"It's not your fault that you're self-centered."

My mother has said plenty of hurtful things to me, but the thing she says most is that I'm selfish. This hurts because I try so hard to respect my parents and not to ask too much of them. 

One day my mom and I were having a talk, and this topic came up. I finally stood up for myself. I outlined exactly why it hurt me when she said that, and I asked her to try to be more conscious of what she says in that regard. Her reply was only:

"Oh honey, you can't help it. All young people are selfish. It's not your fault that you're self-centered."

She didn't apologize, and she never will. It made me realize that I'll never be able to change her mind, and she'll always just see me as a selfish brat who will never appreciate what she does for me.

"The Distraction"

My two friends and I all live in a dorm together. One day we were all hanging out and joking around like we usually do, and one of my friends suggested we should probably start our homework soon. 

My other friend replied, "Yeah, but I can't get any work done with the distraction in here." She looked at me and laughed, meaning it as a joke. 

I have severe ADHD, and do often get off topic and distracted. I understand why it's hard to concentrate with me in the room. But it only affirmed the message I have been getting my whole life: that while I may be fun to hang out with, I'm not useful when real work needs to get done. I'm not serious. I don't belong in an intellectual environment. I'm not smart. I don't work hard. I only distract people from the things that are actually important.

"She'll never be as pretty as you."

I was a pretty awkward middle schooler. I was shy, un-athletic, and didn't have many friends, so I mostly pretended to sleep on the hour long bus rides home. One day in 6th grade I had to "sleep" near the back of the bus where the cool boys from my grade were sitting, flirting with my older sister.

They were complimenting her when one said "Your sister is so ugly. She'll never be as pretty as you." The other one emphatically agreed. My sister just sat there.

It's been 18 years and I can count on one hand the number of times I thought I was pretty.

"...he is worth more than you are.”

When I started my big corporate media job, I was so excited to show off my creative skills for a huge audience. A few months into the job, I was pretty much killing it and receiving great feedback along with my male counterpart, M, of the same job title. 

Yearly reviews came around and I cooly asked M if he’d feel comfortable telling me his salary so I could get a sense of how I should negotiate a well-deserved raise. He cautiously gave me an inexact roundabout number around his yearly compensation and my jaw hit the floor. M was making about $50k more than I was for the same work, same amount of experience, same job title, and same amount of time at the company. I was enraged.

I took my concern to the head of the department, who fairly heard me out, but ended our conversation with, “It is perceived that M is worth more than you are.”

Luckily, HR did not agree with my sexist boss.

"It is always the woman's fault."

When I was entering puberty, a man brutalized me. When I told my mother, she said that I'd better get used to it, because in our society, "anytime there's a disagreement between a man and a woman, it is always the woman's fault." 

She listed examples like rape and domestic violence, and literally told me, "the faster you get used to it, the better." I argued with her, but she told me to pay attention every time there was a serious issue in people's relationships to see how it turned out. 

I hung on to her words and swore to myself that I'd find a situation in which this wasn't true, and show her that the world isn't that dark.

I'm nearly 30 now. I'm a domestic abuse survivor from an ex, and I've been raped multiple times in my life. Recovering led to me specializing in rape and domestic violence as a health care professional, thus I see a lot of serious cases and am involved in many court battles. 

To this day, I'm still waiting for that one example when it isn't socially deemed the woman's fault so I can tell my mother that she was wrong.

"I think she'll love it."

My cousin Traci is a transgender girl who has been ostracized by many of her immediate family members. 

One day, my 95-year-old great grandma and I were shopping at the pharmacy. We were in the card aisle and she said, "I forgot to get Traci a card for her birthday!" 

She walked right over to the "female cards" and picked out the pinkest, frilliest card possible. She handed it to me and said, "Well that's perfect! I think she'll love it." 

My great grandma is so much more understanding than Traci's parents are, and this interaction made me tear up a bit.

I love my great grandma.

"A chain-smoking black lady."

A few days after my now ex-wife and I signed the lease on a new apartment, she called me at work to tell me that she went to the manager's office, cancelled the lease, and surrendered the deposit without asking me. 

Her reason? 

She visited the building and saw that the current tenant was "a chain-smoking black lady." 

The smoking part wasn't the problem. Over the next few weeks, she painted the neighborhood as an urban hell-hole full of drugs and rapists. She felt she was saving me from some violent catastrophe. 

I slept on a friend's couch until I had enough money to get my own place. When I left her, people were quick to blame me and slow to ask what happened. Nobody wanted to hear that she would rather be homeless than live with black neighbors. 

I am haunted by the knowledge that fear of strangers can motivate someone to hit the self-destruct switch on their own life or destroy lives around them. Unspoken fear is the true face of racism.

"No big deal."

I've been sexually assaulted multiple times in my life, but I've only come forward one time. The first time. When I was 13.

I was sexually assaulted at a party by a neighbor's friend. I was so afraid to tell anyone, and kept quiet for two months, until I finally wrote to a close friend about it. My friend accidentally dropped the note it in the hallway and it was discovered by the school social worker. 

The social worker called me into her office, confronted me, and called my mom. My mom told my dad, who told my stepmom.

My mother told me that she'd "been through worse" and that it was "no big deal" and that I "could've ruined his life." 

My stepmother told me "it's all right because we all think he's gay" and "he didn't mean anything by it." 

And what did my father say? Absolutely nothing. 

Because of this, I've stopped coming forward. 

I haven't been able to get my parents' words out of my head, and it's been almost a year and a half.

"I hate when people are not happy."

My first serious boyfriend in high school would belittle me any chance he got. He was manipulative and hurtful, and he used me to get what he wanted. He forced me to have my first kiss, and quite a few after that. When I told him I wasn't ready, he told me that I was. 

One day, I told him that I'd had enough, and when he threatened to break up with me, I agreed that maybe we should.

He then told me, "The only reason I agreed to a relationship with you was to make you happy, because I hate when people are not happy." 

Yeah, because being manipulated and used made me so happy. 

Trying to "help".

Growing up, I was always a bit heavier than my peers. I never really noticed, though, and never let it get in the way of having fun. 

The first time someone pointed it out was humiliating. It was in second grade gym class. 

The coach allowed certain people to slack off in class, while remaining very strict with a select few. I was in the second group. The coach always told me to work harder and do better, and I never understood why.

When I finally asked, the coach admitted that he was trying to "help" me by making me do more so that I could lose weight. 

Needless to say, it hurt.