I recently posted this:
“There’s a fine line between holding your tongue so as not to hurt other peoples’ feelings, and letting people hurt yours..
I’m too sleepy to be articulate right now, but I’m pretty sure I need to work on finding that line and learning to walk along it.”
I thought I’d written, albeit sleepily and inarticulately, about being fed up with letting people (= everyone who feels like it) trample on my feelings instead of putting up boundaries and telling them to be nice to me.
After a rough evening I had had enough, and had decided to start working out how to go about protecting myself from future verbal attacks.
Everyone who read and commented apparently took it to mean I regretted saying something mean to someone else….
Don’t get me wrong, I love that you commented, hey, I love that people read my posts at all! Thank you 🙂 You’re awesome and you make my day – I love it when there’s that special ‘pling!’ noise and that small orange dot appears next to the bell on my WordPress app 🙂 I love and appreciate that you tried to put yourselves in my position and help me. Really. I’m just a little bit confused about how I should’ve written what I meant, in order to be understood.
(St. Francis would tell me to aim to understand more than to be understood, but I like being understood too)
It’s not that I don’t have foot-in-mouth moments, because I do. I think everyone does. Sometimes I say mean things. Sometimes I’m cutting, sometimes I’m hurtful, sometimes it’s accidental, sometimes it’s on purpose. But it doesn’t happen often. At least not that often… I try not to let it happen at all.
More often, I hear people say mean things to me.
I am too polite to cover my ears when someone’s still talking.
I don’t even get up and leave when someone’s yelling at me.
Instead, I listen when people rant.
I very rarely rant back. I will probably argue if pushed and as long as no one’s actually shouted yet.
Usually I’m the one biting my tongue and not the one being bitchy. I’m the one crumpling up inside and trying not to cry in front of yet another person who believes that they ‘ate all the wisdom with a spoon’* and can tell me what I’m doing wrong. I end up on the receiving end of a lot of advice and back-handed compliments and bad-tempered yelling and condescending head-patting.
Some people are presumably self-confident enough to ignore the barrage, some people fire their own right back. Some people tell you you’ve gone too far. Everyone has their own survival strategy.
I make excuses and I let things slide.
Generally, I keep quiet. I tend not to say anything when things other people say and/or do hurt or annoy me. I stop functioning when people raise their voices. The natural response to stress is fight or flight. Mine is ‘roll up in a ball and hope it goes away’. It’s a strategy, but not a successful one. Hedgehogs aren’t known for winning battles with cars.
They are people and people are never perfect. I know that because I’m not perfect either. I tell myself they didn’t mean it, that they have too many other things going on, that they’re not good with words, that they’re having a bad day… and tell myself not to make things worse for them.
After a while of having my own feelings battered, the frustration-dam bursts and floods everything.
At this point I might snap at someone.
I regret the [hopefully few] times I’ve hurt anyone. Knowingly or otherwise. (Really. If I’ve hurt you, please let me know and I’ll apologise profusely.)
I also regret not telling people to mind their own business. I regret taking people’s rants to heart. I regret believing that other people have their lives worked out and that they have the right to tell me I don’t. I regret permanently putting myself on the receiving end of other peoples’ bad tempers and mood swings. I regret letting other peoples’ insecurity place restrictions on my dreams. I regret taking the time to listen to people let out their frustration on my ears. I regret swapping my priorities for those of those who shout loudest. I regret putting people on pedestals at the cost of digging myself into a hole.
I regret not being strong enough to walk away before I’m too weak to stand up [by and for myself].
Now, if you’ve got this far (thank you :)) and have advice for building a protective shield around my feelings, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
* fantastic German expression 🙂