To the Woman Who Gets Hurt by Words

We hadn’t been married that long when my husband said, “Theresa why do you take everything so personally?”

Which offended me more than his previous comment had, which yes, I was taking personally.

Does this happen to you? Do you find yourself bristling, mentally arguing, and feeling beat up from other people’s comments? (And we are not talking about comments from our enemies or less liked tribespeople. We are talking about comments from people who love you. People like your mate, kids, friends, and co-workers?)

I know I did every time my husband tried to give me constructive criticism, offer reminders, give advice, or be helpful.

It happened with small thing.

“Turn on your blinker,” he would say while I was driving, and I would think he was putting down my driving ability.

It happened with bigger things.

“Do you think it’s the baby’s bedtime?” felt like he was questioning my ability as a mother.

“That dress does not look as good as some of your other ones. I wouldn’t wear it again,” made me think, “What does he know about fashion?

It didn’t take long before we fell into a predictable habit.

I would silently fume and bristle, and he would think I took everything to personally.

Now before you take sides, I want you to realize it was my perceptions about myself that was derailing me. His comments were just highlighting the false expectations I had of myself.

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

When our self-perception gets tied to our worth.

 

I grew up craving approval from my mother.

I also thought I needed to earn love. And one way to earn love from my mother and God was to be perfect. Or so I thought.

Being perfect was my goal. And for a short while I thought I was succeeding more than failing.

Then I got married. And then children came along.

And I slowly realized I was striving for the wind and was far from perfect. Ultimately it didn’t matter. Because God and others still loved me.

Eventually I realized that the dance my husband and I engaged in was partly my fault.

I would pout. Get silent. And sometimes lash back because I felt my husband was being critical, putting me down, and pointing out my faults / weaknesses. How could he love me if he started seeing my flaws? Or so I thought.

I was full of insecurity, and it was showing. Big time.

I was taking his advice, his reminders, his helpful opinions, and turning them into attacks and put downs.

I was putting me worth into my performance (my desire to perform at near perfection and feeling shame when I didn’t).

I wasn’t putting my worth in who God says I am. Worthy forever because he is forever worthy.

I wasn’t allowing myself to be human and make mistakes.

I was forgetting that God’s compassion never fails.

And I forgot my husband had compassion too, and that he saw my weaknesses and still loved me, just like God does.

It wasn’t all his fault.

My self-belief that I had to be perfect was tripping me up. Causing me to fall into self-shame, blaming others for my reactions, and the feeling of “not being enough” over and over again.

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

Hurtful words versus helpful words.

 

Advice. Helpful reminders. Different opinions. Criticism. All these can be hard to take graciously. Hard to hear. And I am talking about loving, constructive criticism, not mean-spirited criticism that is disguised as trying to help you put downs and attacks. (And yes, I know many of us have been on the receiving end of this type of negative and soul crushing criticism more than we can count. I am in no way condoning this type, nor do I approve of it masquerading as being helpful or loving. Because it is not.)

But sometimes those who love us are trying to help us in a loving manner. And we need to hear their words. And perceive their words as trying to be helpful, instead of instantly thinking they are finding fault with us and trying to shame us.

A lesson which took me awhile (okay years) to learn. And one I am still learning.

It is something I am trying to teach my kids. When I lovingly correct them, I am trying to help them. Yes, it can be hard to hear we are not as perfect as we believe ourselves to be, but to grow we need some loving feedback.

Not only did I need to change my perception about myself (needing to be perfect in order to be loved), but I also needed to change my perception about criticism (not all criticism is bad).

Now I am not saying I have achieved perfection in this area, or even success, but I will say I am getting better.

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

9 tips to deal with hurtful words. 

 

Here are some things that have helped me deal with words that seem hard to hear. Words that I immediately bristle at and want to define as an attack:

1. Ask if there is any truth in what they are saying. If the truth meter does not register at least 60 -70% truth, then don’t waste your time trying to evaluate if their words can be useful. (They are probably just attacking you and speaking in anger.)

2. Pause to look at the situation from their point of view. Are they trying to help you? Remind you? Hurt you? Their wording may not be as mild as you would like (and something you would definitely tweak if you could), but are their intentions good and pure?

Separate what the person is saying from how they are saying it. My husband is direct, a man of few words. He gets right to the point, which tends to catch me off balance. I want a paragraph and maybe some side stepping before you step on my toes. But that is not his style. Over time he has tried to be less harsh and I have tried to not get so offended by his launching right into his message.

3. Limit your self-talk to the actions they are talking about. Not you as a person. Being late does not make you a bad person. It only makes us human. Don’t start beating yourself up and make it bigger in your mind when someone is only addressing an action.

4. Don’t get hooked by their comments. Separate yourself from the criticism. Look at it from outside your body, as if you are your friend, and evaluate what is said. Our instant response is often generated by our self-perceptions and past and may not be the intent of the speaker.

Ask yourself, what is the goal of the person who is speaking? To get you side railed. Upset you. Vent. Bring up the past. Help you. Etc.

5. Tell yourself the truth, especially God’s truth. You are more than your actions. Loved faults and all. Especially after harsh and critical words that leave you wounded.

6. Realize everyone is entitled to their own opinions, thoughts, and perceptions (which will often be different from yours). So, they don’t like your yellow paint. You do. Agree to disagree and try not to take it personally.

7. Take responsibility for only what you can control. Your own actions and thoughts. Not their thoughts, words, anger, perceptions, etc.

8. Try to catch yourself (even if it a day after the incident) when you jumping to shame and blame because that is how you were raised or because it is your default method or internal self-talk.

Determine if a false self-perception is tripping you up. Are you thinking you need to be perfect? That everyone is out to get you? That you are not loveable with faults? That if people only knew the truth they would not like or love you? That you will never be enough? Are you trying to prove your mother, father, coach, or someone else wrong?

9. Run the words or scenario past a friend and see how they interrupt the scenario.

I do this a lot with my sister. Having an unbiased opinion often provides a lot of clarity. Sometimes she reminds me that I am making too much out of the situation and to just let it go.

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

Change takes time.

 

I know this is a long list.

And no, neither your or I can do all of these tips with every situation, or even during the conversation. But we can do many of these after the conversation and see if our initial response was correct or false. We can see if we need to take the words to heart or toss them aside.

We can replay the scenario and decide what we would do next time. Which prepares us for more success in the future. And allows us to learn from the incident.

We can become more aware of the words others are using and how those words are causing us to miss-perceive things about our self and them.

Like always, give yourself grace. Lots of it. Life is a process of learning and growing.

So, celebrate your steps on this journey, no matter how small.

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.

Theresa


Having trouble enjoying life? Reconciling your current reality with how you wish life really was? Get a free PDF with 12 tips to help you enjoy your life right now. Subscribe and join the journey. You will also receive weekly encouragement and hope tied up with some humor. Because life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the Discussion: Do you find yourself sensitive to words? How do you deal with hurtful words. 

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

May link up at Kelly Balarie (#purposeful faitht), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Maree Dee (#Grace & Truth), and Kristin Hill Taylor (#porchstories).

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

To the woman who gets hurt by words, here are 9 tips to deal with hurtful words.

 

Why I Am Starting This Year Without New Goals

Sometimes we get so excited to execute new goals that we set ourselves up for failure.

When I was a teen, our pastor announced that he was going to focus on the fruits of the Spirit. Each week he would discuss a different fruit.

Well, I was humble enough to know there was some room for improvement in my life, even if I thought I was well on my way to being practically perfect.

So, I devised a plan for myself. Or a goal.

Each week I would focus on learning and practicing the fruit discussed that week. Within nine weeks, I would have mastered those 9 different fruits and would be able to then focus on improving myself in other ways. (Like learning to speak German well enough to raise bilingual children!)

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

Executing my plan and setting the goal.

 

Well things started out pretty good, with the first fruit being love.

My heart was already pretty much full of love. At my tender age I didn’t have any enemies I hated. And while my siblings would get on my nerves, I still loved them.

The first week coasted by and I thought things were going just fine. I seemed to have this love fruit down. Maybe a tweak here or there, but basically one fruit mastered.

The second week was joy. Yes, the pastor talked about joy in trials, which I was experiencing none of at the moment, but I was pretty certain that I would be joyful during a hard trial. Afterall, I was a cup-half-full kind of girl. A spot-the-positive, and keep-moving type.

Yup, I had joy and love down. This developing new fruit goal was cruising along like a freshly released frisbee.

Week three arrived. Peace. I inwardly laughed. Were these fruits all going to be so easy?

I looked inward and examined my heart. I was at peace with the world. At peace with my peers, family, teachers, and authority. Peace reigned in my heart. I slept well and wasn’t really to worried about much.

Well except that I was anxious that Jesus might return before I had a chance to grow up and really get to live life. I was hoping he would delay his coming until I had at least gotten married. Or got to live life more than currently had.

Three fruits accomplished. Six more to go.

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

Hitting a goal snag.

 

Week four was about longsuffering. Or as the pastor said, extreme patience.

Well my teen ears perked up. I was after all, a patient person. Living in a family with six siblings and only two bathrooms, one had to be.

Then he droned on about how longsuffering meant having already, or showing, patience during troubles, but especially towards troubles caused by other people.

Well that caused me to suck my breath inward. Maybe I had finally hit upon a fruit that would challenge me and take a bit of work.

Well I was one who enjoyed a challenge. I was pretty sure I had this.

But it turned out I was wrong.

That week clearly showed I was not oozing over with long-suffering. Patience was not a virtue I had mastered. And as the individual week days were crossed off, it became apparent, even to my over rated self-concept, that patience would not be checked off, or accomplished, within my seven-day window for self-improvement.

By now, you are probably laughing at me. And right you should be.

Because by the end of those nine weeks, I had not mastered patience. (Or as I realized years later, any of those other nine fruits.)

Maybe because I had too much schoolwork. To many siblings. Or I was confronted with too many situations that required patience (I was thinking one situation a day would provide better mastery).

But most likely, because we can’t develop patience in a week. (Although before children, I did think I was a rather patient person. Parenthood, though, helped me realize the truth.)

Here it is years later, and I am still struggling with being patient. In fact, I will be struggling with learning and displaying the fruits of the Spirit until I am called home.

Partly because they don’t come naturally. They are instead a struggle. A doing what I don’t want to do, but know I should do.

It seems so many things in life are like this.

A struggle. An unnatural fight against myself.

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

When does your year and goal setting start?

 

With the start of a new year, I keep reading about setting goals. Keep hearing about the goals others are setting. And have been asked about my goals for this new year.

I don’t know about you, but January does not seem like a new year for me, but a continuation of the last year. My year instead, seems to follow the academic calendar. For me, the beginning of a new school year feels like a new year.

That’s when I am setting goals and trying new things. Committing to do things differently.

Probably because I am a mother and my life revolves around the school year. Maybe because I am a teacher.

While others are setting goals and endeavoring to accomplish and do things differently, this January I am not setting any big goals. I am just continuing to carry on and complete the goals I set last August and September.

Here’s what I have been asking myself:

*. what has been working in my life?

*. And in what areas can I keep improving?

These are the questions that are keeping me on course.

Around last fall, I started yoga, and find it very relaxing and beneficial. So, I want to continue it. Maybe even add another class time.

I also started deciding a loose meal plan for the week. I pull out 5-8 different dinner recipes, and then each morning I choose which to make for that day. I like the flexibility of being able to select which meal works best for that day and the amount of time I have.

Walking more. I have always been a walker, but often with others. This fall I started walking more by myself, and find I like the time to think and contemplate. Sometimes I listen to a podcast. But I am finding I enjoy it and want to keep improving in this area. Especially now that it is winter, and I am walking less outside.

I was doing such a good job of taking breaks and getting outside several times a day. Even just a few minutes can be such a head clearer and mood changer. With winter, though, I need to improve in this area.

Staying off my phone on weekends and later evenings has been working and I want to continue this habit.

Remembering to greet God hello first thing in the morning and pray for a few friends before I get out of bed is something, I also want to continue.

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

How not to fail at your goals.

 

There is a joy and excitement in setting new goals. And there is a joy and excitement in seeing that you are making progress. That some things are working in your life. That you can modifying and stop goals that are not serving their purpose.

I don’t know which place you are in. Making new goals, or working on old goals, but I do know that lots of small steps will eventually accomplish big things and over time develop large changes.

Reading one chapter a day, may not seem like much, but it will get you through about 30 books in a year.

Often our goals, or life changes, take more than a week or nine. Or even six months. Things like being a good mother. Eating healthy. Getting in shape. Living debt free. Losing weight. Starting a business. Worrying less.

These are more life time goals, or a period of life goals. Not easily accomplished in a small amount of time.

There is a big difference between a to-do list item and a goal. One can be accomplished in the short-term. Things like cleaning a closet. Finishing a book. Attending today’s yoga class. Eating a healthy dinner. Goals, though, take many days of effort and consciously making the right choice time and time again. Like being physically fit. Organizing and cleaning the whole house. Reading 20 books in a year.

Tasks can be done and crossed off short-term. Goals require making a conscious choice to complete steps towards the goal day after and day.

And here is another sticky trap about goals. We can’t get healthy after a week of eating kale and chia seed smoothies. It takes making good food choices for the long-term. It requires a change to the way we think about our food and choose our food. It requires forming new habits.

And that is hard. And it is one reason we get discouraged and give up on our goals.

So many goals require doing them long-term, or maybe life term. We won’t just wake up suddenly having reached our patient-threshold after years of trying to be patient and can now quit thinking about being patient ever again.

We won’t wake up with an organized and clutter free house and never have to devote any more energy again on that task. No, we will be tossing things we don’t need or want for the rest of our life if we want it to stay organized and clutter free.

So, keep plodding away. Slow and steady wins.

And once in a while, look back and see how far you have come. (But always, give yourself grace. No shame allowed.)

You do that, and I’ll keep working on conquering the fruit of patience.

Achieving a goal requires the conscious choice to complete steps toward that goal day after day.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.

Theresa

 


Having trouble enjoying life? Reconciling your current reality with how you wish life really was? Get a free PDF with 12 tips to help you enjoy your life right now. Subscribe and join the journey. You will also receive weekly encouragement and hope tied up with some humor. Because life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the Discussion: Are you a January goal setter? What is working in your life?

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

May link up at Kelly Balarie (#purposeful faitht), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Maree Dee (#Grace & Truth), and Kristin Hill Taylor (#porchstories).

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

 

Instead of working on new goals, we sometimes need to keep working on our old goals.

You Are Not Responsible For the Emotions of Everyone Around You

I’m a fixer.

I’m a doer.

Perhaps you are too.

I see the bed unmade and I make it.

The toilet is running. I reach in, push the flapper down, and stop the waste of running water (yes, I have even been known to do this in public bathrooms! I know!).

I see someone next to me and their shirt tag is waving their size and brand, and without thinking I reach over and tuck it back in.

A child looks lost and is frantically looking about for a familiar face, I stop and talk to them. Make sure they are alright.

And if someone looks unhappy, my first instinct is to go make them happy.

I know that sounds silly. Make someone happy. Because we can’t make someone happy. They have to decide they want to be happy, but still I try.

And often I can cheer them up. Make them giggle. Get them to smile.

Which I consider success.

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.

Do you have my problem?

 

See the problem is that somewhere in my life, and yes it probably stems back to my family of origin, I decided (or thought) I was responsible for the people around me being happy. Emotionally stable. In a good mood. What ever you want to call it.

Maybe it was because being in a “good” mood and being happy was the main emotion we were allowed, or were supposed to exhibit growing up.

I am sure having a teen friend who was highly insecure didn’t help. She would come over to our house for youth groups and at the last minute decide she could not attend. She would recite reason after reason why she could not attend, and my sister and I would deny and topple each reason. Then my sister would get tired of her nonsense and leave her to me. 20 or 30 minutes later I would finally talk her into attending. And then the next week, it would happen again.

So early on I became a fixer of others.

Eventually I had children. And while they were young I was responsible for doing practically everything for them. And that meant helping them learn to control their emotions. Divert their tantrums. Get them to smile on cue for photos.

It didn’t take much to change their moods when they were young.

My son is now a teenager, and he can be unhappy. My husband can have a hard day at work and come home grumpy. My friend loses her baby. My neighbor is moving. All these people are a little unhappy. Grieving or processing their emotions.

My natural instinct is to jump up and sing and dance and try to make them happy.

Only it is not my job.

And it is not always what they need. Or want.

I have been hopping around trying to make people happy for so many years, diverting tantrums, smiling and making faces until the kids smile, trying to cheer up the sad hearted, that I think I am responsible for making everyone around me happy.

But I am not.

And neither are you.

We are all responsible for our own feelings.

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.

Are emotions good or bad?

 

Here is one thing I am unlearning from my youth. Emotions are NOT divided into 2 categories. Good emotions and bad emotions.

No. All emotions are necessary. Yes, we are more comfortable with some emotions, like happiness, and less comfortable with other emotions, like sorrow.

The emotions themselves ae not good or bad, desirable or undesirable, it is how we process or deal with our emotions that can healthy or unhealthy and cause problems for others.

Pain is not a bad emotion. But if we drink, shop, or retreat from life to mask our emotional pain, then we can get in trouble and cause more problems.

Happiness is not a bad emotion. But if we pretend we are happy when we are not, then that can get us in trouble and cause more problems.

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.

We can’t always fix them, and that is alright.

 

My daughter and I got all dressed up and drove to attend a play that she really wanted to see. The problem was, we showed up a day late. I felt horrible. Yes, mommy guilt was cursing through my veins. My daughter was sad. Upset. Disappointed. And Angry. And it was all my fault.

We had missed the last show, so there was no buying new tickets. Our chance had come and gone.

Well, I tried to cheer my daughter up. I told her I was sorry. Made a joke about being all dressed up with no where to go. Tried to find the positive. Told her things could be worse. And who knows what else.

But my daughter was still sad. Disappointed. Upset. Angry.

It was one of those times I realized that I could not dance and sing her happy. And it hurt. And it was uncomfortable. Because it was my fault.

And that was alright. Only it didn’t feel alright.

I wanted her to get over her emotions right away, but she couldn’t.

We went out to donuts, I think, but donuts just don’t compare to a Broadway play.

It is hard as parents seeing our children trying to work through their emotions. It is hard as spouses when we see our mates working through difficult time. It is hard when we see our friends grappling with big changes and emotions. It is hard when we can’t solve things. Make things better. Wave a magic wand.

We can watch them wade through the emotions, but we can’t do it for them.

I know sometimes their emotions make me uncomfortable, and so I want to fix them. But only they can fix them.

Or maybe I feel responsible for their emotions, like I did with my daughter and missing the play, so I want to fix them.

But I can’t fix them. And that is hard. But it is alright.

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.

What you can do to help the other person deal with their emotions?

 

I am leaning that sometimes the best thing to do is just be there. Be available for the person.

Let them sit and process their emotions, and not try and hurry them to happy.

Instead of talking, listen to them. Then asking a few questions that lets them tell you where they are coming from. And why. Then listening some more.

This technique requires us to let them come to some of their own conclusions. To bite back some of our wonderful insights and conclusions. To not do most of the talking and telling.

But it works.

They process through their emotions and return to their usual self easier if they can talk about how they are feeling, and why they feel that way.

Isn’t this what we all want? To be understood and heard?

This may mean letting them be sad for a while. Not hurrying or short changing the grieving process. Or the healing process.

It’s hard, because we often want to fix them on our terms and time.

But that will not work for them.

 

Resisting the urge to fix. 

 

Let’s stop feeling responsible for fixing everyone’s attitude or emotions.

Because we are not responsible for fixing them.

Instead, let’s help them process their emotions. Listen. Ask questions. And listen some more.

We won’t do it perfectly.

And it will feel strange. All new things do. But as we try, we will be learning. And progress will be made.

Both for them. And for us.

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.

Theresa

 


If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the Discussion: Do you feel this need to fix the emotions of those nearest you?

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.May link up at Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.

The emotions of others can make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix them and make them happy. But dealing with the emotions of others is not our responsibility. Learn what to do instead.