Is it possible to become so confident in yourself that you can respond when someone puts you down with,“Your words will never hurt me”?
I believe so.
In my dream job to help women see their beauty and gain self-confidence, I most often see and hear a woman’s deepest emotional wounds.
Most of the wounding stems from circumstances outside of these women’s control–wounds that originate from negative words said to women about their physical appearance.
For a long time now, I’ve preached to women about being kind to yourself with your internal words, but what if your emotional wounds emanate from words expressed by the people who are supposed to love you the most?
When I hear a negative comment from someone who means nothing to me, their words don’t hurt me. But if it’s someone I care about, then their negative words can pierce my soul if I allow it.
And I refuse to allow it.
I preach to women to not allow a meaningless person’s words hurt them or destroy their self-esteem. But what about if you don’t see the person as unimportant? Then what?
I remind women how liberating it can be to get to the place on your self-worth journey where your self-respect means more to you than angry little words thrown from someone living in their own precarious glass house. Even when you care about the person who is throwing a verbal stone at your head, you should still be able to see the flaw is with them and not with you.
The old English language children’s rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” should have been: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words should never hurt me.”
Psychiatrists like M. Lamia, Ph.D. argue that people who strive to hurt with words “are projecting their shame and feelings of inadequacy to penetrate your vulnerabilities.”
Research has found that women recall more positive and negative autobiographical memories than men in timed retrieval tasks. The researchers speculated that this recall might be because women encode emotional events in greater detail than men. (Seidlitz, Larry & Diener, Ed. 1998). There is also mounting evidence illustrating women’s tendency to prioritize negative words and events over positive ones.
It’s like when you help a hundred people, and 99 of them rave about you and your work–then one person says something negative about working with you.
What do you focus on? Do you focus on the 99 people who loved you or do you focus on the one person who didn’t love you?
The world could erase so much emotional pain simply by people taking care to vent their anger in more appropriate and healthy ways.
“Someone called me fat.”
How many times have women internalized being called ‘fat’? And how many years do we carry that statement around with us while ignoring our best attributes, like being smart, or funny, or kind, or great with money?
I get that we live in a society where people judge strangers by their appearance over personality or ability. But we don’t have to participate in the negative bio-feedback on ourselves with our thoughts and words, do we? We can choose to be kinder–like we’d talk to a young child.
One study revealed that high school students who report feeling negative emotions due to weight-based victimization are more likely to cope by avoiding physical activity, including gym class, and are more likely to report increased food consumption. And this effect is not limited to high school students; adults who believe the negative stereotypes of obesity are true are more likely to refuse to diet and binge eat. Thus, one coping mechanism for individuals who experience weight discrimination is to engage in the behaviors that are conducive to obesity. (Sutin AR, Terracciano A 2013).
Did you read that last sentence?
“One coping mechanism for individuals who experience weight discrimination is to engage in the behaviors that are conducive to obesity.”
Meaning, if you choose to allow other’s words to hurt you (and people who say mean words to you are bullies), you are even more likely to further engage in behaviors that will add more weight to your body.
Which is one more reason why you have to stand emotionally strong against negative put-downs! Your health is more important to you than caring about what some self-loathing, bully said to you to make themselves feel better.
Every single bully learned their behavior in childhood. Children are impressionable. Children are supposed to live their lives in a semblance of innocence at least for a time, and adults should protect them and teach them how to behave in the world. Whether it’s talking about your own body or the body of someone you hate–someone is listening.
When you hear you talking to yourself like a bully, imagine if what you are saying is being said out loud to an innocent and naive child. I bet you wouldn’t say it. Imagine how it would feel to hear those words coming out of someone’s mouth to you.
So stop it! Stop bullying yourself–now!
And when others try to use words to hurt you, stop and remind yourself that they are behaving abusively. You don’t have to listen or take their words on emotionally. It’s never really about you–it’s always about them. They are telling you what they think about themselves, and they want you to suffer.
You deserve to be treated better.
Here are 3 of my tips to use when someone is using negative words to describe you–
1. Try to validate your feelings to yourself of hurt, anger, betrail, shame, etc. It’s OK to feel this way. Allow yourself to also get in touch with the feeling that what they are saying to you is wrong.
2. Try to stay emotionally calm at the moment. As it is happening, tell yourself, “Your words will never hurt me.” Repeat it over and over until you believe it.
3. Try to respond by saying, “That hurts my feelings. Stop.” If you can’t find your words, then walk away. Go for a walk. Being outdoors and walking is the best mood enhancer! I promise!
Above all, remember the words being said are not about you. Yes, it can feel personal, but the words reflect the emotional intelligence of person–not you. It’s difficult to make the separation, but it’s vital to your emotional sanity to recognize. And notice that my three tips begin with the word ‘try’ because the last situation I want is for you to feel bad for not using these tips ‘the right way.’
I am passionate about women being aware of the negative words they accept as a description of who they are and stopping this emotional madness. There is nothing more sexy and beautiful than a self-confident woman. But until that day you’ll find me in my photography room proving to women clients that they are a lot more beautiful, smart, and amazing than they think they are.
The camera never lies.
Need a little self-confidence help? Try one of these…
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, Iman Woods.