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Words Can Break You

Even as a kid I knew there was something seriously flawed with the mantra, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” While it’s a nice ideal, it’s rarely the truth. And adults rarely know the tools to teach kids how to reach that point where words can never hurt them… probably because they’ve never reached that point themselves.

There are many stories that I could use as reference points here, but yesterday I found this article, and it just broke my heart. “Woman Goes Under Knife to Win Simon’s ‘X-Factor’ Love”. 

A few years ago an 18 year old girl auditioned for American Idol. A natural singer, Simon Cowell told her, “I just wish I could put your voice in another body.” 


As someone who has been in a similar situation, I can tell you from experience THIS DOES NOT FEEL GOOD. Obviously. I have spent practically my entire life believing that my voice did not match my body, that I shouldn’t sing because I wasn’t attractive enough, that I wasn’t allowed to perform because I wasn’t thin or pretty enough. I can only imagine what this poor girl went through after that.

What did she go through? Well, tons of plastic surgery, obsessive exercise, and most likely she suffered from body dysmorphic disorder. She had the opportunity to confront Cowell, and she told him that his comments nearly wrecked her life. She said he “seemed really shocked” and admitted “that’s not a nice thing I said”. 

Here is Katrina Lee, before (age 18, 5 years ago) and after (age 23, today):

This story not only upsets me for what it is, but how the media is reporting it. In the article I linked to above, they’re simultaneously pitying her and ostracizing her.  They have a poll, “what best describes Lee’s actions: ambitious or nuts?” 

Mental illness is still a joke. People would argue that she had a choice, she didn’t have to drastically change her appearance with plastic surgery just because someone told her she wasn’t pretty. Therefore she’s crazy, because “crazy” is apparently a choice. What people don’t get is the correlation. Nobody makes fun of someone for getting skin cancer. A woman with fair skin exposes herself to the sun for years, even helping her skin absorb the rays with tanning oil, and yet when she gets cancer she is pitied and supported. She is not considered a freak show. (This goes hand in hand with a post I’m working on about victim-blaming.)

It’s also unfortunate this girl is still searching for mainstream approval. Where are her parents, friends, peers, doctors? I’m not saying she should give up her dream of being a singer and performer, but continuing to audition for mega-reality shows in order to have her dream justified and supported? That just doesn’t seem healthy.

Regardless, I wish her the best. I hope she learns to love herself no matter what she looks like, and continues to use her passion and talent even if she doesn’t “make it” on reality TV.

  1. September 8, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I agree with you that I’ve never been keen on the old age mantra either. Actually, a study was done on it several years ago about how it can hurt more than physical harm I think. I blogged about it awhile back.

    Anyway, I agree with you that hopefully this girl learns to love herself for you she is and her talent. I hope you can do the same and reach the goals that you desire too.

  2. J.
    September 8, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Words can definitely hurt more than physical harm… but I do believe we can learn to not allow them to hurt us (as much).

    I hope I can too… I’m stuck in the mindset of “I know plastic surgery won’t help anything, I know I’m supposed to love myself the way I am… but I don’t and since I ‘know better’ I have to give up those passions because I can’t compete with those who are naturally attractive since I’m not.” which is a giant fail of a thought process, I know. It comes and goes.

  3. edoutsider
    September 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    words hurt more than physical harm in my opinion. People often physically harm themselves BECAUSE of hurtful words, so obviously the words are worse.

    As for the singer, that’s so messed up. I would be so mad if somebody said that to me, although I often think of it myself. I wish I could just take “me” and put me in a different body.

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