When the words “stupid” & “slow” are thrown at you...
September 18, 2016 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I’m a 30 year old man who was bullied to a certain degree back in middle-school. I came to the states as a 4th grader. I went to a Catholic school, and was the only new kid in class. At the time, English was not my primary language and dreaded reading out in class due to my thick accent. I was laughed at, and called “stupid” or “slow” from time to time. Those two words have continued to haunt me from time to time up until now.

I realized that my learning ability is more on the kinesthetic level. I must admit that repetition is my best friend when it comes to learning new skills or knowledge. My friend mentioned that I lacked “street smart” , and I’ve been conscious from time to time when people make a comment about my overall intelligence. Here are some examples:

Scenario 1: Paying a surprise visit to a girl that I was “dating” for the 1st time. Me: Calls girl Girl: Hello? Me: Hi there! I’m paying a surprise visit tonight! I know you live on X & Y street. Do you live in Z city? Girl: Ummm no.. Are you stupid or something? Me: ………… Girl: Oh, I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean to say that!

At the time, I was 22 and she was 18. Both of us lived in the same city for the large majority of our lives. It was kind of embarrassing that I got the city wrong, and this happened 8 years ago. Why do I remember this conversation? Because the word “stupid” was thrown in there.

Scenario 2: Trying to parallel park in-between two cars with a friend’s assistance. Friend: Turn the wheel this way so you’re car is closer to the curb Me: Turns the wheel, but still struggling to park the car properly. Friend: Dude, are you stupid or something? Me: ………….

This happened about 5-6 years ago, and I consider myself a damm good parallel parker after living in Los Angeles for so long. Once again, the word “stupid” is the main reason I remember this conversation.

Scenario 3: Driving my car along with 2 other passengers. Me: Makes a funny joke Friend: Dude, you’re pretty funny overall although you’re a little bit “slow”. Me: …………..

My ex-girlfriend was the worst offender when it comes to name-calling. She called me stupid one time after she offered me to take a bite from her waffle cone. I took a bite, and inadvertently created a small crack at the edge of the cone. She got ticked off, and I offered to buy her another one. Her sister asked what happened, and my ex proceeded to say that “he’s stupid”. We eventually broke up back in April, and she was truly sorry about the negative names/comments that she’s said towards me.

Since the break-up, I’ve lost 17 pounds and exercise has done tremendous wonders for my physical and mental make-up. I also remind myself that I earned a bachelor’s degree with a 3.6 GPA while working 25-40 hours a week. Now, I find myself working for UCLA Health which is deemed the #2 best Health System in the West Coast. At the same time, I feel that my overall self-esteem could still be much stronger and higher when I’m not letting mere words such as stupid or slow define me. It’s been an uphill battle, and I’m wondering if any of you have struggled to a certain degree in regards to bullying/insecurities from the past.

Have you completely overcome your insecurities? If so, how long did it take you? Years? Months? Days? What steps did you take to overcome such demons? I wish that I had a off-button for these kind of things, but I'm finding out that I will always have a sensitive side from the day I was born.
posted by tnar23 to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yikes, your girlfriends and friends don't sound like people I'd want in my life. Name calling is never okay. Frankly, it sounds like they have limited vocabularies and are throwing around the 'stupid' insult because they are a) insultingly rude and b) don't know any better words.

Therapy gets recommended around here a lot, but it's excellent for something like this. Even if only to help you learn ways to stand up for yourself with these so called 'friends' and set boundaries with them that you will not tolerate being spoken to like that.
posted by cecic at 9:04 AM on September 18, 2016 [20 favorites]

Stop dating and hanging out with people who are mean.

Seriously, when you see evidence that they are mean like that, ditch them.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:11 AM on September 18, 2016 [32 favorites]

You don't need to find a way to be less sensitive to people calling you stupid or slow, you need to build relationships with people who would never dream of calling you those names.

It seems you think you should just develop a thicker skin, because it's somehow okay for you to be called stupid, but that's really not how anyone should talk to you--ever. Especially a friend or girlfriend!

I agree with cecic's comment about finding someone (a therapist) to help you with boundary setting.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:12 AM on September 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

Often people throw around the word "stupid" when they are frustrated, and it's got nothing to do with an assessment of your intellectual abilities. IMO, it's people who are perhaps not less intelligent, but less educated, who do this most.

You sound like a very intelligent and hard-working person with many accomplishments. Keep doing things that make you feel proud and happy, and like J Wilson says, stop hanging out with people who say mean things.

That said I haven't completely shed my insecurities - but they often fade to the background when I'm taking care of myself and surround myself with good people. When I'm isolated or depressed, they tend to come back to the foreground.
posted by bunderful at 9:13 AM on September 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

I can't parallel park to save my life, and I've absolutely destroyed ice cream cones when I've bitten them. And who cares? Ice cream cones are meant to be eaten, not put on little pedestals and admired as works of art.

Nthing getting therapy - group therapy might be a good fit for you, as you can interact with other people with a therapist as coach - and finding a better class of friends. Has your experience as an immigrant and having to learn a new language and customs, as a child, with what seems like a "sink or swim" attitude on the part of adults in your life, maybe made you feel like you're an outsider, "on sufferance" with people who deign to hang out with you? Trust me, there are plenty of people who will want to be your friend because they enjoy your company, not because they want a scapegoat or punching bag.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:36 AM on September 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I also remind myself that I earned a bachelor’s degree with a 3.6 GPA while working 25-40 hours a week.

Objectively non-stupid! I am very sensitive to comments about my intelligence, probably because to one of my parents, intelligence was literally the ONLY metric worth worrying about and I had a lot of gifted child problems and am an anxious adult. That said, I'm smart enough to do the things I want to do AND I'm a kinder and friendlier person than my (genius but socially messed up) parent. I live in a small town and there are people of varying intelligences here and it takes all of us to make the community run. So I think a few directions might help you....

- Therapy is always useful. Figuring out just why this presses your buttons and how to positively self-talk your way into a better place. Those people who called you stupid? Probably lashing out unthinkingly, didn't even mean it, never thought about it again, but you're carrying it with you, that's hard and a personality trait that can, over time, be eased out of.
- Other intelligences. There are people who may not have as much "book learning" as me who can still take apart an automobile engine and diagnose it. I marvel at that. Some of the book-smarter people in my circle are ... not friendly. They lack social skills and can be hard to be around. It takes balance more than excelling down any one path.
- Mindfulness, this doesn't have to be the same as therapy but learning to get a little bit of space between your thoughts and your emotions so that when you get a sharp pang of emotions flooding in you can just sit with them and not have to relive those bad experiences. Maybe compartmentalizing them and seeing your exes as flawed people to treat a friend that way, that's not cool at all. Poor kids, I hope they learned.

What helped me was some independent assessment. Was I feeling stung because I secretly thought the bullies were right? (because they agreed with my parent so maybe they were...). Have I grown into someone different than that person? Is it ever okay to call someone stupid? Why would someone do that? What pain might that be covering for? How can I be around more people to whom that is not okay?

I wish you luck, it sounds like you're on a really good path but it can be hard breaking from the painful past.
posted by jessamyn at 9:55 AM on September 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

I think there's this phase in American late teens'/20-somethings' lives where it's cool to be self-deprecating and to be mean to your "friends." It's pretty shitty in my opinion. It's like people who do this are REALLY self-conscious and trying to cover it up by calling themselves and their friends stupid. Not everyone does this but if you're in a friend circle where that's the norm, it can be really jarring.

Also, these people may just be shitty friends in general.

What I'm saying is, a true friend wouldn't call you stupid and definitely wouldn't give you a hard time about something like parallel parking (??? WTF??? parallel parking is hard!) or biting an ice cream cone. They would commiserate with you about how the same thing happens to them and that's life and then you both laugh about it and go on with your day.

Keep your head up and look out for friends who know how to empathize.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:57 AM on September 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

You don't need to find a way to be less sensitive to people calling you stupid or slow, you need to build relationships with people who would never dream of calling you those names.

This. Literally nobody in my life does this. I have never dated anyone who does this. I would never do this. (And it is not like I'm sitting in some special flower circle of sensitivity, either.)
posted by DarlingBri at 10:03 AM on September 18, 2016 [19 favorites]

Oh god, this is just awful. I had a similar experience with being very unathletic as a kid, which turned out to be a lifelong struggle with a hereditary neuropathy. I was called slow, bovine, clumsy, and yes, stupid, even though I had a tested IQ at 130. I wish I could tell you that it goes away, but it hasn't for me. I still feel terrible shame when I fall (common for people with this neuropathy) or am left walking several paces behind "friends", or any other myriad ways of feeling "less than."

What I can tell you is that, these feelings come and go more quickly as I get older. Sometimes I imagine that I'm with my younger, sweet, very hurt self and I feel so compassionate towards her. And realize that I would never call her names or shame her. It sounds corny but it helps. Also, I try to just acknowledge that I'm feeling shitty, and it passes.

My best friend is really smart and super competent, but has a real insecurity about her intelligence. We talk about how intimated we get sometimes....her with smart people, me with those super confident athletic types. Sometimes we make jokes, sometimes we just allow each other to feel crappy. Seek out those kind of friends. They're out there.

Best to you.
posted by Gusaroo at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

To pick up on something that Gusaroo said above (visiting with your younger self, in your mind) - this is actually a thing that a therapist taught me to do: to go speak to your younger self, in your mind, and tell your younger self the things that (s)he needs to hear.

Such as (perhaps - not to put words in your mouth but to just give an example) "you're not stupid! good news - you will grow up to be an academically-successful adult! and by the way these kids calling you stupid are dicks, not sources of wisdom. are you 'slow'? maybe your brain doesn't work at lightning speed but dammit it's a great brain in its particular way!"

I guess that this works because it is a way of tricking ourselves to say positive things to ourselves about ourselves, which is sometimes hard.
posted by sheldman at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2016

Scenario 1: Paying a surprise visit to a girl that I was “dating” for the 1st time. Me: Calls girl Girl: Hello? Me: Hi there! I’m paying a surprise visit tonight! I know you live on X & Y street. Do you live in Z city? Girl: Ummm no.. Are you stupid or something? Me: ………… Girl: Oh, I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean to say that!

This one jumped out at me.

I'm trying to understand how you might make such a mistake. The girl reacted wondering if you're just messing with her because making such a mistake having lived in the same city for 18 years doesn't make sense.

If you can help explain how you messed this up, I can offer a way to avoid having similar missteps in the future.
posted by Tanzanite at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Therapy and better people in your life. Start by losing the mean people.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2016

Hey, so I've have been living abroad for the last 4.5 years. I've noticed that it's both incredibly hard to live in a foreign country sometimes and it's also weirdly easy to forget how hard it is. I mean, the level of difficulty just starts to feel normal, and then--because I'm not very good at being nice to myself--I start assuming that the reason why it is so hard and draining for me to deal with doctors or bureaucrats or just normal errands sometimes is because I'm stupid and not because it's actually hard. But it is hard. It's hard to go from learning a language in school to having to use it every time you walk out your front door. It's hard learning the new social rules in a new place.

And I imagine that it would be even harder when you move as a kid, because I think other kids who have grown up in a monolingual environment often conflate "this person doesn't speak my language" with "this person is stupid." So I imagine you soaked up some of that when you were a little kid going to school in your second language (or third, whichever it was). The fact that you managed to do okay and then even thrive academically (all in your non-native language!) is incredibly impressive and something you should be proud of. Like, deeply deeply proud of.

As for your examples, in the first one it sounds like you were 22, and even though 22 year-olds often think of themselves as quite old, they're still pretty young. What I'm saying is: you're not the first 22 year-old to make a mistake that is embarrassing in hindsight and you won't be the last. In the other ones, it sounds like your girlfriend was mean to you and she was mean in ways that pressed your specific buttons. That doesn't mean she was right though.
posted by colfax at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

I also found it was helpful to "own" the ways in which I was, actually, not that skillful. So for example I'll go to someone's house and if they have the radio on loud, I can't actually maintain a conversation. Brains are weird, this is how mine works. So I'll ask for what I need ("Hey can we turn the radio down a little?") and explain why without apologies or judgments ("I can't hold a conversation with the radio at this level") and most of the time things go just fine.

Paying a surprise visit to a girl that I was “dating” for the 1st time.

This also jumped out at me. You were dating but didn't know where she lived and planned to surprise her? That can be a complicated situation to begin with. It may just have been that you were both in an awkward place and she dealt with that poorly because maybe she was awkward also. At the same time, maybe there was a lot riding on this for whatever reason and so the word "stupid" was just the cherry on top of a shit sundae. So thinking about what else that might be standing in for: Does this happen and sting so badly in non-dating scenarios? Are there people who could give you constructive feedback about not knowing things where it wouldn't hurt? What makes those different?
posted by jessamyn at 11:03 AM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some of these sound like things friends might say to each other jokingly, the parking one springs to mind. My co-workers and I will often respond to goofs or errors with "are you sure you're not drunk?!", it's kind of an exaggerated way to respond to a silly error and it actually means that no one has to apologize for their silly error. It puts in firmly in a category of "everyone goofs sometimes, don't worry about it". This would be in response to stuff like complaining they can't print to a printer they forgot to turn on or asking directions to a place they've been to a million times or patiently waiting by a coffeepot they forgot to put grounds into etc etc. There is supposedly a backstory to this particular phrase but it's lost in the mists of time. Other groups I've been have had similar phrases like "ok, I'm an idiot" or "someone forgot their coffee" or less politely in middle school "dude, you're retarded" which I hope none of us would say as adults but did as 12 year olds.
posted by fshgrl at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Have you completely overcome your insecurities? If so, how long did it take you? Years? Months? Days? What steps did you take to overcome such demons? I wish that I had a off-button for these kind of things, but I'm finding out that I will always have a sensitive side from the day I was born.

I wouldn't say that I've completely overcome my insecurities, but I can at least recognize if my anxiety/bad feelings are due to those insecurities and that helps in brushing them aside. Everyone is different; I saw a therapist regularly for a year (for other issues as well), but I would say 2-3 months in I started feeling a lot better. I still see the therapist a couple times a year now. I also read some self-help books - particularly those by Brené Brown - which were really helpful in overcoming that feeling of shame.

In general, good self-esteem comes from feeling that you are a good person regardless of how your life goes. And remembering that people don't think much about others besides themselves. So, when they make comments, most people are not trying to hurt you -- they may not know your history with the word "slow" -- they're just articulating what they mean using the vocabulary they have. Obviously, some people are just mean, but you can learn who is mean and who has enough good qualities to outweigh the occasional "slow" epithet (it may even be worth telling them it bothers you, if it's a close enough friend). Therapy helps.
posted by bluefly at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2016

Try the rubber band technique: when those words pop up, snap your wrist and tell yourself it's not true.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:23 PM on September 18, 2016

I marvel at how I survived my 20's intact. I had a crush on a guy at work, and once actually paid him a surprise visit. As in, I traveled over an hour, by car and by train, and knocked on his apartment door one night. He was like, "what are you doing here?" I was mortified, because I thought he liked me. So I learned not to equate friendliness with actual romantic interest. And not to try to date co-workers (another recipe for disaster).

I was a nerdy book reader as a child. Did have some friends, and also had some verbal tussles with bullies in school. I also tend to make socially awkward statements sometimes. Never intending to be insulting, rub some people the wrong way, and realize now, that they were not "my people," so to speak. So I am cautious now when making new friends. Still fall into pitfalls with trusting people to be nice, and then they turn out to be not so nice, and then I step back and keep my distance.

And it can also be relatives. Some of them are very judgmental, and say hurtful things, because they feel the right to judge me, and usually it's people who have never taken the time to sit down and actually talk to me and get to know me. Rude in-laws, for instance. I don't deal with them anymore. I cut them off. They are no longer in my world.

My husband and I sometimes argue, usually about petty things. I don't like his driving, and he doesn't like the way I drive either, ha-ha. But we know each other very well, and know that something said in the heat of the moment isn't meant, and we will apologize and make up after a small verbal argument. But we have years of getting to know each other and we can give the other person space and allow them to be themselves.

I have very few intimate friends. Not by choice, but because I am sensitive to people's judgments and "helpful" advice. Probably MetaFilter friends are better friends than many "real life" friends -- that is, people who I interact with in person on a daily basis. Even an email list that I've been on for years, with what I thought were like-minded people, has devolved into a "play pig pile on Marie" situation. I just don't post on there anymore, because an off-the-cuff remark on my part, days later, leads to someone admonishing me for not following through on something I said when I was venting (and made it clear that I was doing so).

I have a birthday coming up in November. Just lost another family member earlier this year. A sibling. That kind of thing brings out the worst behavior in some of my family members, who think it's peachy keen fine to hurl verbal abuse on me for my personal life choices (because you have to interact with them while getting information about the sick person, not something I would normally do). So I cut them off again. I absolutely refuse to let people hurl abuse at me, and question my choices. Someone told me that I was looking for a handout when I visited my sick sibling in the hospital. I was like, "WTF?" Because they'd been waiting for an opportunity to put me down from the time, over TEN years ago, when I temporarily lived with my parents after a nasty divorce from an abusive man (which I was also blamed for, because I should have known better).

Having a theatrical background has helped me tremendously. I can see the silly side of things, and as a writer, tend to observe people, and can emotionally distance myself, once I look at them as potential characters in a story. I don't write about real people, of course, but I do gain inspiration by studying psychology, and trying to figure out what makes mean people tick. Why do they act the way they do? What is their motivation? And once I get some sort of answer, I can say, "hey, they act that way with everyone, not just me!" Not that I stick around for more abuse, of course, but it lets me see that while I am also human, and make mistakes and faux pas still, I can choose to live my life the way I want, without hearing the imaginary voices in my head (and I've got a lot of them, believe me, a LOT).

My husband has a saying, "when the bad voices start up, tell them to go sit in a corner and eat a cookie." Sounds silly, sure he didn't make it up himself, he reads a lot of books on positive thinking and psychology, and he has an amazing ability, inborn, to not give a darn about what other people think of him. He immerses himself in whatever it is that he feels like, whether it's a mindless show on Hulu, a book, sitting outside and enjoying the view, etc.

I have anxiety and get panic attacks. A lot due to worrying too much what other people think about me. One way I counteract it is to get busy. I cook a lot, and that's my way of relaxing. When I am in the kitchen, getting on my cooking groove, those voices melt away, because I know I am a decent cook. I'll never be the next Julia Child, but I can make a good soup, a pie, a roast, etc. And everyone has to eat.

I also play a lot of music, especially when I'm by myself. I pick a station that will soothe my nerves, and keep it on lowish in the background.

My nickname in high school was Dizzy, if that gives you a clue. Also, Space Cadet. I was fortunate to have a cousin at one school, and he kept the nasty people away from me. He was over 6 feet tall, and one time, a girl he was dating started saying some horrible things about me, and he said, "that's my Cousin you are talking about." Sometimes it just helps to have someone in your corner, because I was none of those things she was saying. I am a nice person. I try to treat other people as if they are the same, and when they end up being jerks, not just one remark, but overall just jerky people, they don't get to belong to my club anymore. This is my clubhouse, and only nice people are allowed in the Marie Clubhouse. The rest can go suck eggs.

It only took me 52 1/2 years to come to this conclusion, and I didn't do it alone. Friends (real ones, the kind that will help you hide the body, j/k), nice family members (the ones who are REALLY nice, deep down nice people who have empathy), and now my husband of almost 10 years. And I did go to therapy after my nasty divorce from the abusive person, a few months, and it helped me a lot. Because she was not judgmental, had a great sense of humor, gave me little homework assignments, and she was in my corner. Find someone who will be in your corner while you work this stuff out, whether it's a trusted family member, a trusted friend (one who doesn't call you names), or a good therapist and/or a support group, as mentioned above. And as soon as someone says something hurtful, I speak up and say, "dude, what you just said was very hurtful. You hurt my feelings." Then the ball is in their court, and if they don't immediately apologize or try to shift the blame for their behavior onto me, I tune them out. Buh-bye now, Jerky McJerkface. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

I wish you well, and keep at it, everyone has their own path to follow, and you need like-minded Companions to travel with you on yours. You can find them, and you're definitely Not. Stupid.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:51 PM on September 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

I agree with other posters here who say that your friends and girlfriend calling you names is totally out of line and NOT normal or healthy. You could be the smartest, most mentally sound person in the world and having people who you should be able to trust around you who think it's acceptable to call you names can quickly destroy your self esteem. I've never called a friend or anyone I'm dating stupid or slow in my adult life—I promise you don't have to deal with this for your whole life because real friends don't say things like that. Even as a joke, words like that are designed to tear people down and friends and partners don't do that.

You are clearly smart and worthy of respect. I would recommend not focusing on your reaction to being called stupid (because of course it hurts, let yourself acknowledge that pain.) Rather than trying to get over the pain of this, I think working on surrounding yourself with people who respect you is going to go a long way to healing. You deserve better.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:34 PM on September 18, 2016

You might find the concept of "emotional flashback" helpful - it might explain why these words dig so deep and make you feel so small and helpless.

I am autistic and I guess that puts me under the umbrella of "cognitive disability". My brain works differently. Sometimes I get word salad when I'm stressed or tired, I walk into things when I'm overwhelmed or there's a lot of sensory information, and sometimes I get over-eager in social situations and don't do things in the expected order. None of my friends call me stupid. If they did, I would no longer consider them a friend and stop spending time with them.

You don't need a thicker skin.

(I found it relieving to just opt out of the whole "stupid vs intelligent" thing by ditching the idea of intelligence altogether - it's a concept that's been used to uphold ableism and racism and classism and sexism and serves very little real purpose other than to enforce ideas of superiority. Nope, not interested, goodbye. Now I don't waste any time being concerned about how "intelligent" people perceive me to be because I think it's a useless concept that says a lot more about the other person than it does about my actual skills or worth.)
posted by buteo at 3:05 PM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I want to throw out there that ruminating over past "mistakes" and relationship problems and dumb stuff that happened when you were young is really common. I'm ten years older than you and it's just in the last few years that I've really felt that kind of thing drop away. I wish I had gone to therapy sooner to work some of that out because being free of those insecurities has been wonderful. I feel like it's a gift that has come with age – both not remembering all the goofs from when I was young but also in forgiving myself. There were a couple things that took some real perspective to process. For example: hurting a good friend of mine when I was 15. It took a loooong time for me to have the perspective to say to myself (and believe it) that while my behavior was undoubtedly in the wrong, I was also a wildly insecure 15-year-old who was not yet as skilled as I would later be at navigating tricky relationships. I made a teenager's choice in a teenager's world.

So, while you are ruminating over your insecurities, it may be just as likely that your friends in some of these scenarios are still ruminating over being jerks to you. It's possible.

However, I urge you not to wait for natural maturity and perspective to allow these to drop away. Therapy could be a real boon to you on this issue. It may give you some tools to allow your brain to let this go. You will feel more secure and able when you can release your brain from this trauma. Best of luck to you. Life is weird.
posted by amanda at 3:16 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you completely overcome your insecurities?

If you mean, "have I completely learned not to be fazed by insults that I am particularly sensitive to?", the answer is no. However, overcoming insecurities means that you understand that you don't have to tolerate or accept people around you who treat you that way. What happens when you are insecure is that you think that on some level you deserve to be on the receiving end of these sorts of barbs, or at least that you have to deal with people who shoot them at you because you feel that no one else could possibly like you except for these people. But that's not true at all! You can always find friends whose personalities don't have those poor traits.

she was truly sorry about the negative names/comments that she’s said towards me.

While she may be sorry that her comments led to the breakup, I assure you that she is most certainly not sorry about her name-calling-- that's what she does and that's how she interacts with people like you. She truly thought you were a person she could get away with being mean to, and she is sorry that she was wrong.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 3:17 PM on September 18, 2016

Yeah, I grew up rough with very, let's say, a not-social-justice-aware crowd, and they wouldn't have said this, and if they had, it would've been time for a rousing game of "why the fuck are you calling me stupid?"

Like other people, I have scars related to words or phrases. I ask people not to use them and I don't hang around people who regularly use them to describe friends or family.
posted by Nyx at 5:37 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm seconding the advice above about avoiding mean people as much as possible, but I think there's a prerequisite to that which I'll add, which may sound strange initially:

Allow yourself to believe that people can be mean or can act meanly. Or that there are mean people.

If I had a nickel for every time a conversation with my therapist/close trusted friends progressed along the lines of:

Me: I don't know why I'm so disturbed by {mean thing someone said}/why I'm bothered by {person} that much...
Friend/Therapist: Because that was a mean thing to say!/Because that person is a bully!

...I could have a grande latte at Starbucks, which is nothing to sneeze at in nickels. Which also means that I haven't learned that particular lesson very well.

There's a bit of insidious side effect to low self-esteem: We don't trust ourselves to judge people correctly either. Sometimes your girlfriend is thoughtless, your friend is insensitive, your coworker is just mean or is trying to score points off of you. And I almost never let myself go there when I'm analyzing the situation. I'll make excuses for everyone all day long, except for myself. I get none.

To answer your timing question: It took about two years of actively thinking about/talking about these things, but I'm beginning to recognize the emotional/mental pattern almost every time now, and can shrug it off at least some of the time.
posted by seyirci at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

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