Tough question: who has called you the worst names – and what were they?
This was a tough question to face. It troubles me to think about people who see me in a negative light – so I don’t. I avoid the idea, and I make every effort to lock the memory of those people behind lots of doors, far, far away from my waking thoughts. So the question requires thinking about things I usually avoid thinking about – and digging up unpleasant memories. Ugh.
But I found something strange as I started to dig. First, those people who actually said horrible things to me (really there were very few, don’t get me wrong) – were generally people I did not know or care about. When the initial sting of the words faded, the wounds generally disappeared – for good. I cannot even remember the names of the individuals who said these things. After all, how much hurt can you take from the homeless guy who calls you a nasty name, then starts muttering about events from long ago?
The names that actually hurt in a lasting way were names that came from people I cared about. But when I started thinking about some of the worst names I associated with these people, esteem killing, belittling names and descriptions and insults . . . I did not have a clear memory of them saying those things. Suggesting, insinuating, sneering, yes. But saying the words, no. The names themselves were words that I filled in. This made me wonder – how much power do I have to hurt my own self image? And, on the flip side, how much power do I have to protect my own self image? If I’m the one filling in the gaps in a way that hurts me, then I also have power to fill in the gaps in a way that protects or nurtures or strengthens me. This realization felt like a minor eureka! moment.
Along those lines, a recent event helped me to understand that I can choose how negative or limiting words affect me and how to handle them. My young daughter, who sees my husband put on a suit and drive off to court most mornings, and whose memories of me working long hours at the office are fading, said words to the effect of “Mama, do you DO anything during the day when we’re at school?” Ouch! The voices inside my head roared, “I worked hard for years to pay for all your stuff, don’t get on my case” and sighed, “I hope she doesn’t think this is women’s lot” and sobbed, “that little girl hurt my feelings.” I thought about recent nights preparing food – from scratch dammit! – so my family could have the nourishing meals that they never had when I worked full time. I thought about packing the kids’ lunches with imaginative – and nutritious! – snacks and treats, about volunteering at school, about helping with projects and planning birthday celebrations and family trips. I felt righteous wallowing in my indignation. And I looked at my daughter, who was smiling at me as she usually does, and I realized. Well, from her perspective, she’s right. And I think I can live with that. Those initial negative thoughts are my thoughts, not hers. My reaction reflects my own insecurities about taking time off.
So, what to do with these insecurities? Well, they’re here for now, I have to accept that. I also think it’s important to remember that those insecure thoughts are not the truth. They do not reflect something that does exist, must exist, or will govern my life. They are merely one interpretation of the truth, if that makes sense. I can also choose to interpret the truth in an affirming manner. And which way will give me the most pleasure and benefit and will be most beneficial and valuable for my family?
So, I turned to my daughter and said, “I’m not working in a job right now, but I’m working on other things, like my writing, but also being home for you kids and getting in touch with my old friends and stuff like that.” “Hmmmm,” she said. “Sounds kinda boring . . . except for getting in touch with friends. I like that.” And with that remark, she skipped out of my office. I had to laugh at myself. You can learn equanimity from a kid.
- Reflect on the negative words that others have used against you – and consider whether your own self talk has magnified the effect of those words.
- What negative or limiting beliefs do YOU have about yourself? Can you change or adjust those? Do you think they are the Truth – or just an interpretation?
- Think – hard! Is it possible to simply accept something that seems negative, and then simply move on? Maybe it’s ok for me to be doing “nothing” right now – because “nothing” is what it takes to get my right brain going. Can I live with that? Maybe, at least for a little while.
- Adopt a positive belief about yourself – and make it your mantra! Remind yourself of this belief and repeat your mantra every day.
If you liked this blog, please consider sharing with a friend.
NaNoWriMo status: doing “research” on middle grade books (i.e., reading all my old favs, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Graveyard Book, The Jungle Book, The Hobbit, etc. – what are YOUR favs???) Must remember not to let research interfere with writing! Word count: 0 (but it’s still October)