Personally, I loathe this phrase.
I can’t say it strongly enough. It has taken me awhile to come to this conclusion, however, because usually the people who end up saying it to me are long-time dear friends or family members, and I can tell there is love attached.
But there is also judgment. Lots of it. Like a person who is still learning to speak a second language and needs to continually translate in their head what is being spoken, I have been struggling with my reaction to this phrase, feeling something emotionally I wasn’t able to put into words – until now.
I have finally realized that when someone says “you deserve better” in response to something I may choose to share about career, my love life, friendships, and so forth, the impact it has on me is the same as if they had said, “”You poor thing. I feel so sorry for you. No way are you allowed to be happy or pleased with what you have right now – aren’t you even smart enough to know you deserve more? Do I really have to tell you this?”
If it continues – by which I mean the person continues to ignore everything I offer to the contrary in the interests of simply parroting back their opinion again and again – the feeling then ventures beyond pity into active distrust. They may love me, but not sufficiently to even attempt to restructure their usual way of seeing things to try to comprehend why I continue to do the thing or see the person, etc, that they think is insufficient to what I deserve. Love, then, would be if I take their advice and trust their instincts over my own.
To me, that sounds less like love and more like a contract. Short of hanging out with someone who is beating me or working for an employer who is robbing me blind, in which case clearly my instincts are no longer trustworthy, I quite simply struggle to handle this lack of openmindedness on the part of those who claim they love me.
Perhaps most ironically, since the same people who often say “you deserve better” while facing in my direction are often the very same people who tend to seek out my advice on those very same issues, hearing that phrase issue from their mouths back at me can, depending on the day and my mood on that day, rather quickly become humorous…..or downright irritating.
That is not to say I have any right to judge them for having their opinions – even when those opinions are about my life and how I choose to live it. Unfortunately, to my knowledge no one yet has found a formula for preventing other people from forming opinions we don’t want them to have. And perhaps it shows a lack of open-mindedness of my own that I reject their well-meant words again and again.
But to me, when someone continues to exhort me to change my ways and I continue to not do it, what that tells me is that whether I have their trust or not, I have become trustworthy to myself at last. I may be wrong, and I may wake up next week or next year and discover they were right all along. But we – me and me – will get through it together.
The way I see it, if I deserved better – truly – I would have it. If I don’t, that means I am either working towards something better I don’t quite resonate with yet, or what I do have right now is exactly what I need.
Today’s Takeaway: How do you respond when those who love you say “you deserve better”? Do you feel honored that they care enough to share their opinions with you? Does it irritate you? There is (of course) no right or wrong way to receive these or other words from loved ones. But it can be important to ponder how they affect you, why and what if any response you feel is best to make on your own behalf.
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Last reviewed: 24 Jan 2013