It's both a blessing and a curse: Your parents have the power to almost completely dictate how you feel about yourself and others. They know exactly what to say to lift you up and make you feel great; but on the flip side, there are also comments from your parents that can totally eff with your mental health and wellbeing. These are words that can stick with you for the rest of your life, forever invoking the same emotions you felt the first time you heard them.
You've probably heard it before: Children are a product of their environment. In fact, the home and family are largely considered the biggest influencer in offsprings' lives. It should come as no surprise that parents who can balance authority with warmth and encouragement typically produce children who are psychologically sound. Of course, nobody is perfect, and parenting doesn't come with an instruction manual; in fact, being a parent might just be the hardest job in the world. Full disclosure: I'm not a parent, but I certainly believe it's no easy task. I'm old enough now to better appreciate all of the things my mom did for me, my brother, and my sister. What a superhero.
That being said, you only have to be someone's child to know what it's like to be the recipient of toxic speech. It's likely something that we can all relate to — because everyone, everyone, experiences a bout of verbal diarrhea now and then. Did you ever hear any of these things growing up?
1. "Are you really going to eat all that?"
See also: "Is all of that for you?" and "You must be hungry." Parents, if you're going to say this to your offspring, just cut to the chase and call them a fat tub of lard, because that's basically what we're hearing. (And just as a reminder, using "fat" as insult is harmful in so many ways.) Drawing attention to what we eat makes us feel incredibly self-conscious. I'm not referring to a parent's genuine concern for your overall health and well-being; that's a completely different scenario. It's the subtle, passive-aggressive reminder that "a moment on the lips means a lifetime on the hips," and the opposite of body positive.
2. "Aren't you going to put a little make-up on?"
Who am I, Chewbacca? Gollum? Am I that hideous to you? Because I know that your deceivingly gentle question is a reference to how painfully ugly I am right now. There's nothing wrong with wanting to leave the house au naturel . I don't care if you think I look like a foot.
3. "You're too good for him/her."
You're insulting my partner, which means you're insulting my judgment and choice of partner, which means take a hike.
If you're in a relationship with a total pile of sh*t and your parent expresses concern without pushing you one way or the other, good for them! They love you and they care about you. If your partner is generally a good human being and has your best interests in mind, then everyone — including your parentals — should realize how fortunate you are.
4. "You could do so much better than [insert job here]."
Getting a job isn't easy. Keeping a job isn't easy. Nothing about jobbing is easy. I feel like working hard and paying your bills is half the battle. If you're doing that, you're lightyears ahead of a lot of people.
Our culture teaches us to climb to the top, to clinche the killer nine-to-five with the hefty paycheck and extensive benefits. Sure, this is nice; but some people love their jobs even without all the trimmings. Are you an artist? Waiter? Sex worker? Subway sandwich extraordinaire? Doesn't matter. Are you happy and providing for yourself? We have a winner! Take care of yourself, and be happy. (Seriously. BE HAPPY. People don't say that enough.)
5. "Well, your sister [blah blah blah]."
Parents, if you're going to compare one child to another, skip all the stuff in the middle and just stick their head in the toilet. This. Feels. Awful. Nobody wants to live in a sibling's shadow or feel like they don't measure up. We are all unique individuals.
6. "If you don't [name demand] right now, I'm going to [insert threat]."
Nothing like instilling a deeply-rooted sense of fear in your child to get them to respect you! Except... respect and fear are two totally different things. Why do parents do this? It's about control, not about love, and all it does is eff us up.
7. "If you tried just a little harder..."
WTF?! I am trying hard. I can't help it that I'm not the absolute best and that at any given moment, there are 2,452 things working against me. When am I finally good enough?
And on a slightly opposite note...
8. "I don't care," or "I don't want to hear it."
I think the only thing worse than an overbearing parent is one who is completely hands-off. You could be elected POTUS and they'd be like, "Sweet. What's on Netflix?"