words are things

gu86

Maya Angelou once said, “Words are things, I’m convinced. You must be careful about the words you use.”

When I heard this, I sat on it for days and weeks, until I understood the power of that statement. The true power of words. Sometimes we throw words around as if they mean nothing, assuming that they are small and insignificant. And perhaps when we think of power, we think instead of sabers, kings, land, money… yet completely ignore the way that words have perpetuated these very things and concepts through time and space.

Words have the power to build someone up, or crush someone’s spirit. They can be fertilizer for our souls, inspiring us to grow and aspire. They can also wound us like long, shiny knives, lodging themselves into our hearts, shaped in the form of “bitch,” “ugly” or others… and stay with us and pass on, generation to generation. Words can awaken our slumbering minds like coffee, push us to see a new way, to dream as big as Martin Luther King, Jr. once dreamed.

And now I am convinced too. Words are things. They are versatile, shifting in shape and form. We carry them with us, and they bleed through our skin, the way we dress and wear our make-up. They form our body and how we walk. They are tools that mold our minds, and give us the means to mold others. We can do so much good with them, yet in that vein, so much evil. It is up to us how we choose to use words. With all that they can do, Maya Angelou speaks wisdom as she urges us to use their power carefully.

But there is so much beauty in words. It becomes clearer to me as I write this, that even when we have absolutely nothing, even if we may feel oppressed and lack money or privilege, we are never powerless. We will always have words; they cannot be taken away. People so easily dismiss them in favor of higher status things in this world, but we must be careful not to deny the power of words. They live as we use them in our minds, through our mouths, though our pens or the keyboard of our computer. We may be completely naked and without a single material possession to our name, and still have the power to effect great change in the world, with the most simplest of instruments.

But there is nothing simple about words. I believe this to my very core. We can paint, draw, stick, crumple, or weave them together, and create something quite extraordinary.

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the stand

UjYF

Area of self-growth: standing up for myself.

Self-awareness is a constant choice, and I am a strong believer that there will never be a point in time when we have ourselves “completely and thoroughly” figured out. In actuality, those I see who think they do, end up blinding themselves to the deeper crevices of their inner selves. Sometimes I feel the temptation of falling into that trap. But then I encounter another aspect of myself and I realize, yet again, I have so much to explore. So much growth to do.

After talking to my friend on the phone today, I realized something about myself: although I am a strong advocate for others and passionate about speaking out for those who are oppressed or do not have a voice, I am horrible at being my own advocate. The voice that comes to my head is, “Well, I don’t want to step on any toes. I don’t want to make them angry and make waves. I’ll just go along with what they want. I’ll focus on making them happy.”

After coming to this realization, I began laughing, because I teach and encourage others all the time about the pure necessity of advocating for yourself, but then, I cannot do the same for others. I think of Maya Angelou, and how she asserted that we must not only give our teachings to others, but actually live those very teachings out in our lives. And the truth of the matter is, there’s still a part of me that seeks approval from others, that worries about what other people are going to think, and pressures me to just “go along” with whatever they want. After getting this puzzle piece, it became a lot clearer to me why I was feeling frustrated and resentful of others. Or why lately I’ve gotten triggered by people in my life… the common denominator being that despite their good intentions, they keep pushing me to do something I do not want to do, or think “their” way, even when I verbalize what I feel is right for me.

I’ve become angry, frustrated, annoyed by these people, because I’ve spent my whole life going along with what people wanted and doing what they told me to do, at the expense of myself and what I desired. I get pissed off, because I know what’s right for me, and instead of hearing me, people keep forcing me to “see it their way” because “it’s the right way”… forgetting that the “right way” is a relative concept. I just want to be and do me, and I’ve let other people push me around to benefit themselves. I think of Sara Bareillies’ song lyrics: “All my life, I’ve tried to make everybody happy while I just hurt and hide, waiting for someone to tell me it’s my turn to decide.

Which brings me here to present time. Although I’ve learned to rally and support a healthier way of being for others, I have not yet let it soak in my own life. Instead, I am brewing in my anger and frustration of all those years of people not hearing or listening to me, and pushing me around. But I need to start advocating for myself. I need to start speaking out for my wants and needs, because that is my responsibility, and mine alone. No one will tell me it’s my turn, and if anything, many people will take any opportunity to control you. So, I need to start owning myself.

I can’t make my life about people-pleasing anymore. I’m so tired of the anger and resentment I constantly feel, and I see now that the only way to change that is to start pushing up against people, step on a few toes–if that means standing up for myself and owning my identity. I’m the one who has to live with the consequences of my choices. So instead of letting other people call the shots without any consequence on their end, I need to start taking the wheel of my life. And not be afraid to say fuck you to those who try to take it from me.

As Sara Bareillies sings, “Who cares if you disagree? You are not me. Who made you king of anything? You dare tell me who to be? Who died and made you king of anything?