The word that is worse than fuck

And it’s not c*nt.

Except for children and the elderly, most people who spend enough time with me know that I enjoy a good swear.  Profanity just seems to roll off my tongue ever so naturally, especially when I’m around those I feel most comfortable with.

I rarely take offence to ‘bad’ words, even if someone calls me a ‘fucking cunt’.  Because when you break it down, that’s not really such a terrible thing.  If ‘fucking’ is a verb and ‘cunt’ is a noun, then that just makes perfect sense.  So if someone happens to refer to me as a ‘vagina in the act of sexual intercourse’, then, unless you’re doing it wrong, that’s not really an unpleasant thing to be.

The more you desensitise yourself to the swears, and see them as stupid or humorous accessories used to jazz up an anecdote, emphasise an argument, or hurl some ill-thought-out abuse at a stranger, the easier it will be to shake off that ‘stick up your bum’ feeling and start to enjoy the saltier things in life.

In my opinion, there are far more damaging words in the English language, some of which can stick with us our whole lives, wreaking havoc with our confidence and self-worth.  One such word makes my neck hairs stand on end, my chest tighten and my throat fill with lumps (and it’s not ‘anaphylaxis’).

Harmless enough when describing an inanimate object, the word ‘useless’ fills me with the greatest unease when used to describe a person.  It’s a word that I can remember from my childhood, and is now beginning to resurface again, and again.  I don’t use it (out loud), but my Mum does, to describe herself, and I find it fucking heartbreaking.

My mother is the polar opposite of useless.  At 70, she currently cares for her elderly parents, chases her three young granddaughters around, maintains a home, does Pilates, helps me with everything I’m shit at (domestics, numbers) and tolerates my stubborn and lazy father, bless him.

She manages all of this while recovering from a knee replacement and grieving the loss of her son.  Prior to surgery, when her knee was at its dodgiest, she cared full time for my late brother, who lived with aggressive Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years.

She took care of him through the countless physical and intellectual challenges he faced at each step in his heartbreaking life.  She gave him every ounce of her being and so much more.  Before that, she worked full time, survived two bouts of breast cancer, raised three kids, and she has always, always done her hair.  She is, was and forever will be, a champion at life and caring for others.  So very far from useless.

So it brings me so much pain when I hear that word exit her mouth.  If she’s bought a new toy or activity for my daughters, which doesn’t quite work the way she wanted it to, she’ll get so down about herself and say, “God, I’m useless”, or if she makes a mistake or has an accident, it’s “You useless woman”, and by her tone, she bloody well believes it.

I would so much rather hear “Stupid fucking piece of shit toy, who makes this crap?”, or “Bugger it to motherfucking hell, you bloody bastard”.

I would fully piss my pants at that, rather than feeling despair for the way my mum regards herself.  Throwing out pointless and vague profanity would make light of what are usually pretty non-events anyway, instead, every time she calls herself ‘useless’ or ‘hopeless’, my heart drops into my guts and I try my best to get her to see the situation differently.

I can’t exactly put my finger on why I hate this word so much.  Obviously there’s my Mum’s current use of it, but I think it stems back to my childhood.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a bloody ripper of an upbringing, with the best parents and siblings ever, but there’s a little part of my memory of that time, that seems to recall a moment when I was called ‘useless’.

I don’t know who said or it if was said at all, or maybe I just watched Muriel’s Wedding too many times, but it’s somewhere in my subconscious and rears its ugly head in times of self-doubt.  That word, coupled with anxiety, has stopped me from trying new challenges, having confidence in my abilities and probably contributes to my fear induced procrastination.  So I guess my inner voice is just as bad as my mum’s outer.

Well, fuck that shit!  It’s time for a change.

I have always questioned my life’s purpose, and I know my mum does too, so perhaps that’s why we fall prey to the dreaded U word.  When you think deeply and want to be a successful contributor to your life and the lives of others, there’s bound to be some negativity in there somewhere.

‘Useless’ is a poisonous and destructive word.  The next time I hear it either inside or outside my head, I’m going to stop that bastard in its tracks and hit it with a few cheeky swears instead, until it fucks off out of my life.

Or if I’m talking to Mum, then I’ll PG it, “Rack off with that flamin’ crap, Mum.  You’re a dead set bloody legend, and don’t you flippin’ forget it.”  Or perhaps something a little less ‘Alf Stewart’.

So this will be my personal development goal for 2016, because isn’t it about living a fuck yes life, after all?

Why the word 'useless' is the worst word in our vocabularly and needs to be effed off.

Written By

Kate hosts the online community, One Cool Mother, where she encourages women to share their awesomeness and cut loose with like-minded ladies. She is also passionate about taking the bullshit out of beauty and finds nothing more satisfying than helping women choose effective products without wasting their money, through her Loveface Beauty edits and workshops. Kate also loves to write, drink whiskey and punch on…under the strict supervision of her personal trainer.


  • Totally agree, Kate. I hate it when I hear people say, “I’m so stupid,” or “I’m so useless”. I think it’s their negative self-talk being verbalized for all to hear – sometimes like a running commentary. It can be so confronting to hear aloud what people often secretly think of themselves. And it’s worse when it’s your Mum. Hope you’re going to send her the link to this article . . .

    • I haven’t yet, Kate. She would probably read it and immediately apologise for being so annoying. I might send her an edited copy without so many swears – she fucking hates that shit.

  • Great post. Nothing less confidence building than being called useless. And as an adult it’s even worse when it’s used in a business environment.

  • Kate your bio just made me snort out loud! You are one funny mother fucker! And, your mother sounds like the most useful, incredible woman a person could ever know. Give that woman a flaming big hug and tell her how fabulous she is. Thank you so much for sharing this piece. It has really made my day. Ain’t nothing useless about that! Bron x

    • Thanks, beautiful Bron. You know me, anything for a laugh..or a thought provoking conversation about loving yourself. So glad you enjoyed it, and yes, I will squeeze my mum big time.

  • Love it and you’re right it is about ‘living a fuck yes life’ like you I often have this thing in my head that pops up and says I’m useless, no idea where it came from. Feeling it today with a stinking cold! Needed to read this thank you 🙂

    • My absolute pleasure, Amanda. I hope your stupid cold goes away and that rude little voice inside your amazing head pisses off for good. Be kind to yourself lovely lady.

  • Oh Kate in our house it was Stupid – My darling Mama always referred to herself as “Oh You Stupid Woman” & whilst I don’t remember ever being called stupid it was “why would you do something so stupid” – so fuck useless & fuck stupid.
    And your Mum sounds like a dead set legend to me – Please tell her a crazy blonde you know from Instagram said that!??

  • I love reading your posts Kate I love your pull no punches honesty! It is refreshing in a world consumed by political correctness. The other thing I love is even amidst a serious topic you make me laugh and belly laugh. Your mother sounds like complete opposite of useless to me she sounds like fucking superwoman. (That verb was especially for you) But talking about worse than fuck my pet hate is Stupid and for years my kids thought it was a swear word and I have to say I’m quite proud of that!

    • You should be so proud of that, Karen. You are an awesome mum. That seems to be a word that a lot of readers have identified as equally destructive and harmful. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading, lovely.

  • Thanks Kate! Even worse is when someone takes you down by saying you are ‘wrong’ in front of your peers. The ‘you are wrong’ is equally as damaging. Like Fonzie no one likes to be wwwwwrong. There are kind ways of clarifying why something us not quite right. I think that when someone tells you that you are ‘wrong’ in front of others, they might as well say you are ‘useless’ . Yes, this is a current situation I am experiencing in a ‘professional’ environment. It sucks!
    But I am banishing that word thanks to your fabulous post!

    • Firstly, Sarah, love your reference to The Fonz. Secondly, I’m so sorry to hear that you are going through a shitty time at work. There are more diplomatic and constructive ways to communicate in and out of the workplace. I hope your issues are resolved soon and you can get back to being your awesome self.

  • Kate

    I am with you on useless. For me personally ‘disappointed’ is a word that can invoke a huge range of emotions in me especially if my Dad says it to me. He never smacked me in my life and in fact I don’t think Dad ever got the full word disappointed out I am pretty sure by ‘dis …’ I knew what was coming I was a complete puddle of tears and apologising promising to try harder, not do it again whatever it was at the time! Interesting though since I have had my breakdown and fucked up in a mighty HUGE way that my parents had to bail me out of (not jail) and all the struggles that I have had with mental health over 30+years that I hid from everyone including me! Dad has not once said he is disappointed, rather that he is proud that I stepped up and accepted responsibility even though I don’t know how, why or can even remember what it is that I am accepting responsibility for!

    Me on the other hand I am using useless, hopeless, stupid (and I gave the kids a talking to about calling each other that tonight! but I would use it to describe me!), worthless, I am certain there are a gazillion other equally as appalling names I could call myself but fucking c*nt isn’t one lol because well frankly if I can do anything well I am a good lay! Though that is generally not a skill to put on the resume!

    Have a great weekend

    • Wow, Cathy. I think we might be the same person. Your experience with your father and your meltdown is eerily familiar. Focus on that pride he has for you and try to draw on it when you are talking negatively about yourself. Also, next time you go for a job, please put ‘great lay’ in there somewhere and tell me what happens. Be kind to yourself, lovely one.

  • The very first post I have read in this fabulous new place I have discovered today. Thank you, I think I am ‘home’!!!!

  • So, so, so, so true! It’s a word I loathe to hear someone use about themselves or someone else. It just implies that they have absolutely nothing to offer and that’s completely untrue of every single person alive. Such a good read, Kate.

  • Ah Kate, you have a way with words! The word I won’t let anyone in this house use is “stupid”. I don’t care if they are referring to the remote, their homework or their brother. There are a million different words they could use that are not as harmful as stupid. It’s a challenge sometimes, but other times, it’s kind of cathartic to get the kids thinking of alternatives!! But like you, why? Why does this word bother me so much? I’m not even going to put that much thought into that, we’ll just leave it there. And yes, you are right, your mother sounds like she is anything but useless. My hubby lost his brother to MS 5 years ago when he was just shy of 40. It’s a tragic illness & I can, but can’t, even imagine how your Mum got herself through that xx

    • Oh, Shan, I think I’d be really good at the ‘finding alternative words for stupid’ game. Not sure if I’d be allowed to play it in front of kids though. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s brother. MS is such a mysterious disease, and in our experience young men seem to cop the extreme, aggressive kind more so than anyone else. Losing someone so close to you at such a young age is so unfair, but so is trying to exist with such a life ruining illness. I hope they find a cure soon, or at least more effective ways to treat some of the difficult symptoms.

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