I logged onto a social media site recently and was alerted to a bunch of new notifications, letting me know that an anonymous individual had posted insulting comments on every one of my posts, in varying degrees of severity, from “who cares about what you think” to some… not very nice name calling. My heart started racing, and I felt my chest grow tight. His comments on my posts, and the posts of other women, reeked of self loathing and insecurity. I was getting angry, and I clicked to respond to one particularly nasty comment, my mind racing with ideas for witty comebacks. Or should I be dry and sarcastic? Who was this jerkoff and why was he messing with ME?
I needed to take a breath. I took screenshots, deleted all the comments, and then posted them along with a thoughtful post about how disappointing it was that an online community could be marred by individuals such as that. And because I felt good about that post, I got over it and I moved on.
The experience got me thinking about how we respond to the negatives in our lives, particularly how we react to words from others. The conventional wisdom for bullies of course, is “ignore them and they’ll go away”. While I agree that engaging with the bully themselves is not constructive, I don’t agree that ignoring a problem or hurtful words (from friends or strangers) is the way to go. “Ignoring” problems often means people push them aside instead of confronting them head on. Pushing aside is never a permanent solution, and you risk the experience coming back to make you feel like shit at a later point. Confronting the experience, owning the conversation about it and using it in a constructive way is, I believe, the only way to really “move past” anything.
For me, words have always been important. Spoken or written, if the words are impactful to me in a positive or negative way, they will stick with me for a long time. For all of us, words have the power to become mantras, and these mantras become little stories that we carry around with us. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are the most important of all.
How do you do it? Your light, it fills the room.
The line above is quite beautiful. Yet thats exactly what killed me at the time, because it wasn’t meant for me. Though I’m sure the writer and recipient have long since forgotten about it, I’ve remembered it for years because as awful as I felt when I saw it, I had to admit it was a damn good line. Unfortunately, it was a damn good line that would pop up in my subconscious whenever I felt down on myself, reminding me in a sad self-pitying way of a time I felt like complete crap.
Fortunately over time the phrase lost its sting, and I’m able to celebrate it for what it is… simply, words. They are no longer someone else’s words, no longer something painful. They are mine, and the phrase now represents something completely different. When I wrote the words above, I took them and made them my own. There’s a kind of power in that. And as with the online comments, it’s the kind of power that allows us to take control, move on and finally, let go.