Words That Define Us

I am on quite a few Facebook pages with other authors, and I have read several posts by autistic writers. So maybe creativity is not just tied up in emotion the way most of us experience it, though it feels that way sometimes. These writers confess to not knowing how their characters would feel in given situations, and when they post, they are often asking others to help them determine that.

What a challenge to have the compulsion to tell stories but have such a handicap! And how awesome to do it anyway.

I remember one woman in particular. She said that when people would ask her to tell a little about herself, she would say “I am beautiful.” And indeed she is. She’s worked as a model and she is striking. But, in the absence of knowing what to say about herself, she used the words other people most often said to her. “You are beautiful.” She didn’t realize it’s not really the way one describes oneself. This struck me in another way though. She is a writer, so she is talented and she came across as smart. She is strong and has obviously overcome many challenges. And yet, the most common thing people say to her is that she’s beautiful. It has become the most common way she thinks of herself.

It made me think of my granddaughters. They are pretty girls. I’m not going to say otherwise. But, I don’t want the loudest, the most frequent thing they hear to be that they are beautiful. Because beauty changes. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And it can be altered in a heartbeat, heaven forbid. I want them to know… to hear… that they are smart, fierce, funny, charming, creative, good. The kinds of things that are more than skin deep. The kinds of things that are permanent and aren’t affected by make-up and weight and time.

Words are important. We need to examine how other people’s words have affected our image of ourselves, perhaps in negative ways. And we need to be deliberate with the words we say to others, especially young people. Because we could be defining them in ways that will affect them for life.

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