“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Right. We’ve all heard that before, but has anyone actually tried to put that into practice? When somebody says something mean, it hurts! The nerve, to say that it’s a choice whether other people hurt our feelings. How are we supposed to control how other people treat us? How exactly do you not feel hurt, especially when it’s someone you love who is mean?
Your father says, “Med school? HA! That’ll be the day.” You feel hurt, sadness, rejection, anger, inferior.
Your teacher says, “You are such a slacker! You’ll never amount to anything.” You feel anger, sadness, worthlessness, inferior.
Your older sibling says, “Get away from me, loser!” You feel hurt, sadness, anger, jealousy, inferior.
People say mean things, and words hurt. Or do they? What if there’s actually something to this consent business? What if these statements hold no emotional power, that you get to choose how you feel?
Let’s look at the first scenario. Your father scoffs at your dream to go to med school. You feel hurt, sadness, rejection, inferior. He is supposed to believe in you more than anybody! If he doesn’t think you can do it, there’s no way you can. You’ve been fooling yourself. Only people from rich families with better connections get to be doctors. Who are you kidding? Looks like you’re doomed to slave away unhappily in a dead-end job – just like him.
Sound familiar? And it was because of what your father said. Or was it? What if everything that happened after his statement was all you. All your decision. What if every feeling that happened was a result of your thoughts about yourself.
It’s hard to recognize your thoughts from what someone else said because they are so automatic. Thoughts happen so quickly that we jump straight from hurtful statement to hurt feelings. We assume the thoughts that followed originated from the other person. That those thoughts were theirs because of what they said. Right? Or not. In this and every scenario, the statements after the mean comment came from inside of you, not from anywhere else.
You know why other people’s words really hurt? It’s because all along our inner bully was waiting for an opportunity to put us down, to make us doubt, to give us pause. In recognizing when the inner bully is speaking, we have the power to choose our thoughts, and therefore, our feelings about any situation.
Let’s try this scenario again. Your father scoffs at your dream to go to med school. You think, wow, it’s really sad that he never got to pursue his dream. You wonder what stopped him from going after it. You realize that you don’t want to let fear stop you from pursuing your calling. Your feelings are pity, resolve, strength.
You see the difference between those scenarios? In the first, you respond with a flood of negative feelings thereby fueling the negativity and engaging in a fight with the wrong person. The fight should be with yourself, with your own thoughts. To extend yourself grace, and believe in yourself even when you feel no one else does. Your obligation is to tell your negative self to take a hike and speak words of encouragement instead. Then let it go. When you speak kindly to yourself, you’re able to respond in kindness and grace diffusing the situation before it escalates to one or both of you ending up in tears angry for hours, days, even years afterward.
We are regularly presented with scenarios such as these. The next time you are confronted with one, what will you do to change your thoughts and silence the bully inside of you? After all, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I’d love to hear from you, please share your story of a time you silenced your inner bully in the comments.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.