Has anyone ever told you that you are _______ (fill in the blank with a negative word)? My guess is yes.
Nobody Gets To Decide For You
In recent years, I watched a heated discussion unfold. At one point, Person A told Person B that she was “too sensitive.” And I watched Person B shrink and shut down. I could honestly FEEL her defeat in my bones.
This REALLY triggered me. Maybe because I’ve been on the receiving end of those very words. But mostly because, If I’ve learned anything in my 35 years of being alive, it’s that NOBODY gets to tell me or anyone else who or “what” we are (or are not). ESPECIALLY in a vulnerable moment.
My husband knows this. He knows how I feel about my crazy ex-boyfriends that had no problem telling me I was too this, too that. He knows that one of the first reasons I fell in love with him was because he let me be me. Unapologetically. And he knows he’s walking on thin ice if he ever tells me any of the following: “you’re overreacting,” “you’re crazy,” “you’re too sensitive,” “you don’t make sense,” “calm down”…yeah, yikes. He knows.
Any sort of comment aimed at me or anyone else that minimizes pain, downplays opinions or invalidates feelings is nails on a chalkboard to my ears.
Here’s the thing: Nobody gets to decide who you are except for YOU.
They don’t get to label you with some trite word or phrase just because they don’t agree with you or like the situation they’re finding themselves in.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to understand that someone telling me what they think I am or what they don’t like about me is just a defense mechanism. It’s a projection of their insecurities onto me, in order to shift blame or ease their own discomfort.
In other words, it’s a cop out.
And let’s just be clear: a person who is completely secure with him/herself will not exhibit this behavior.
Just Because Someone Says It…Doesn’t Make It So
Now, all growing up, I didn’t know any of this. I was a self-conscious people-pleaser who constantly questioned my own feelings. And I might have internalized these important truths a lot sooner had I realized that all opinions and feelings are valid. Including my own.
I might not have based so much of my worth on other people’s perceptions of me. If someone pushed back, it was my knee-jerk reaction to think: there’s something wrong with me; there’s something off about the way I’m thinking.
To illustrate: one evening after a particularly painful high school breakup, I was crying to my mom about what had transpired and the angry words that had been spewed out by my newly ex boyfriend. His rant had left me completely shaken and totally doubting myself. After walking away from the intense argument, I couldn’t stop blaming myself. He had told me (yelled at my face, rather) that I was a flirt, a pot-stirrer and that I could care less about his feelings. Honestly, I was completely caught off guard by this; in my mind, things had been going so well. I tried to get in a word in to defend myself because where the heck was all this coming from?! I walked away pissed but also so disappointed with myself for not being able to prove him wrong. To prove my worth.
This is your fault, Lindsay. His words settled deep within me and became my new truth. Like the damp fog surrounding my car outside as I drove home alone, his perception of me covered every part of me, making me feel cold and worthless. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but just like the literal fog was blocking my ability to see a few feet in front of me, someone else’s words were obstructing my ability to see myself in a compassionate light.
I’ll never forget the simple mantra my mama offered me as I lay curled up on my bed with tear-soaked cheeks that night, heart broken in two… “Lindsay, Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it so.”
You’d think this basic wisdom wouldn’t hit me hard, but somehow in that vulnerable moment, that idea woke me up, even just briefly.
Hmmmm…so just because this guy believed I was a worthless, selfish, POS… didn’t mean I actually was??!!
Now, if my sixteen year-old self had been a bit more emotionally mature and self-aware, I would have walked away from that argument understanding that his anger was coming from an unhealed place within, and that I had simply become his metaphorical punching bag. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to see more clearly the pain he had stored inside and released onto me that night. I hadn’t known the full story. Finally, I understood that the things he had told me had nothing to do with me.
It Must Be Me
This “it must be me” mindset didn’t go away. In college, I dated a guy who was emotionally scarred by baggage from his past. Because of his unhealed wounds, he was like a puppy dog that needed extra love. He had a tough exterior but inside was sensitive and yearning for validation. This relationship was exhausting and short-lived. At the time we were together, it didn’t occur to me that his “baggage” wasn’t my problem. I NEVER felt like I could do anything right in our relationship, but instead of valuing my worth and walking away, I tried so hard to please him, to heal him. Consequently, I always felt like something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I be more loving…more loveable? Why couldn’t he get what he needed from me? It must be me.
A couple years later, insert Eric, who fell under a lot of that same criteria. He would make me feel guilty for over-reacting or under-reacting; I was never “just right.” He once hung up the phone on me when I told him I hadn’t voted. Another time, he told me that it was just the devil interfering when I confessed that I’d had doubts about our relationship. Yup. (And after that convo, I didn’t run… I stayed. FOR EIGHT MORE MONTHS). Because it must be me.
(Maybe this post is really about dating the wrong guys? I promise there were some good ones).
Truly, what these examples come down to, is that I didn’t yet know my worth. I didn’t realize that what someone else says about me doesn’t change who I am at my core. I wasn’t confident enough or bold enough to own my feelings and stand up to someone else’s beliefs about who they wanted me to be.
But now I know. I was born worthy and I will die worthy; it’s just a fact.
Knowing Your Worth
So how do we do the internal work to get to a place where we truly believe we are worthy? And how do we teach and model these concepts to our children? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t just wake up one day and have a sudden epiphany that led me to walk around Iike a boss babe feeling like she’s got life figured out. In fact, I don’t think we ever become 100% confident in who we are. Part of that is societal norms and expectations placed upon women, so let’s please acknowledge that as a major part of our conditioning. But mostly, becoming unapologetic about who you are takes lots of practice.
Through the years, I’ve taken crucial steps to help me reach the mindset that I’m worthy with or without the world’s opinions. I’ve learned about boundaries and saying no. I now understand that not everyone will like me or agree with what I’m doing and THAT’S OK. I have learned to recognize the fine line between someone else’s behavior being helpful and it being harmful. I’m better at putting myself and my needs first and not apologizing for it. (Go ahead, Eric—tell me again that my intuition is actually just the devil trying to break up a good thing. COME AT ME NOW).
Feelings Don’t Lie
What I want to express to my daughters (and son) over and over again is the very notion that everyone is entitled to the way he/she feels. Just because someone tells you you’re “crazy” or “too sensitive” or “overreacting” doesn’t mean you are.
And don’t suppress or push away feelings because someone makes you feel guilty for having them.
FEELINGS DON’T LIE.
And it goes both ways, of course. Don’t push your agenda onto someone else. Don’t minimize or invalidate another person’s feelings with your words.
Start Now With Tangible Steps
I compiled a list of tangible steps that have helped me make progress in these areas, and ones I sincerely hope can help others, including my own children. What a waste of time and mental energy it is to question ourselves over every little feeling, decision and emotion.
And yet, if we don’t understand that there are a MILLION ways to believe and live, we will remain stuck in unhealthy patterns and thought processes, always wondering if our opinions are valid, and basing our worth on what other people think and say about us. Ain’t nobody got time for that, am I right?!
So, here we go:
1. Understand That Gaslighting Is Real And That It’s Not About You
Please know that there are actual jerks out there who will intentionally make you feel like you are crazy through their sick methods. They get a high from doing shady things, saying shady stuff and then putting it all back on you. RUN AWAY. Then there are others who may not be intentionally gaslighting you, but their behavior comes off that way because they have insecurities or baggage from their past that hasn’t been dealt with. Either way, their immature behavior is NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s about them.
2. Stop Apologizing (So Much)
Easier said than done, but why are we allllllways saying sorry? If we have a REAL VALID reason to be sorry, then by all means, we must apologize. But let’s not feel the need to say sorry for something we aren’t actually sorry about just to come across as accommodating. In my opinion, this is a WOMAN problem (thanks a lot, societal conditioning). I think we need to pay attention to ourselves when we are tempted to let out an innocent “oh sorry,” and make sure it’s genuine. (An actual example I can think of is when I will casually say to friends, “Oh goodness, I’m so sorry about the mess in my house; I didn’t get a chance to clean it yet!”) If you can start paying attention to all the times you say “I’m sorry” over trivial matters, you will realize how unnecessary it is!
3. Honor Your Feelings
This takes practice for some of us. Trust me, if you want to know what not to do, learn from me. I have had countless conversations with good friends and family members where I literally beg them to validate my feelings. Am I being too naggy? Am I expecting too much? Is this a projection? Am I overreacting?? Over time I have learned to TRUST my initial feelings and not question them so much. Now, this doesn’t mean that I act on every little feeling I have. What it means is if a certain feeling doesn’t go away after some time, then I try to honor that feeling. Even sometimes just acknowledging a feeling is enough. Other times, I will work through it in whatever way I need to until it’s no longer an issue in my life.
4. Get Clear On Your Needs And Establish Boundaries Accordingly
Let’s talk about boundaries. I bet a lot of us relate to “YES” being the word of our 20’s and “NO” being the word of our 30’s. Or, maybe that’s just me? Regardless, I think as we age we become more aware of our needs and our triggers and the useless fluff that simply doesn’t deserve our time anymore. GET CLEAR on your boundaries and your thresholds and don’t feel guilty saying no. This is HARD. But I’ve come to realize that establishing boundaries makes life better. We think that others will be disappointed with us if we say no. But the truth is, people respect people who have a clear sense of what matters to them and what doesn’t.
5. Say What You Feel
This is step two of honoring your feelings. If it warrants action on your part, act with confidence. Just tell your husband you want the damn Chinese food when he asks what to pick up on the way home. Ask your boss to give you an honors class (speaking from experience). Tell your coworker you cannot sub another class for her (also speaking from experience). I mean, I get that we can be indecisive and we also don’t want to offend others. But this goes back to knowing your desires, boundaries and limits. None of us want (or deserve) to be door mats. If you need to, practice being bold with your husband, sibling or a friend. Learn how to say what you mean in a tactful way. Don’t have expectations and don’t assume the other party will read your mind. Just SAY WHAT YOU FEEL (I’m cringing as I type this because this is way easier said than done. But so necessary).
6. Push Back If Necessary
Ok, so the key phrase here is IF NECESSARY. Meaning, not EVERYTHING deserves a reaction from you. You might know the quote: “Silence is the best response to a fool.” This goes for real life and comments in the online realm. A wise woman will often just let it go and walk away because she knows that the fight isn’t worth it and that she doesn’t need to prove herself. However, on the flipside of that is the reality that people can and will take advantage of us being quietly accommodating in order to not stir the pot (lookin’ at the women, again). I think a big part of knowing your worth is being able to differentiate when a conversation or situation deserves a little bit of sassy pushback from you and when your silence will speak louder than any words could.
7. Let Go Of The People Who No Longer Serve You
This can be such a challenge. We hold onto these false ideas of what relationships are supposed to be, we rationalize staying in romantic relationships and friendships, and we feel guilty or even selfish for having doubts or wanting to move on. I’m not advocating for suddenly ending all of the imperfect relationships in your life. I’m simply urging us all to take note of the people we surround ourselves with and how those relationships make us feel. Remember that you can CHOOSE your friends. Make sure the people in your circle are uplifting you, not bringing you down. Eliminate the relationships in your life that are toxic or making you feel unworthy. Just because someone was once a good friend, doesn’t mean they will always be. Don’t feel guilty about letting people go.
Remember friends, your feelings don’t lie and you are allowed to feel how you feel. Your worth is not created by someone else’s expectations of you. You were born worthy and you will die worthy. Now start believing it.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like How I Found Peace In Humbling Myself