Taking Back Your Self-Worth – Releasing Another’s Unkindness


Sticks and stones have yet to break my bones, but words have left me reeling on countless occasions.  Many of us were raised to speak kindly and ignore harsh comments from others, but as we all know, it’s not quite that cut and dry.

I’m going to share a personal story that very few people in my life have heard.  Congratulations internet – you are now part of The Circle of Secrecy.  (Apparently The Circle is quite large.)  (Also I feel like it would be disingenuous if I didn’t clarify that there are actually additional Circles within The Circle.)

When I was in high school, I participated in a program that allowed several students and teachers to spend a couple of weeks with various families in Asia.  It was incredible, eye-opening, and beautiful beyond words.  Experiences like that change you forever in ways that you couldn’t imagine.  Sadly, the trip also left me with a memory that I can’t forget either.  It may seem small, but it had a tremendous impact on me.

The flight from Texas to Japan took about 500 hours (give or take about 485 hours).  We were antsy teenagers, and while we were excited to be going, it took foreeeeveeeer to get there.  100 or so hours into the flight, I started talking to the guys sitting on either side of me.  I wasn’t looking for love in all the wrong places.  I was just bored, so I chatted with the adjacent humans.  Unfortunately they were also bored and got trashed with the adjacent liquor bottles.  It wasn’t my favorite spot to be in, but I didn’t know what else to do.  It was an exchange program, but the exchange option did extend to my seat number.

Eventually the men became extremely rowdy, so one of the head administrators of the school called me over to sit in a seat in the row in front of him and his wife.  Another staff member moved to take my seat instead.  That was 100% fine by me.  I re-seated my seat, buckled my buckle, and the plane kept plane-ing.  Nothing could have been worse than their obnoxious behavior, so I was incredibly relieved to be elsewhere.

Until I heard this spoken softly by the administrator to his wife in the row behind me…

“That Joanna is a total slut.”

I can’t tell you how much it hurts me to repeat such base words of intense unkindness spoken about me by a leading administrator of my school.  There was zero truth in them.  I may have been brash and loud, but I truly was an innocent child.  Overhearing those poisonous words from this respected person of authority made me feel like trash.

I have kept this story close because it is something I have wanted so badly to forget.  It’s one small utterance, but it scratches my heart raw.  Someone who knew absolutely nothing about me saw that when he looked my way.  He thought I was low.

My mistake was not speaking to the two faceless men.  My mistake was listening the one whose face I can’t forget.

In his defense, he was not a bad man at all.  On the contrary, he was a very good man who did countless wonderful things to help many students.  While he was utterly wrong about me, I don’t know of any other student that he failed over the years.  I want to believe that he was stressed while watching the whole scene from several rows over.  He misunderstood my not being able to deflect those inebriated jackasses as an invitation on my part.  He misunderstood the situation, but more than anything, he misunderstood me.  I never called him out on those words, but I have often wished that I had for my own sake.  In truth though, it doesn’t matter.

Even though I knew then that what he said was not true, it still tore down my self-image.  That poison has coursed through my spirit for years.  I should have never given such power to the thoughtless words of that man.  The unkind words and acts of another do not deserve the authority to govern my self-worth.  Self-worth should always remain an inside job.

Unkindness does not define me.  Unkindness does not define you.

People say and do things that are strikingly hurtful.  They lash out and lose control and make mistakes.  Sometimes hurting you is intentional, and sometimes they don’t even know that they are doing it.  Your hurt becomes invisible collateral damage.  Most can’t see, but you can’t avoid.  It gnaws at us and steals our happiness.  But their unkindness is about them – not you.

I now see the paper tiger in his untruth.  I forgive a kind man who mistakenly whispered callous words with zero understanding of their impact.  I release that ghost of my past.  I take back all power I once gave it, and I bring yet another part of my soul back out of the shadows.

We have sacrificed pieces of ourselves to others who never deserved them.  No one should ever be given the power to make you feel substandard or less than.  You are never less than.  You are meant to excel and grow and dream and learn and soar.  Let go of another’s false perceptions, and discover who you really are.

Release the unkindness.  Take back your self-worth.

You were born to shine!

In love and light always – Joanna

***This is one of my favorite posts from an awesome lady and fellow outcast / badass who also had to brush off hollow unkindness thrown her direction.  High five from me to you girl!  😉
Too Good for Wal-Mart


43 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. James J. Cudney IV
    Jul 31, 2017 @ 21:00:28

    It’s really admirable how you reflect on this in such an inspirational way. I can’t believe people like that exist. But I know they do. Then again, there are the complete opposite examples like you who shows us the shining beautiful side too. Thanks for sharing such personal experiences.


    • MoJo
      Jul 31, 2017 @ 20:33:17

      Honestly I have said much worse things about people who didn’t deserve it. I pray that they didn’t hear me and that I remember the next time I even think to do so. He was a bonehead, but he wasn’t evil. I don’t believe that he intended to be so cruel, but I have carried it for years nevertheless. I should have never empowered those hollow mean words. I am tired of giving pieces of myself away to people who neither deserved nor asked for me to do so. I want me back! 😊


  2. mainepaperpusher
    Jul 31, 2017 @ 21:18:18

    There was such a big part of me that hoped this story would end with you finding out that they were talking about another Joanna. What a horrible memory. I am so happy for you that you are letting this go. I would have a very hard time doing that, even if I knew it was best. Sending hugs your way… 🤗 🤗 🤗


    • MoJo
      Jul 31, 2017 @ 20:35:38

      Well there was another slutty Joanna in the next row over… (I couldn’t resist such a good opportunity to resoond with a joke but I do appreciate your sweet words darling.)


  3. wakinguponthewrongsideof50
    Jul 31, 2017 @ 21:35:24

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. As adults in charge, they should never have put you in that seat to begin with….but that’s neither here nor there. People under estimate the power of words….I know I have trouble holding my tongue most of the time…..but it’s something I’m still working on


    • MoJo
      Jul 31, 2017 @ 20:43:33

      Me, too. He didn’t mean it. Who knows. Maybe he did. But he was wrong. I need to remember, too. It’s funny how empty words can weigh us down.


  4. carolrolke
    Jul 31, 2017 @ 22:26:54

    And… the Administrator is a real jackass. A man’s character can never be judged by his good deeds. I love the inspiration behind the story. Thank you for sharing your strength with others who still need to overcome similar circumstances. Yes, self-worth is an inside job and one I hope we can all learn to do exceedingly well.


    • MoJo
      Jul 31, 2017 @ 21:53:35

      When I was writing this, I thought of you and your story about Le Douchebag who made that crappy comment to you. I’d actually like to add the link to that post at the bottom of this one if you would be okay with it. I just loved that post of yours. Well I love all of them but that one made me mad and sad and glad and all the other -ads. Please let me know if that would be alright with you. 🙂 Hugs from one outcast to another! Outcast 4 Life Yo! 😁


  5. riffatwajidblogs
    Jul 31, 2017 @ 23:05:01

    Good morning


  6. Tracy
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 01:24:36

    Needless to say I understand where you are coming from. That one line felt like a punch to me, just reading it. I know how destructive it was for you to live it. I’m still blowing up my balloons. Placing the words and actions of people inside them and watching them float off with my best wishes. I am sending you the biggest hug EVER.


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 08:44:18

      He waa nothing compared to your IT. I’m still in awe of you girl. And I’ll take that big fat hug and mail one right back to you! 🤗


  7. roseelaineblog
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 02:39:50

    Words can inflict terrible pain that can stay inside us for a lifetime. Words can build us up or tear us down until we are in a place of self acceptance. That was a sad recollection 😔 …. someone once told me that when we die we do see our life flash like a video in front of our eyes. We see the happiness we brought to others along with the pain that our actions can bring. ❤️


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 10:15:19

      I’ve heard that before, too. Sometimes I will be in the most ordinary of moments and see pure magic in them. I think to myself and hopefully to whomever I am thinking about how precious the moment is to me. And then I sometimes think about the not so great (terrible) stuff and I try to think I forgive you and I forgive me. Aaaaaand theeen sometimes I think “Now you know how wrong you are!!! 😟”. Our words are incredibly powerful. Your words made me smile, so thank you for that. When you flash through your life one day, you’ll see how much they really did / do matter to me. 😘


  8. Writer Lori
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 02:57:12

    I’m so sorry that you’ve carried that ache within you all these years, Jo, but so glad that you have finally realized the utterance for what it was..the cruel comment of a thoughtless individual.

    And this phrase- “Self-worth should always remain an inside job.” Fab.U.Lous. Do you think it’s too long for a tattoo? 😉 Xox, L


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 08:46:14

      If I was 20, I would say no. Now? In my 40s? I think it would look like I got a tat of a boa constrictor! 🐍🐍🐍. 😂. Hugs to you lovebug!! Jo


  9. foodzesty
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 05:15:22

    :(….I can not believe this man uttered these words…so sorry Jo


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 08:55:45

      On the one hand I can’t either, but on the other, I have also said horribly ugly things about people when I thought that they couldn’t hear me. I’m genuinely embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. It reminds me that I also have to be aware of the terrible power of the negative comments we casually make.


  10. joyfullyrenewed
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 06:47:58

    Would it surprise you if I told you that I had a similar experience in Greece when I was a teen? It was a general statement about American girls vacationing in Greece, but it was directed at me after I had gently warded off the advances of a young man. It stuck with me though and messed with my self worth and self confidence none-the-less. Thank you for this post Jo. As always, I think you are simply the best and not at all slutty. 🙂


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 10:27:31

      Well…maybe a teensy bit slutty. At least moderately hoochie. ;p And yes. I’m in shock once more at yet (another) similarity. (yawn)

      But in all seriousness, wtf??? Why couldn’t these guys turn the volume down or just keep quiet? So unkind. I think you are the best, too, and I don’t judge your past or present hoochie mama ways – you wild vixen! Lol


  11. Mischenko
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 07:04:46

    So sorry this happened! I know it happens too often. Thank you for sharing this… ❤


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 10:28:54

      It happens to all of us in one way or another. I always think about the movie Pretty Woman and how she talks about how the bad stuff is easier to remember. It’s true but it shouldn’t be. xoxo 🙂 Jo


  12. Kip Walkin
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 07:44:05

    It’s really painful when people misjudge you. I can relate with your story. I have worked in a few places and it’s sad to see how your superiors always try to belittle you just to make you cower and feel low. Some people never overcome the negative effect on their minds. I agree we shouldn’t let them inside. They don’t have that right. I also believe victims should endeavour to prove them wrong by treating other people the right way. Do have a great day Jo.👍💯


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 10:30:09

      You are right like always! I love your comments Kip. They always lift my spirits even more. You have such a way of keeping your face to the sun. I so love that! Have a beautiful day, too! Jo


      • Kip Walkin
        Aug 01, 2017 @ 18:31:09

        Thank you Jo. Your words are ever so nice. You also have a unique way of reading people and understanding them. No doubt you are a wonderful person. And yes, I sure do like looking at the brighter side because it helps outweigh the shadows lurking around.😉😉 Hope your day went well? Do take care ok. Warm regards to you and yours!💯👍✌

      • MoJo
        Aug 01, 2017 @ 17:34:18


  13. Blog Andrew
    Aug 01, 2017 @ 12:59:12

    😮 Wow Joanna that is some story, you’ll never cease to amaze me! May I make a couple of observations, no? I will anyways, my guess is he misunderstood the situation misunderstood you, having said that I’d guess you’re one hell of laugh to be around on a night out! I also have a feeling the word doesn’t translate the same in the UK, over here slut is more of an affectionate word, women use it as a badge of honour showing they’re a good time girl, a bit easy but not a slag…………..However I can see how this would hurt the younger woman. Fab story.


    • MoJo
      Aug 01, 2017 @ 13:23:00

      I have never heard the word slag, but I guess it’s the same? To put it in context, imagine that your silly but innocent teenage sister overheard the school headmaster call her a whore behind her back. Nice, no? And you’re right on both counts – he totally misunderstand the situation, and I’m a freakin’ blast on a night out (on the rare occasion when I am able to escape past 9pm nowadays). 😉 This kind of crap happens to women. I’ve never heard people whispering about a younger guy’s skanky behavior. You wouldn’t think that it would be so painful, but it stings pretty badly.


      • Blog Andrew
        Aug 01, 2017 @ 14:36:19

        I had a feeling you never heard the word slag before 😦 it is possibly the worst name you could label a woman or girl with, and if a girl at school or woman at work knew friends were calling her this behind her back, I kid you not the consequences could be awful even tragic. A truly offensive word.

  14. misifusa
    Aug 02, 2017 @ 08:52:08

    You shine MoJo! You share your stories in an inspirational way and I love reading your posts. You are a beautiful soul whom I am grateful to call my dear friend. xo


  15. Jan
    Aug 04, 2017 @ 10:20:03

    I am so very sorry this happened to you. As a teacher … I apologize for this incident that never should have happened. The shame lies with the one who made the false and insensitive remark. You were in a very uncomfortable situation. Thank goodness they got you out of that seat !! But to assume you were responsible for the situation shows how out of touch this man was with his students. I would have thought he would have reported the men and asked for the airline to take action … now that would have been appropriate !! It took courage and bravery to share this story. I can see your support through the comments here. I pray for healing. I pray your mind, heart, and soul, can finally let this life episode go … send it way way far away from you. Bless you and know WE know who you are … a remarkable lady with wit and joy and kindness and love that shines oh so brightly. Jan


    • MoJo
      Aug 04, 2017 @ 14:06:29

      So apparently an hour or so after I was relocated, one of the guys threw up all over the area. How fantastic is that? (Not fantastic AT ALL!) As for the other, the more I think about it, the more I set it free. Should he have kept his comment to himself? Of course. At a minimum could he have said it when I wasn’t a sitting 18″ from his face? Big fat yes. But he was probably very frustrated watching the thing and do what so many of us do when we can only see one angle. He missed what was actually happening based on limited view and then he slapped his own judgement and lack of filters on it.

      Keep in mind that although I can recognize this now, we would be having a very different conversation if someone did that to one of my kids. I am full mama bear when it comes to my cubs. 🐻 with a good dose of 🦏, 🐯, and 🐲! 😁.

      I do appreciate your kind words though. Your kindness is so much more powerful than his misstep. I wish that my kids had you as a teacher. I have no doubt that you were one of those that kids remember their whole lives in the best way. 😘


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