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


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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.

 

20 Replies to “To the Woman Who Gets Hurt by Words”

  1. Got to say: love and enjoy this blog/posting. Such good advice. I am one of the people who truly try to please others. I have come to realize that some people criticize no matter the circumstances. (BTW, I do not consider myself anywhere near perfect.) Just saying that it is best to let most of it go. Prayer (for me) works really well. (However, anger runs in my family so it is my spiritual battle. I carry a lot of self directed anger. Because, when I know the criticism does not ever apply to me (even when directed at me) I can let it mostly go. For me, this is an exceptionally wise and helpful blog. Thank you for the good advice!

    • Colleen, thanks for sharing. Glad you have learned that some people are never pleased no matter what. We want to avoid taking what these people say seriously, and like you say, let their criticism go. I agree, prayer does help. Knowing God cares about our hurts and giving him our anger is life giving. Blessings sweet lady.

    • Thanks Sue. I think we as women are more prone to getting hurt by words, and yet this trait makes us more compassionate and able to see different perspectives. It can be a blessing and also a hardship. Blessings to you sweet friend.

  2. Theresa, this is a powerful post. I’ve walked that journey too. It’s so hard to change the way we perceive others’ words and actions toward us. But you are so right, until we can see our worth through the lens of God’s love rather than in what we do right or perfectly, we’re going to struggle with insecurity and that feeling of being “less-than.”

    Great suggestions too!

  3. There have been times when I go on and on replaying words of those who claim to love me, and yet can’t seem to say really nice things. Words are very important to me because I tend to analyze them a lot, which is why I filter them, Recently, a friend of mine said some hurtful words after I apologized for something I did wrong. Got me down for days. Then I realized I also had to forgive myself for letting someone else’s words replace the truth about who I am.

    • Thanks so much for sharing. Yes, we need to forgive the person who said the words that hurt us, and we need to forgive our self for believing or letting their words work into our soul. I have come to realize that words mean different things to different people. Words that hurt one person, don’t hurt another. Maybe because of background, experience, how they interpret words, etc. And because of this, it can be frustrating when people who say they love us use hurtful words. Words we would not say to them, but they say to us. I have come to realize that often they do not know the weight of their words. And I am learning to nicely let them know that their words hurt me. Because often that is not their intent. Then the conversation can be more positive for both of us.

  4. I love your wisdom. We all can learn and grow by following your tips because truthfully I think we all struggle with our worth, so easily jump to the worst conclusions and need to be reminded to keep out hearts focused on Jesus.

    • It is easy to jump to conclusions. And the worst ones. Yes, to keeping our hearts focused on Jesus. If we rely on people’s words to determine our worth, we will be disappointed. Up one moment, down the next.

  5. Thank you for sharing life experiences that highlighted your wisdom. It is so true that adjusiting our self-perception allows us to hear what we need to hear. I love your photos too. Blessings!

  6. These are great tips! I do have a tendency to find criticism hurtful, even if it is well-intentioned. Like you, it’s a lot to do with expectations I place on myself. For me the most helpful thing has been recognising how I react emotionally in the moment and saying nothing, knowing that if I take some time and space to reflect on it I’ll see it more objectively and be able to respond better.

    • We want to be good moms, friends.employees, mates, Christians. And so many of us want to improve and do our best and take other people’s words so seriously, when maybe their words were not serious, but said in frustration and not thinking. I am trying to not take seriously words I should not.

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