She’s a big girl, that’s what they used to say to me and about me. I think it was their way of not saying I was chubby or rather ‘not small’. In any case it sucked and it aided and abetted my own insecurities about my size and my body.
In my 20’s I met and friend-ed two women who had also been labelled ‘big girls’. Through my 40 something eyes I can see that none of us were big, athletic sure, not slight; okay, but big, nope, not big. Its interesting to me that people used the ‘big girl’ descriptor because they were trying to be nice. It backfired with all three of us. It didn’t feel nice.
We, the three of us, were able to put it in perspective during our wings and diet coke outings, which we called the Big Girl Club. By the time we met we were all coming to the realization that we were not ‘Big Girls’. Our comradery helped me minimize the voices in my head, but they are still there…forever and a day I imagine. We did weekend shopping trips where we helped each other pick flattering items and where size didn’t matter but laughter and kinship did, we accepted each other and the way we looked. Our words were kind and our encouragement genuine, our trust real.
Y’know what you say and how you say it can have a lasting effect on people. You may think its funny or a joke, or because you close it off with a ‘just kidding’ that it is fine and acceptable and forgotten. Its not that easy and let’s face it, its not that nice. ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt me’ is baloney. But the ‘if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all’ is a good rule of thumb.
We have all seen people use the truth or their version of it to hurt someone else. The careless way they use language with no awareness of how or what those words could mean to the bystander or the person you are engaging with, I know because I am both a victim and a perpetrator. Maybe its human? Maybe we can do better?
Its important to pay attention to what words you use, its more important to be aware of your own actions and words and how they can impact the people around you.
Let me tell you about one of my lesson’s. I was working out at my University gym, and I was waiting behind a guy to put my barbell back onto the rack. I asked him twice, politely, to ‘excuse me’. No response, nothing, nadda…so I increased my volume and drama ‘exxxxccccuuuuussssse ME…what are you deaf?!’ His friend turned around quickly with much disdain. And guess what, dude was deaf. Yep.
Our society minimizes how we use language and I’m a believer in ‘if you allow it, you accept it and you perpetuate it.’ So let’s make a commitment to ourselves to be better police of our own language. Let’s work harder at being kind and patient. Think about how you can apply this to your team and your own leadership style ‘what you allow, you accept’. Your words and your tolerance can help or hurt. You can be the example of good, its really all up to you, and me and the deaf guy who didn’t do anything but look stunned at the angry woman standing behind him. He had options, he chose grace and acceptance.
From the desk of a not so big ‘Big Girl’, be well, be aware and be kind.