Something I have been called out for, on more than one occasion, is how much I curse.
Excuse me. How much I fucking curse.
People get upset I am cursing because it doesn’t sit right with them. They challenge me to find a better, more eloquent way of expressing myself. What I have never understood in these moments is why I should self-edit to make others more comfortable.
In part, that is expected because I am a woman. Self-editing to keep others comfortable is supposed to be second-nature to me, and certainly not something I speak out against. But what is also interesting is how often the people calling me out for cursing are other women. Are they trying to help, protecting me from the judgment of others, especially men? Or are they policing my tone, trying to put the same limits on me that they have accepted for themselves? Either way, I have decided I don’t really care.
Cursing someone out is one thing. This is not about defending rudeness. But that also underscores another point about cursing—it’s not the words, it’s the energy. If your statement isn’t coming from a good energy, it doesn’t matter what words you use. Someone will not be happier about being insulted by you simply because you don’t use swear words. The same amount of energy is put into choosing our words whatever they are, even (and maybe especially) when we speak without thinking. Choosing or not choosing to use swear words isn’t defining who you are or your values—that is done by your energy.
To me, swearing is sometimes a release of frustration. Other times it’s a celebration, like when something is the shit, or just damn cool. No matter which energy, or any emotion in between, I have noticed on reflection that when I am swearing is often when I am at the height of transparency and authenticity in my communication.
In that, I know I am not alone. For years now, studies are regularly released showing that cursing is a sign of intelligence, a sign of honesty, and improves our pain tolerance:
A 2015 study found that people with a large vocabulary of curse words have a larger vocabulary in general, a direct rebuttal of the “poverty of vocabulary” myth that people use curse words because they don’t know other words to express themselves.
A series of three studies published in 2017 found that people who swear demonstrate overall higher personal integrity and specifically, lie less to other people. (The authors of the studies did caution that you should not simply inherently trust someone BECAUSE they curse a lot…)
Cursing doesn’t just increase our endurance but also our pain tolerance. Studies found that people who swore out loud while cycling or squeezing a hand vice were able to work harder and longer. Another study showed that when people cursed out loud versus saying a neutral word as they put their hand in icy water, the profanity-users both reported less pain and were able to keep their hand in the water longer.
Additionally, it takes creativity to swear, and courage! It helps us fully release our frustrations and joys, riding the highs and lows of our emotions as part of the world versus bottling them up inside and limiting them to keep others comfortable.
The one limit on my swearing, I place on myself, which is that I do not swear at work with clients. This stems from my background working with children and the same respect and consideration for emotions extends to my clients today. Even adults may have deep-rooted traumas around cursing, especially if they come from an abusive background. But I choose to respect those boundaries without even being asked. To those who want to restrict my swearing thanks to outdated, Puritanical values…well, let’s just say I would have a few choice words.