...Your Words Will Never Hurt Me
Someone said something really hurtful to me the other day about the shape of my body. I want to believe that I am strong enough to withstand that kind of thing -- that I’m confident enough to let it slide off of me like it never even happened. I mean, this is the kind of thing I help people with for a living. I should be able to deal with it like a boss, right?
But I didn’t. I was really hurt, and really upset, and focusing a lot on what the other person thought of me and what private judgments they were making about me that made it seem ok to make such an insensitive statement.
I processed it, and processed it, and talked about it, and got good advice, and processed it some more, but it still hurts. Once the acute pain subsides, I’ll eventually file it away in the part of my brain where the hurtful things live -- the things that I’ve worked through and gotten over and let go of, but still remember. But for now, it’s still residing in the I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-it part of my brain.
Why can other people’s words harm us? I know this person loves me and didn’t mean any harm. Even if they did, I don’t need to believe what they said, right? I don’t need to take it to heart. But I chose to -- I grabbed it and attached to it and made it mean something.
The motivation of the person who made the comment actually doesn’t matter. Whether they were trying to be mean or inadvertently said something insensitive, what matters is your ability to choose what experiences you want to hold on to, and which ones you want to let go of.
You’re never going to be able to completely avoid rude or hurtful comments. What you can do is develop some strategies to let go of the ones that don’t serve you. You have a choice about how you react, and no one can hurt you unless you let them.
When you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, and you see something you relate to, you stop and look more closely. You read the whole post or watch the video or click on the link. You’ve chosen to give attention to that post and make it part of your day. Conversely, when you see the 40th homemade cat video from your Aunt Fern, you know it won’t enhance your life and you’re not interested in it, so you scroll on by without a thought (or maybe just a quick thought like, “Geez, Aunt Fern...enough with the videos.”)
You’re discriminating about what you want to engage with and what you will release from your consciousness. You’re choosing what you will only think about for a second, and what you will commit to memory and continue thinking about later.
A couple years ago, there was something happening in the world that was really upsetting me. It was all over the news, and seemed to be all people were talking about. The more I heard about it, the more upset I got. I realized I was contributing my precious energy to this very awful situation, thereby giving it more life.
I made a conscious decision to disengage from this event. I asked people not to talk to me about it, I stopped watching anything about it on TV, and I quickly changed the radio station whenever the subject came up. It was incredibly liberating and empowering to focus my consciousness only on things that bring me joy.
I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll remind myself a thousand more: What You Put Your Attention On Expands. You have a choice every second of every day whether you are going to put your attention on something and enhance it in your life, or whether you will ignore it and release it from your reality.
When the hurtful comments were made to me recently, I felt compelled to examine them and think about them and dissect them and wonder whether they were true. I magnified them a thousand fold with my attention and emotions.
What is the alternative? I could have used the same process that protects me from the disturbing events on the news or the cat videos on Facebook to leave those comments on the floor at my feet. I could have walked away without another thought.
It doesn’t matter who said them, or what the intention was, or how it made me feel. What matters was how much attention I CHOSE to give them.
If someone says something to you that is mean or insensitive, you can ignore it. You don’t have to believe it. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to wonder whether everyone else thinks the same thing about you. You don’t have to pick it up and take it with you.
You always have a choice about how much attention you’re willing to give to anything going on in your life. Your energy is precious, and you should use it to magnify things that bring you joy, make you happy, and improve your life. If someone offers you the gift of an unwanted comment, judgment, or criticism, you can always choose to leave it on the floor and walk away.
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