How do you not take it personally when someone says, ‘You’re a pain in the ass’? Well what does it mean when you’re a ‘pain in the ass?’ Is it literal? Do you cause a physical pain to occur in their rear? No, it means you are being insulted. We aren’t taught how to cope with this stuff in school. Your teacher may have told you to ignore it when someone calls you names. But how did it that work out for you? Terrible. It’s one thing to ignore a dumb remark. It’s quite another to feel like a doormat, letting yourself be verbally abused and ignoring the painful degradation of your worth as a person.
But no one can take away your self-respect, but you. It may help if you know what self-respect means. It is the feeling that you are a worthwhile human being in spite of your mistakes and regrets. Even if you are at fault, you are a not expected to be perfect. All humans are imperfect and make mistakes, which is regrettable, but not a crime worthy of punishment.
What if someone says, ‘You’re stupid’. Well you are not required to be perfectly smart. You are smart enough as you are right now. You can improve, but your not a better or worse person no matter what you do.
What if he says something that’s true – like ‘You’re stupid’ because you really did forget to do something? It’s not a reflection on you. It only proves that you are an imperfect human being. The antidote to taking blame, criticism, and rejection personally is self-respect.
Self-respect is not conditional upon getting what you want. This is not a reflection on your ability to be a perfect person. Self-respect is accepting that you are a worthwhile human being who is unconditionally lovable despite what others’ say. Of course, you would have preferred to get more recognition for your efforts. But you are lovable regardless of the outcome. You can make successful efforts and still have undesirable outcomes.
You can be a hard working employee who is punctual and loyal, but you get laid off. You can be a caring and thoughtful partner, but still get your heat broken. You can be a careful driver and check your mirrors and put your turn signal on, but someone hits your car. In all these situations your efforts were commendable but the outcomes were disappointing. Yet, you are worthwhile either way. Self respecting people learn from their mistakes. You are not guilty of a crime. It’s not a crime to make a mistake. It’s not a matter of assigning guilt, fault and blame. It is a matter of human imperfection.
There is no way to prevent imperfect human beings from being imperfect. You can take reasonable precautions, but beyond a certain point, your good intention to ‘prevent’ becomes counter-productive. You, like all humans, have limitations and make mistakes. You do not have control over things that have not happened, nor can you read others’ minds to know what would really please them. The point is that when someone criticizes you, it’s not personal. Their blame is for them, to relieve their own pain and frustration for not getting what they want.
Remember it’s not about you – it’s about them. Heal your wounds. Remind yourself that you do many things well, that you are an imperfect human and allowed to make mistakes. You will never be superior or inferior, you will always be an equal member of humanity. This internal talk can help take some of the misery out of the experience.
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Last reviewed: 11 Sep 2013