Don’t Take It Personally

How to let go of what others say to hurt you.

If someone says something to intentionally try to hurt you, know that it probably says a lot more about them than it does about you. When you’re affected and hurt by something said by someone you know, it’s because they have struck a chord with you somewhere that hurt – a soft spot. Something in your person isn’t bulletproof on the subject and therefore it lingers and continues to sting. This thing might even resonate for a reason that’s totally separate from the meaning intended, but it’s coming close to a tender zone in how you feel about yourself. The pain is a reflection of an insecurity that is just the slightest bit validated. The thoughts that bubble up are usually, “Is it true?” or even, “It is true!” Just one tiny comment can bring the deepest insecurities to life.

Usually when friends or loved ones are mean to us they are so stuck in their heads they cannot see how they are perceived and experienced by others. Sometimes they’ve grown up with a different level of tolerance to this style of relating to others and therefore they see it as normal or acceptable. They literally do not see what they are really saying, even when it’s totally clear to you and everyone else that what they’re saying is super mean. Even when they have delivered a targeted insult, this can be intended to have a different affect. For example, people who grow up with parents who are very extroverted with their feelings will be the same way with their comments about at others. It’s a culture of directness with no bad intention.

For some, saying mean things is something casual and humorous that for them demonstrates intimacy and friendship. “We’re so close that we can say anything to one another. We’re like family in that way.” For many, cutting people down is simply a self-defense mechanism intended to protect and hide overwhelming insecurity. Like pointing to any and all flaws in others to get the focus away from them. “Look over there! Don’t see me. Don’t see how lame I am or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Look at that person instead. Aren’t they…uh…dumb and um…too tall! Yeah!”

Sometimes people even take on meanness as a part of their image (also a defense mechanism,) because in their minds they believe it reflects confidence and strength. They’re so tough, they say whatever they think or feel, in any situation. “I don’t believe in acting nice – I’ve just lived too much. I’m above feeling guilt – I’m just too strong.”

When a total stranger verbally assaults you, it can affect us deeply, but for different reasons. When someone treats you as less than human, they force you into a degrading role – one that disregards your value, and betrays every norm in your civilized life. And, like the concepts they connote, words can be shocking and painful to our physical person. It’s tough to protect yourself from profanities directed passionately at you by a stranger, in part because they often come when you least expect, but you can work not letting it damage you. Like a traumatic physical injury, you must heal from the shock and pain inflicted by words processing it. Don’t keep it to yourself – talk about it, hear the reactions of others, and place it in context in your mind. Know that you were a victim, it shouldn’t have happened, and it was not a typical experience to have. When it comes to how you feel about yourself in regards to this event, that’s a no-brainer: totally 100% not about you so don’t give it any weight. Just recover from the assault and try to let it go. If it really upset you and you’re confused as to why, it’s probably because you experienced something so powerfully negative at a time you least expected it, so it’s feeling like a violation of your comfort in your everyday life. You shouldn’t have to feel afraid of everyday experiences, and the fact that you are now is upsetting. Try to remember that this is not representative of humanity, it’s just one random, very angry person.

As a rule, when someone is super mean, don’t waste any energy trying to rationalize or understand their motivation. As a default, assume “serious issues.” It doesn’t make it right, but anyone who would verbally injure you in such a way probably has internalized a lot of hurt and anger over a great many years and is spewing it at anyone, including you. You were simply in the line of fire. Regardless of what they might have said, it’s not about you.

Often we hurt not by the actual words people say, but because of their intention. “Why would someone that is supposed to care about me intentionally try to hurt me?” That question’s a lot more layered, but the easiest answer is: it’s probably not what you think. I know that’s not enough when it comes to someone you love hurting you. Know that when a person is put through a lot of tragic and painful stuff as a child, they become defensive and depressed or filled with anger – like a snarling, tortured animal trying to stave of danger. Their reaction to you is merely being put through the filter that is their life, and that cruelty is just the language of their discontent. What I try to do when I encounter a person who is overwhelmingly mean and angry, is step back and imagine what could have happened to them to make them so upset. When it’s put it in a far-away perspective, it helps me to remind myself that it’s not about me at all.

How to prevent things from hurting at all?

The true answer to that is confidence. When you know yourself well and love yourself, you can see only the pain of others because you know what they are saying is false. When you know yourself, no one can undo that knowledge or convince you to feel you are something less. In the face of degradation, you will simply think, “I disagree. I like me.” It’s a pretty illuminating and wonderful state to be in because all of a sudden you see everyone and their issues plain as day. Their insecurity is so transparent and the fact that they are stuck only makes you pity them. This state of self-love and confidence is one we all have to work toward and constantly maintain, but it gets easier and better with time. Knowing who you are and liking that person changes everything in your life, for the better.

How do you work on loving and knowing yourself?

It takes consistently working on yourself from the inside out and change won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. You need to uproot the issues you have and dispel them with the help of a therapist, books, supportive friends, and consistent self-care. Here are a few important basic self-care steps to get you started.

Be self-protective. Don’t accept mistreatment from others because you are subconsciously being told by your own behavior that you are not worth protecting.

• Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Don’t numb your feelings to silence your truth or do things that betray your own best interests. For example, putting yourself in harms way because you feel like you have to in order to be liked by someone else. This also communicates to yourself subconsciously that you are not worth protecting.

• Become a friend to yourself – one you can talk to about anything, who is nice. Start writing in a journal daily, and begin having a dialogue with yourself about the events in your life. Focus the journal on yourself and how you feel about those events. Try to be a counselor to yourself and help yourself to resolve inner conflicts. Be honest in this journal and tell yourself the deep down feelings you might not tell others. Ask yourself questions and then suggest answers. Reflect on your true motivations. Cop to things you shouldn’t have done, then forgive yourself and know that you don’t want to repeat them. Be understanding and forgiving of yourself and know that you are trying to better yourself as a person.

This might sound paradoxical in the context of writing to yourself, but as a rule never refer to your body or actions as not “you” – meaning never treat your body as a separate entity that is or isn’t doing things right. Often times when we treat our bodies as tools that we are using. We punish them or pollute them, because we own them and we want to use them to have more fun. And some how they are not “us,” they are our bodies. When you don’t treat your body as a part of “you,” you’ll begin to grow numb to what your body is telling you and one day you won’t be able to tell how you feel. That’s when really bad stuff can happen. So as a rule, when you think about your body, think of it as a seamless part of your soul. “I feel __” is an easy way to think of it.

Talk honestly with yourself in this journal. Instead of writing, “I don’t even remember what happened…” as though someone were reading it, write down what you know is the truth. Confront your actions and feelings and don’t be scared of them. This is where you process information so you can decide what you like about yourself and what you don’t like and aspire to change. It’s only for you to help yourself act in alignment with what you really want, and everything you think and feel is okay.

• Do work on yourself in different ways. Take concrete actions toward bettering yourself. Anything and everything counts: new hobbies, taking new classes, healthier eating. Try a couple at once: start exercising more regularly, groom yourself with more care, take up a new hobby, and read a book that will help you grow as a person. Do the things that take effort – that are not as fun as watching trashy TV, but are still enjoyable. Push yourself to choose things that you think will make you a better you, not what you think others will say is cool. Even if they’re little habits and hobbies, they’re still worthwhile.

• Aspire to be kind, always. This one goes a long way. It’s hardest to do when you’re mad, but just by wanting to be a nice person is something that will change how you feel about yourself a million percent. If someone is rude and you can let it go and even be kind in the face of it, what that shows you subconsciously is you are a good person, and stronger than any insult.

I hope this helps in some way. Happy Sunday! Sending a smile your way, xox Sarah May B.

Featured image via elliebrownPICTURES

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