly as a child due to having ginger hair it was horrendous and some of the things that they would say were awful but not one teacher stepped in. It knocked my self confidence as a child/teenager. It still impacts me as an adult.

    • Growing up in the 80s and 90s, you got bullied for anything that made you even slightly different. I’m sorry you found yourself a target of other people’s ignorance

  3. Words are the most powerful tool in the world, whether used for good or bad the effect they can have are huge and can last forever.

  4. I agree with you bro. Words hurt us more. I also still remember some harsh words people throw at me when I was young. It hurts. But since I am an adult now, I motivate myself not to remember all those hurtful things. I focused more on those who loves me. It helps.

  5. I’m so sorry that you’ve had the experiences you have. That ‘sticks and stones’ quotation has never made sense to me – thank you for your honest and brave account of how it is so not true. I have had a similar experience with my father, and many of his words and actions still stick with me now.
    I hope that, in time, the good words and moments will outweigh the bad. I also hope that sharing your experiences on here help you just as much as you are helping others.
    Kim xx

    • I’m a pessimist, so I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to appreciate the good over the bad, like a healthy person would. But you never know, everything changes

  6. What bothers me the most is your recount of your school days; it angers me because I had the same experience. I was one of two dual heritage students in a primary school of around 350 students, I was called ‘Paki’ daily which was not only incorrect but was never, in my eyes, properly addressed by my teachers. I think when you experience racism or bullying in any form when you are young, your sense of self gets built upon that and your perception of who you are is so skewed because of people’s ignorance and shitty behaviour. I’m so sorry you had to endure this. Never let anyone trivialise your health or mental wellbeing- those people aren’t good for either of those. I hope you’re finding more and more peace with yourself each day.

    • I’m sorry to hear you also had a similar experience growing up. It’s an unfortunate side effect of such abuse that our sense of self gets warped by it, cauing long term psychotical damage. I hope you’re in a far better place now

  7. You have experienced so many difficult things that a lot of people never experience in a lifetime. But let me assure you that there are many good people in the world who appreciate you just as you are. Do not allow toxic people to continue to hurt you. Surround yourself with people who see the beauty in you both inside and out.

  8. I’m glad you’ve had positive words stick with you too. And your blog no doubt helps lots of others who feel the same way but felt they were the only one.

  9. I am so sorry to hear your struggles and the abuse you have faced. You are a very brave to face them and write this article. It is so important for people to understand that their words have wait and to think about what they say. The world needs more good words.

  10. Oh my goodness, I cannot even pretend to understand everything you went through during childhood that is still affecting you to this day and I am so, so sorry you had to experience anything like that. I’ve had so many things said to me throughout my life, not always meant with ill-intent but due to poor mental health having a negative affect on me and these words constantly keep coming back into my head, particularly now during lockdown. I just wish people would understand that their words hurt and to just be kinder

  11. I am sorry to hear about your poor experiences, and hope that, as you continue to move forward, you will be able to remember more happy words. I honestly think words hurt more then sticks and stones; it is odd the sentences and fragments I remember more clearly over the years then other memories. 🙂

  12. I was also suicidal at around 8 years old due to being verbally abused. You are right – words are so much more powerful than we can even comprehend. I hope you’re doing better now <3

  13. It’s upsetting but I’m sorry for what have you gone through. The least we can do is ignore it every time it comes up in our mind and get distracted with positive thoughts, new and fresh thoughts.

  14. I’m so sorry you experienced this. I had a taste of this growing up and even to this day especially with the current pandemic causing more racism than ever. It’s so difficult to turn off the negativity when it’s in your face every single day for years. But I hope you found some peace. Thank you for sharing that words carry a heavier weight than most people realise.

  15. I’m really sorry that you grew up being treated by that. Even by your own mother, who should have been a haven of support and stability. I, too, have BPD, so I know that struggle. I wasn’t bullied like you but I’ve certainly held the bullying I did receive as extremely painful parts of my life.

    It is good that you have enjoyed some compliments and positive acknowledgments over the years though. It’s always helpful to be able to write and remember those. I have a journal where I’ve documented such cases. 🙂

    best wishes

    Jessica | Unplug Initiative

    • That’s definitely a positive of keeping a journal, to be able to record all your positives so you can go back to them when you’re feeling low

  16. Wow, thank you for sharing this. As someone who has been bullied, I have always hated the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” that is so false. Words sting and stick to you. When people say that they are able to let people’s negative words roll off their shoulders I feel like that comes with a process. You don’t just wake up one day and become immune to people’s hate. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us the power our words have on eachother.

    • I don’t understand how some people can take hurtful words and be like, “water off a ducks back.” There sense of self and self-esteem must be rock solid. I just wish I knew how to get to that point myself

  17. What a very touching, real & honest piece. I had a horrendous time at high school due to my severe acne. You can imagine the abuse I got from everyone. However, I’m in a better place today but I’d be lying if I said those words still don’t stick with me.

    Racism is absolutely vile to the core of society. We live in a world with truly sick individuals, unfortunately. The good will always outweigh the bad but it’s still not acceptable.

    One of my best friends from college was from Nigeria. We clicked because we shared common interests & made beautiful memories growing up partying together as young lads. I wish people judged each other by their morals rather than the colour of their skin.

  18. It is rough what we do to ourselves sometimes – dwelling on the feedback/criticism and quickly discarding the good things. Life seems like a constant struggle to do the opposite

  19. My heart hurts for the traumatic experience you suffered growing up and I’m enraged by the teachers and adults who should have protected you, but seemingly didn’t. As a teacher, one of my strictest policies is that we respect everyone and treat the class like a family. I teach my students early in the school year, ” If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing.”

  20. This was heartbreaking to read. Honestly, children don’t see differences in colour like this unless they are taught to… Which calls into question the parenting and the racially motivated comments being made at home. Children are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. When raised in a culture of hate, they too internalize that hatred and this is the result. It’s going to take a culture shift to eliminate this, one that is WAY overdue… How are we still seeing such hatred today?? Thank you for being so open and vulnerable, sharing your personal experience!

    • The fight back against that needed culture shift is real, with populism making quite a comeback. Hopefully it won’t last long and we can return to making progress as civilised people

  21. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all that. Having to endure horrible things from strangers is one thing, but when it’s from your own family, I imagine it’s that much worse. Your story truly is heartbreaking, but I’m glad to see that today you can openly speak about it. I’m a firm believer in talking through what’s on your mind. I think it helps in the healing process. I admire your strength and resilience. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind!

  22. I’m sorry for your mistreatment. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment. I totally agree with this post as I have words that have stuck with me from a kid all through my life. My dad used to tell me “stick and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me”. I’m glad that emotional health is a discussion in our time now and that we can openly and safely share our feelings so that future generations won’t have to grow up where verbal abuse isn’t considered harmful. <3

    • It certainly is better that we can talk more openly about our emotions and mental health. Although there’s still a lot of work still to be done to completely remove the stigma

  23. very very well done for talking about it.peoples views/judgements are very Snotty Nosed .never see the every day effects .i have panic attacts ware i am very nausea then Vomiting all over .have long list health issues ..m.e .
    ibs.migraines list goes on .i take part in a lot lot research
    my blog

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my post. Sorry to hear about your health issues, but it’s good that your taking part in research related to your health issues

  24. Your blog post reminded me of this quote.

    “You can have regret from yesterday, fear tomorrow, but peace today by sharing your heart’s deepest feelings. A life spent being fearful of showing your soul is a life not worth living.” ― Shannon Alder

    It is a fact – words of despair are destructive, humiliating, hindering and hurtful. These words can be ones that ridicule, make fun of, or chastise.

    Congratulations on pouring out your heart and soul in these heartbreaking experiences. You are courageous.?
    When doing a strength assessment with entrepreneurs, business owners and startup founders, each one remembers words that has caused them to take a particular direction in life. To know how powerful words are, just imagine this – no has ever disputed that a ‘lion’ is not called a lion. ?
    Even if words have the power to build people up, confine people to where they are, and break people down, only you can make a choice to sieve out the words that do not add value to your life and nourish those that empower you. It is not easy, but if you put your mind to alter the course of your life, you do. Healing starts when you reach out for help, empty out the ringing voices pf abusive words that tore you apart, and begin a journey of reconstruction. I know that your heart is determined to provide encouragement, praise and kindness against all odds. You got this.

    H Emma | https://thextraordinarionly.com

  25. sometimes the people around you just don’t see your value. They say things to belittle you. Exactly like you said they do this to build themselves up and mask their own insecurities. Cutting them off or moving on without them is a necessity for you to stay strong. Thank you for sharing.

  26. just see on your blog.you talking about ABUSE .i am very IMPRESSED .i was abused sexually as a child . my story of abuse is in a Authors book . people never see the every day effects.i have m.e ..bladder and bowel problems BECAUSE i was abused .i am not afraid too say/not afraid to talk about it .I AM ALIVE
    i am co-Author of a book .JUST PUBLISHED . this is about Disability and Sex .can give you a Link


  27. I’ve long believed verbal bullying is worse than physical because it does stick with you. I still remember mean things people said when I was 7 – and I’m 32! I remember the boy who called me fat, I remember when someone said I was boring or weird or whatever. All I can say is…their words say far more about them than they do about you.

  28. It’s heart-breaking to read all the hurt you have experienced. You are strong and enough and more than words, more than pain. Thank you for sharing and encouraging kindness in a world that has forgotten.

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