Words hurt. Just ask Rachel Jeantel or Marion Bartoli.

Who? Let me explain. Rachel Jeantel is the young black woman who was a key witness in the Travon Martin murder case. Her stature, weight and smooth dark-skin led many to dismiss her presence as a grieving friend and minimize her value.

Marion Bartoli is the 2013 Women’s Wimbledon champ. After winning Wimbledon handily, this French competitor was faced with the insensitive comments of BBC commentator John Inverdale. Noting that she wasn’t blond or tall, he publicly uttered, “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, 'You’re never going to be a looker?’" His absurd remarks trivialized her drive and talent as if she chose competiveness as a consolation prize.

Sadly, the comments of people, parents, teachers, friends, family and strangers can leave a lasting sting. In some cases, wounds in self-esteem and self-identity are opened that are difficult to close.

Starting in adolescence, going through periods of certainty and uncertainty about just who we are and what we are is a natural part of self-development. The key is the ability to sort out and through the process without being weighed down by negativity and difficult circumstances like emotional or physical abuse.

As parents, we constantly have to teach our children to imagine a better future. Sit down with your kids and discuss situations that had an outcome that resulted in hurt feelings. Help them identify their feelings, understand the emotions and list actions to prevent future scenarios.

Who we are is more than words. Self-esteem and a healthy self-identity are a commitment to having goals, personal standards and life roles that matter. Like a butterfly, emerging from a cocoon weaved from life experiences, we fly, not fueled by stereotypes. We fly on courage, fearlessness and determination.

How do you help your children overcome negative comments? Post a comment below and tell me.

Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H., is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.