“Strength of character means the ability to overcome resentment against others, to hide hurt feelings, and to forgive quickly.”
There’s a timely post from Kris at Kris ‘n’ Good Books called Owning Words. Kris talks about a recent experience where someone said something to her and how those words spoken to hurt her deeply.
At one time or another we have an experience where someone will say something to us, where their words will hurt us in some way. Recently, I was involved in two situations where a person’s words have damaged my psyche and I’m not sure how long it will take me to get over it. I’m the type of person who takes things to heart and I get paranoid, especially when it comes to a person’s opinion of me. If I email or call someone and they don’t return my emails or calls I assume they’re upset at me because I did something they have an issue with. It has always been this way with me. I talk a good game, where I say I don’t care, but the truth of the matter is, I still want approval and respect from my peers and that doesn’t always happen. And when that does happen, those feelings of inadequacy stay with me a long time.
The first case isn’t as extreme as the second. The first situation happened at a gathering I attended last week. Most of the people who were there are ones I’ve seen and hung out with many times before. One such person I have hung out with in the past and talked with was there, and when I arrived I found out something unfortunate happened to them recently. I sympathized with them because I’ve been there myself at one point. So it was understandable that this person wouldn’t be too personable and more quiet than normal. Well, I guess this person needed an outlet to vent their frustrations on. I was that outlet.
From the moment we saw each other and for the hours while I was there, this person proceeded to corrode my self-esteem where I was close to reverting back to my old ways of remaining silent, losing my voice I’m so proud to have, and just watch because I was afraid others would join in. This person, from the moment I opened my mouth, snapped at me and almost every time I spoke. I couldn’t figure out why I was the only one subjected to this and observed those around me to see if it was happening to them also. From what I could see, it was only happening to me. Now, I gave this person the benefit of the doubt because of what was going on in their personal life, but to be honest why was I the one to be the victim of their snappish words? I held my tongue and smiled, basically putting on my brave face. If you ever see me just sitting and smiling, not talking, you’ll know something is wrong with me. And that’s what I did. After a while I didn’t join in the conversations and let everyone else talking around me. When I finally left, I tried to drop what had happened but the memory of how this person made me feel with a few choice words really brought me back to my childhood when certain influences in my life tried to cut me down and make me feel less than I am with their subtle insults or condensation to make them feel better about themselves. This person succeeded in making me second guess myself. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it did.
And then yesterday this feeling of inadequacy was compounded by an unsettling email exchange I had. I’ve made some special relationships on-line and from that I shared many emails with these people and even met them face to face. You establish a relationship with a person and it will continue on for a matter of time. In the past few years some of the relationships have vanished for no reason I can think of. It may be real life intruding on their end or perhaps they find me dull or tire of me, and just don’t want to deal with me anymore. I’m in the belief that people come into your life for a reason and they can be there forever or just a short time. More often these relationships aren’t long lasting and you move onto new ones to replace the old.
I hadn’t heard from someone in some time and this concerned me because we used to share many emails back and forth, as well as coming in contact during events such as conferences, as writers and authors do. So yesterday I write this person an email just to say hello and see how they’re doing.
This was the response I received: (I'll call this person Friend)
Friend: I haven’t emailed you for a reason.
Me: Because you’ve been busy?
Friend: I know I probably shouldn’t say this and it will hurt you, but I decided I can no longer talk to you.
Me: Why? Did I do something wrong?
Friend: I just can’t handle you. I think you’re too annoying and it’s best if we don’t stay in contact anymore. Sorry.
As you can imagine, I was floored by this exchange. Someone who I thought I had a good relationship with no longer wants to be in contact with me because they find me annoying. Now I could have responded back and asked why again, but I was afraid I would be given a harsher answer. I’m hurt and feeling very dejected as you can imagine because I have no idea what I’ve done to make this person no longer want to talk to me or acknowledge my existence.
I wish I could say there is a bright side to these exchanges, some empowering words, but I just can’t. This also comes on the heels of two major events I’ll be attending. Next week is BEA and in a month RWA Nationals. There will be many there I have communicated with on-line and have meet, some who used to talk to me and now don’t, or some who I’ve met and stuck their nose in the air and walked away for their own reasons. As of now my self-esteem is a bit shaky and I hope I can come out of it by next week.
I guess it’s silly really how someone’s words can either cut us down or on the other hand make us feel like we’re the tallest person in the world. Why do we allow this to happen? Why do we put such power into another person’s hands where they have the ability to make us feel so strongly about ourselves to the point we can do damage to ourselves emotionally?
This is who I am. You can take it or leave it. Some will like me for who I am, others won’t. And you know what, I’ll still put on my brave face and never show those people that on the inside I may be crying inside. The one thing I do know, no matter how hard it may be, is that I refuse to give those people and their words power.