Hey. You there. I have a revelation for you. That thing that someone said to you. That thing that really hurt your feelings. Not true. You did that. You hurt your own feelings right there. Controversial? Perhaps.
Now on the one hand you may be agreeing with me, and saying “Hell yeah.” But on the other, and perhaps for the bigger portion of you, you are saying ‘Do what?!’ “How can you say such a thing?!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting the fact that people say and do mean things. And I’m also not blaming anyone for feeling hurt in response to these things. I am also very good at ‘hurting’ myself from time to time. And you know why? Because we are human. Yes. Another revelation.
But the key point here, is that no one – I repeat NO ONE – has any power over how you feel except yourself.
Let’s take an example. If John Smith, from Randomville Street, were to walk up to you one day and say, “I’m sorry but I don’t approve of you” would you give two s****? Probably not. Chances are there’d be a “Whatever” kinda mindset thrown in there. If, however, someone who means a lot to you were to turn around and, in some way, shape or form, say “I don’t approve of you” – how would you feel then? Oh… I can hear the ‘H’ word coming up…
The power of the brain
What exactly happened there? I’ll tell you what happened. Your little brain took that information, assigned some meaning to it and then you used that to hurt yourself.
For some reason, we spend our lives feeling like we need other people’s approval. And when someone says or does something that indicates the absence of that approval, we then say we are ‘hurt’ by their behaviour. But their behaviour and their words do not hurt us. They don’t jump inside our body and flick the ‘hurt’ switch. Ultimately, when those tiny little words float out of another human being’s mouth, that’s as far as their role goes.
Where we come in, is we take the words that they speak, and either believe what they say, or make them mean something rather painful. In doing so, we use that information to hurt ourselves. Quite a skill I say.
Bringing it home
Let’s just think about this for a moment. Think about someone who, for you, may have triggered you in some way. And then ask yourself that question, “Why is it so important that I have their approval?” “What would it mean for me, if I did, in fact, have their approval?”
I’m gonna take a guess and say something about self-worth. Am I right? “If this person approves of me, then it means I am worthy as a human being.” “I have been accepted by someone who means a lot to me so therefore I must be acceptable as a human – I am a good person.”
Hold up. What just happened? Your brain has been hanging expectantly onto every word of another human brain to define your self worth. Your brain has been looking expectantly towards another human brain to validate your existence. Why is that brain any more credible than your brain? Don’t forget, that other human brain will have a whole host of baggage and conditioning that shapes the way it sees the world – it is not the perfectly objective, all-knowing brain you might think it is.
The thing is, when we feel like we are approved by others, we feel like we are ‘enough’, and that brings an inner peace to both how we feel about ourselves, and how we feel about our relationships with those others.
But here’s the other thing, your innate self-worth, and the relationship that you hold with another person, cannot be validated or defined by a few words floating through the air and down your ear canal. And chances are, they already ‘approve’ of you, but your wonderful brain is grappling for all the evidence that says otherwise.
What funny creatures we are.
The marvellous thing about all of this, is that we can validate ourselves. Isn’t that wonderful?
Back to the point
Anyhoo. Back to the case in point. No one can hurt your feelings. Only you do that. And I’m sure that if you’re anything like me and the rest of the world, you’ll have done a very good job at that in the past.
Now I know there is all this hoohaa about ‘positive’ and ‘empowerment psychology’ where – for some people out there – they will say this mindset creates unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of ourselves. But I wholeheartedly disagree. The only way this mindset can become ‘unhealthy’ is if the information is used in the wrong way.
Let’s take our lovely perfectionists for example. If you are the type of person who is absolutely brilliant at being hard on yourself, then you must, I repeat MUST, approach this mindset with caution.
Sometimes hurt is necessary
So this is the thing. When I say that you are the only one who hurts yourself, first of all there is in no way any blame attached to this. We all do it. But second of all, I am certainly not suggesting that you become superhuman and go through life without experiencing any hurt. Absolutely not.
Sometimes, you absolutely need to experience the hurt. But, key point here, if you’re going to do that, make sure you OWN it. Tell yourself, “This happened, this is what it means to me and I’m going to allow myself to process that and feel the pain that comes with it.” And be gentle with yourself in the process.
Once you’ve done your share of hurting, make the decision to regain yourself and move forwards.
Ultimately, when we recognise that we are the only ones who hurt ourselves, we recognise that we are not at the mercy of other people, and we always have an influence in what happens next – whether that is choosing to ‘bathe’ in it for a while or do something different.
When hurt isn’t the answer
Now some of you may be in a situation where you feel like you are constantly being ‘hurt’ by someone else’s behaviour. The thing you need to realise here is that people are allowed to say and do what they want. The question is, are you going to take the information they are providing and use it to continuously hurt yourself, or are you going to do something different?
That ‘different’ may be about changing the way you ‘code’ that information. Because the reality is there may be no right or wrong. It may simply be that there are two different belief systems; two different ways of operating that are conflicting with each other. If you can allow room for those different belief systems, and commit yourself to feeling how you want to feel in that relationship, then happy days; you’re on your way to turning this around.
But remember – it takes time, practice and repetition. You can’t just have this realisation and then say “Job done.” You need to get a sense of how you want to feel about this; how you want to feel in response to that person’s behaviour and keep connecting with that feeling time and time again. Brain rewiring right there.
The other thing to question is; if they are consistently behaving or speaking in a way that triggers your inner sense of unworthiness, then perhaps it is time for a change. Sometimes, other people’s behaviours really are unacceptable. So, in these times, using the ‘You’re not hurting me, I am’ mindset, doesn’t mean carrying on regardless. It means not giving into the negative thought patterns about that person, and taking practical actions to remove yourself from the situation altogether.
Taking this forward
So there we have it. There is lots more I could say on this subject but just digest those words for a while and really reflect on the areas of your life where, up until now, you have been putting your power into other people’s hands.
Where could you start to make changes? Where are the areas you are ‘hurting’ yourself? How are you interpreting others’ behaviour to achieve that hurt? How would you like to feel about their behaviours instead?
Questions, questions, questions. Journal them out and see what comes up – but whatever you do, the next time someone says something negative to you, ask yourself “Am I going to accept this information or am I going to use it to hurt myself instead?”
You know what you gotta do.