I was in a store some time ago, and I overheard a family in the next aisle over. It was a mom and her two children — a boy and a girl each no older than 6 or 7. The boy was saying some horrid things to his little sister: “you’re worthless,” “you’re stupid,” “you’re just a girl, so what do you know?”
He brought his sister to tears. And the Mom did NOTHING.
Whether her silence was because she didn’t feel like dealing with it, or because she doesn’t like her daughter, the Mom’s silence was validating these words. When you hear horrible things from someone close to you, and someone who is supposed to love you and protect you (in this case, the Mother) does nothing… you might start to believe the horrible things.
As a child, this can be permanently scarring. But even as an adult, this can be damaging to one’s self-image.
While we may not have someone saying such horrid things as that little boy, something I think we’re all guilty of from time to time, is letting other’s opinions severely cloud how we view ourselves. Especially when the person saying hurtful things is someone we love, someone who is supposed to cherish us, someone who is supposed to support us, someone who is supposed to lift us up.
It seems to me there is a challenge we all face: how do we acknowledge the opinions of the people in our lives without seeing ourselves only through their eyes?
It’s a hard question, and I have to be honest: I don’t know if I have an answer. Not a complete answer, anyway.
Those of us who are strongly in tune with people – those of us who are kind souls – tend to be sensitive to the perspectives of those we surround ourselves with.
But what’s the secret? What’s the trick? How do we acknowledge their opinions (even the hurtful ones) while also maintaining some sense of self-respect and self-love?
The first trick, is understanding the difference between constructive criticism, and malicious intent. It is one thing to tell someone, “When you continue to do this, it hurts me, and here’s why.” It’s another thing to say, “You’re an asshole, and I can’t believe you’re doing this. Again.”
I think part of the trick is knowing that – no matter what anybody else says, no matter how anybody else acts – you have a unique light.
You have a brilliant soul. You have something to offer the world that nobody else can offer.
Perhaps you aren’t the best spouse, the nicest boss, or the most productive employee, but you still have you.
Your youness is something nobody can take away from you if you don’t let them. But you need to fight for it. You need to protect your youness. Your youness is your gift to the world.
If your youness isn’t being supported, if your youness isn’t being celebrated by those closest to you, by those who supposedly love you…you should start evaluating why. Is it about you, or is about their own issues?