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When what people say matters

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

PATTY SHERRY: “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you.” I think every parent has said this or a version of it to their kids at one time or another. Yet while there is always good intention behind it, a simple “don’t let it bother you” doesn’t always work.

Considering the fact that I really put myself out there through my writing and the work that I do, I’ve developed a certain amount of courage to allow myself to be vulnerable. I’ve come to realize that not EVERYONE will love me or find my writing brilliant and witty (although I would love that, of course). I’m confident and OK with this.

Patty Sherry

But I wasn’t born with an on/off switch, and I’m just not wired to completely detach from what others say or think about me.

Some people can do this, and I say: Great for them. As for me, I do the best that I can.

I suppose it is easier to have somewhat of a detachment with strangers. If a person I have never met makes a remark about me, it can be easier for me not to feel wounded.

But what about the people closest to me? The people I see or talk to everyday? The people I  love? What they think or say can hurt or anger me at times.

Like when my dad used to say I was selfish.

When kids at school said I was slutty.

When my boyfriend called me a bitch or worse.

When a co-worker said my project sucked.

Somehow, when it comes to work, friends, family, or lovers, what certain people say can really matter. What they think about me can sting. Their words can trigger a pounding head or a kick in the stomach.

What do you do when what others say or think about you matters? While on my own path of personal growth, I have discovered a few tools that can help me shift.

(Keep in mind that these are “tools.” I always have the option NOT to pick them up or use them. So this is my disclaimer: Sometimes I leave them in the toolbox, say “f**k it!” and suffer awhile. Eventually, I get tired of feeling awful.)

Awareness is a tool, and so I become more aware of me. I’ve come to know that any change begins with me. If my happiness depends on someone else changing, I might be waiting a very long time! So foremost what is most empowering to me is to focus on myself.

I try to keep this self-awareness as simple as possible. I focus on the emotion I am feeling and the physical sensation attached to it: “So and so just said what?” My reaction: “I’m mad, my stomach hurts!”

Acceptance is another tool. I accept that I am angry and that my stomach hurts. What I mean by “accept” is that this is what IS. Pretending I’m not angry or ignoring that I am will only take me on a temporary detour of the situation.

So I talk to myself. Yep, that’s me — flat-out acknowledging and saying: “I’m pissed!”

Along with my self-talk rant comes a certain gentleness, an empathy for myself. I acknowledge that my emotions are my emotions and they are not wrong or bad. I put my hands on my heart or my belly and talk to my body.

I don’t want to be controlled by my anger or by a hurting stomach, so I gently tell my body that it doesn’t need to hold onto either one. I take deep breaths. Breathing helps.

You’d be surprised at how much the body really does listen.

When I really am accepting my emotions, I literally can feel the shift, like a two-ton weight is lifted off my chest. I can breathe a little easier.

If my gentle approach doesn’t work, I’m a little more brutal with myself and I say, “Patty, snap out of it!” Then I revert to the acceptance part. Of course, it can take a few “Patty snap out of it!”s for me to…  well… snap out of it.

I also utilize my parents’ sticks and stones advice when it comes to my awareness of what is going on outside of me. When it comes to the other person, againm I try to keep things simple without analyzing them too much.

I believe that we are all mirrors for each other. So as much as the people around me reflect something for me to look inward at, I know that I also reflect something to them.

If someone around me feels the need to put me down, judge me, call me names, always point out my perceived flaws, or diminish my accomplishments, I know that something they see in me triggers THEIR own insecurities.

When someone close to me does this, I try to step back from what they are saying and remind myself that what they are doing is simply a reflection of their own fear. Seeing them in this way helps me to release my own anger or sadness, and instead feel empathy for them.

I might not do this the very moment this person makes a remark that triggers something in me. I’m better able to reflect on it when I am not in the frying pan. Understanding that interacting with people is always a two-sided coin has helped me shift my feelings around.

As a result, I’ve reached the point where other people’s opinions of me don’t matter as much.

At least not most of the time.

Patty Sherry is an inspirational speaker, consultant, and the creative source behin d Share Your Love Story , a self-empowering site about what is both unique and shared among us. She offers private sessions — in person or via Skype —  blending, as she puts it, “sincerity a nd respect for you with humor and even a ruthless gentleness, if needed.” Patty also conducts seminars and group workshops, and steers a week ly self-empowerment meet-up. Click here to: CONTACT PATTY

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