Friday, May 20, 2011

The Unsettling Way Words Can Destroy Your Self- Esteem

“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.



Julia Broadbooks said...

Wow. You are clearly better off without Friend in your life. WTF sort of reply is that? I'm sorry, but I feel that is the real person finally coming through and it isn't pretty. She said that you hadn't done anything unkind or offensive. She just decided that she should be horrid to you for no reason. You can do better than that.

Penelope said...

Julia is right. You are better off without certain people in your life. Some words are painful and cutting. And some are empowering and filled with goodness.


Let these words have more power than the ones that hurt.


Janicu said...

I think these two exchanges with people say more about them than you. I don't think it's your fault how they acted towards you. And one good thing - now you know how they are. Less effort to spend on friendships that aren't worth it.

You're welcome to hang out with me at BEA for a bit if you want.

KMont said...

Some people seriously suck. That email exchange was about them making themselves feel better by being mean, nasty and petty.

I know what you mean, though. It 's the ones we feel are friends and often family members who can hurt us the most. I know how it feels to find myself inadequate. Chin up and all - you are such an awesome, supportive person yourself. I agree with Janicu, you should feel a little freer now that that person is off your radar. Good riddance.

Elizabeth said...

Kate, if the first person said something that unsettled you, or hurt you, perhaps it might have been a good idea to talk to her about it. You admitted that she had a bad week, perhaps she didn't even realize that what she said came off sounding harsh or hurtful. Sometimes we are so into our own heads, and our own stuff, we dont' always realize how what we are saying comes off. I know I've been guilty of being really cutting sometimes when I'm stressed or having a bad day. It's not an excuse, but it's always better to talk to that person and clear the air.

Lynne Connolly said...

It's not you, it's Friend. Anyone who says something like that isn't worth knowing.

Anonymous said...

"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."

This is why I never take online relationships seriously. Fortunately, I'm also one of those people who when they say they really don't care, they mean it. I learned a long time ago to ask myself this: "Do I really care?" And the answer is usually, "No."

But sorry you had to experience this disappointment. It sux. It was rude. I do know people who are open to online releationships, both professional and personal, and many times they are disappointed in the same way you were.

Sofia Harper said...

Friend didn't need to say that. THAT was completely uncalled for. 'our personalities don't mesh.' See simple. Friend was being hurtful 'cause she could. Feel what you are feeling and then move on. It is the only way to get past this.

jeanette8042 said...

On the bright side at least you found out this person wasn't a true friend and they can go suck on eggs. True friends are the people who accept you for who you are!

Mary G said...

I love this quote on frendship by Dinah Craik. It's become my litmus test for friendship, IRL or on-line. I send it to everyone I start to get close to. Those are my standards.

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Blodeuedd said...

That is just mean :( I am sorry that you had to deal with a friend like that. That is not a real friend, and yes words hurt

little alys said...

*hugs* I'm very sorry you had to deal with stuff like, of all people, did not need mean people like these around.

Carolyn said...

Gosh. She could have said (or not said) a bazillion other things that would have achieved her goal of not pursuing a friendship, none of which involved something so hurtful.

As others have said, it reveals a great deal about the person she is and pretty much nothing about you.

If she's in the middle of some mental crisis, I hope she gets better soon.

I'm so sorry she was so mean in her reply. I also hope you don't believe you're any of those things.

csilibrarian said...

That's horrible. :( I've dealt with a lot of people like "Friend" and it's always really awful. I think the worst part is how abrupt the change is and how unexpected it is.

But like everyone else has said, I'm sorry that happened to you. That person really wasn't a friend and you definitely deserve better.

Chez said...

I don't know you personally, but I enjoy reading your blog and reviews on Goodreads. So from a complete and utter stranger ... you're not annoying. You have wit and great skills at finding WTF things on the internet. Words have power and sometimes people who are feeling powerless like to prop themselves up by pushing others down. It's unfortunate that these people seem to have uncanny skills at picking the exact moment their power play will hurt the most. I'm sorry these people hurt you.

Debbie S said...

Wow thats all I could come up with after I read what you wrote. How very sad a person who was to be a friend would do this.Guess what a true friend would never ever do this to you.Like I had said a few days before hiding behind a screen makes them feel big and bad.I call them stupid mean bullies.I read you all the time I feel you have a wonderful blog saying what you feel and being more human then most.You never let anyone make you second guess yourself ever or make you feel your not worth anything.These people you do not want in your life.Hold your head high you seem to have more good things going on then them.I stay away from people who knock other down for fun even if it is just words.Hiding behind a screen is just wrong gutless way to tell hateful things and you can not see them.That is not true friends.Because true friends know words can hurt very bad and would not do that in the first place.YOU have a great blog you are now a author think back what do they have going for them I bet nothing.

Lindsay said...

That 'friend' of yours is obviously a bully who gets off on hurting other people because even though I don't know you personally, I follow your blog and I can just tell you are a good person :) I know words hurt but you can get help from REAL friends by getting a tougher skin. It helps take cruel words more in stride and protect your self-esteem without seeming cut off.

KB/KT Grant said...

Thank you all for your kind words. Some days are harder then others, emotionally wise. There will always be people who will drag you down, while on the other hand, others to help raise you up and be proud of who you are.

I prefer to know those people who are willing to give me a helping hand.