Words Matter

There’s this common misconception in our society and others that words don’t matter.

Hence the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones. But words shall never hurt me.”

However, research over the years has proven otherwise.

Being overly critical of someone can cause someone to develop feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.

In fact, studies have even shown that negative criticism from a mom is a predictor of whether or not a child will develop depression (Cox, 2022).

There’s this common belief in the Hmong culture and other Asian cultures that speaking negatively to someone is a form of encouragement.

For example telling someone “You’ll never amount to anything.”

The belief is that making such a statement towards an individual will motivate them to push harder to succeed.

There’s this mentality that the fear of failure will push someone to strive further.

But the truth is, speaking negatively towards someone affects their self-esteem.

It increases the chances of an individual developing anxiety and depression.

According to Meyers and Twenge (2019), Asian American students often out perform other racial groups academically.

Adult Asian Americans also have the highest median income.

However, they, Asian Americans, also have the lowest self-esteem (Meyers & Twenge, 2019).

Words matter whether people want to believe it or not.

If someone is constantly being put down, it becomes the narrative in their mind.

Which impacts their ability to perform to their full potential at work, in school, and in their relationships.

The negative words becomes the story they tell themselves. It comes the belief they have of who they are.

Affecting their mental health and their physical health alike.

In fact, it’s why consistent negative criticism is actually considered a form of verbal abuse (Gordon, 2022).

Negative criticism in a form of verbal abuse is when there’s constant cruel remarks being made to or about an individual.

The purpose of the criticism is to make the person feel bad about themselves.

Condescension is also considered a type of verbal abuse. They’re often sarcastic statements said in the form of humor to belittle someone (Gordon, 2022).

According to Gordon (2022), verbal abuse has long term and short term affects on people. It has an impact on their school and work performance and it also affects their relationships.

In fact, children whom experience constant verbal abuse can develop a sense of worthlessness.

It also influences their ability to trust others and disrupts their ability to regulate their emotions as adults (Gordon, 2022).

Verbal abuse is considered a form of emotional abuse. The verbally abusive person can use their words to manipulate or degrade an individual (Gordon, 2022).

All of which would eventually have a negative impact on the person’s psychological health. Verbal abuse can happen in any relationship from family relationships to friendships, romantic relationships, and even the parent – child relationship (Gordon, 2022).

Think about it.

If words truly didn’t matter, why does the term verbal abuse exist?

If words didn’t matter, why do they have the ability to negatively or positively transform a person’s perception of themselves.

And if words truly did not have an impact on an individual’s mental well being.

Why do Asian Americans out perform other races in academics and in the workforce. But have the lowest self esteem?

Because words matter.

Written by Eriko Her, M.A., T-LPC

References

Cox, J. (2022, March 31). Dealing with critical people: 5 tips. Psych Central. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-critical-people 

Gordon, S. (n.d.). What are the signs of verbal abuse? Verywell Mind. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-recognize-verbal-abuse-bullying-4154087#toc-impact-of-verbal-abuse 

Myers, D. G., & Twenge, J. M. (2019). Social Psychology (13th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

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