How Not to Get Hurt by Other People’s Behavior (and How to Change Your Own Behavior)
Can behavior change? Must negative comments hurt? Let's find out!
Ever gotten hurt by a comment? You should definitively tell the other person that it hurt. It's a lot more powerful than yelling and screaming, or lashing out in revenge. But then what? How do you go on to feel good about yourself, instead of feeling hurt?
And what if it's not someone else's behavior that has hurt you, but your own? How do you change bad behavior? And how do you help someone else change their behavior? It's all about realizing you have choice. And then encouraging yourself and others to make the right choice.
That Hurtful Comment
Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of: “He said I’m ugly, it hurt me.” Probably. Most of us have heard some story about someone who was hurt by something another person said. Probably you yourself have been hurt by something someone else have said. I know I have.
I always ask the kids I raise if they’d feel hurt if someone called them a purple alien? No? Really? Why? Because they aren’t purple aliens.
I ask the same to the kids I teach drama. Because acting is about thinking the thoughts of the character. Hence, you need to learn how we all think. What we do to our thoughts.
If someone tells you that you are ugly and it hurts, it’s because you believe you are ugly.
Curing the Thought Virus — Our Responsibility to Self
We can say that other people should be nice. That it’s their obligation to us. The truth is, most of us at some point will say something nasty. We get hurt, we feel angry, we lash out and spread the hurt. It’s like a virus.
Yet, there is a really easy cure: your own thoughts.
You have a responsibility towards yourself to make up your own self-image: what you think about yourself. You have a responsibility towards yourself to love yourself. Not because you’re perfect. You never will be. But because you’re a human being doing your best.
You may have been through things, that have created behaviors in you that are less than desirable. You’re gonna have to fight those to feel good about yourself.
The funny thing is, the more you love yourself, the easier it’s going to be to make the right decision. To act in a manner that serves you and others.
Imagine this scenario: a kid who loves to play tennis and daydreams about becoming a tennis pro, is told by his coach that he’s a lousy player and will never be a pro. The kid walks off, feeling hurt — he sees a future where he is not able to play tennis and therefore will be miserable. He hates his coach for inflicting the pain and he hates himself as he can’t do what he wants to do.
Let’s assume the coach is right — this kid really has no chance at becoming a pro. After years of practice he can barely hit the ball.
Now, let’s rethink this. After the coach tells the boy he can’t play pro tennis, as he’s awful at playing tennis, the boy asks him if he can still play tennis? The coach says yes. Every day? Yes. He can play every day.
Then the boy asks the coach if he thinks there are other things in life the boy is good at? Yes. Will he find something else he loves that will pay his bills too? Yes.
The boy walks off thinking he can play tennis every day of his life, which is something he loves, he is good at many things and he can get a job doing what he loves. He just need to go on a detective journey to figure out what that is.
The Love Delusion
Now, let’s imagine another scenario. You’ve been dumped.
Your ex told you that they just don’t like x, y, z about you. Then they left you.
You can feel really bad about the things they don’t like about you. You can also feel really bad at imagining the future you will never have with your ex.
On the flip side of the coin, you could assess whether you need to do something about x, y, z, or your ex has painted a picture that isn’t true because of their own inner processing, or x, y, z simply doesn’t matter. I.e. someone else wouldn’t care about x, y, z - in fact those could be the very things they’d love about you, because they’d be compatible with them. Either way, is there a need to feel bad about it? If you need to improve, improve. You can still love yourself for doing your best.
Secondly, you could imagine that you will lead a wonderful life with a person that’s a perfect match for you. Someone who will love you and support you and help you become the best you can be, instead of bringing you down for the things you’re struggling with.
You could imagine that your boyfriend dumping you is the very thing you needed to finally learn what you need to learn to find true love. The very event that will change your life for the better. You could imagine lots of different things. It’s up to you.
People think that love hurts. Love doesn’t hurt. The lack of love hurts. Loving someone and losing them hurts. But you can always fill your life with more love.
Life is filled with goodbyes. No matter what you do, you’ll experience that. You can choose to become bitter about it. Or you can choose to accept life for what it is and make the most of it.
People get married thinking nothing will ever change. Things change. Marriage is a beautiful ritual where you can make a commitment to treat someone with love. To do your best to serve their soul. To both do your utmost to create a wonderful relationship. That doesn’t mean things won’t change and you’ll never fall out of love. That doesn’t mean the other person isn’t flawed and won’t make mistakes. No one can control life. No one is flawless. Nor does anyone worth their salt ever stop growing; changing. All you can do is your best to treat each other with as much love as humanly possible and make the best of your relationship.
Often people have beliefs about how something should be. And when it doesn’t pan out that way, they feel hurt.
Sufficient to say that if punishment was all that was needed to turn crooks into law obedient creatures, then all prisons would have a 100% success rate in rehabilitating their prisoners.
Punishment can be scary. Uncomfortable. It can also lead to realizations about doing wrong, which in turn leads to promises of doing better. It can give a person the satisfaction of feeling like they’ve repented, which then makes them feel like they have the right to go out and enjoy themselves and break their patterns of hating themselves and doing bad to prove themselves right.
I raise a kid with behavioral problems. He comes from a township in South Africa and was practically born into a drug den. He’s been abused, frightened, felt abandoned…the list goes on. It all came out in his behavior.
We all react differently to negative circumstances. Some become violent, some withdrawn, some hide their pain with substance abuse, some become angry and try to take revenge, some back away from it all and choose to lead a different life. But to lead that different life, you have to know it exists.
Most people can’t stop themselves from eating another piece of chocolate, but they expect a person who grew up in the midst of a gang war to control their violent behavior. Their defense mechanisms. Their mistrust in people. They expect them to respect a society they grew up in the fringes of and probably never felt supported by.
Are these people bad? Or do they have as much good and bad inside as anyone else?
From the outside, it makes little sense when people make dysfunctional decisions. How many times have you watched a friend hurt themselves? How many times have you observed someone thinking things that clearly do not serve them? But on the inside, it appears to them as if they have no options. They don’t see the other path.
Changing Your Thinking and Behavior
Rewarding good behavior, giving as little attention as possible to bad behavior, and setting clear boundaries about what’s expected, as well as having some consequences when it’s not met, appears to work really well.
People often want to change their dietary habits by beating themselves up about their current ones. So over and over again they think about their poor choices, how unhealthy they are and how they hate themselves for it. Then they expect their behavior to change.
If you want to change your behavior, you have to set clear intentions for what’s expected. You have to pat yourself on the back every time you make the right choice. When you make a wrong one, you have to stop thinking about it straight away and get back to thinking about what you’re expected to do. You get right back into thinking about your intentions. To repent you can also do an extra round on the treadmill. And when you make progress, you celebrate. You feel good about yourself. You get rewards.
As humans, we have to learn how to control our own behavior. That’s not an easy feat if we were programmed into thinking and therefore acting, in certain ways. Not least if you think punishment is all it’ll take for you to change. But then, why haven’t you? Surely you’ve been punished for every bad decision you ever made already? There are consequences to behavior. As parents, we teach that to our children. In the real world, it teaches us.
Likely you also punished yourself by thinking negatively about yourself. So why haven’t you changed?
You Have the Power
It may not be easy to change thinking patterns, but it sure is possible. You’ll know when you’re walking down the right path, because you will feel it. However, it usually helps to have someone to show you that path. Show you the different ways there are to see situations. Personally, I have a coach. Recently, I got a nanny. Raising kids by yourself is not easy.
I’ve changed. My kid has changed. But I trip up and so does he. Change can happen in a moment, but certain things take time. Most of us don’t even think about the things we’re thinking about. Suddenly we catch ourselves feeling down, or having made a stupid decision because we thought things we weren’t even aware of, or used the wrong thought patterns to reach a conclusion. A decision.
What you think is reality, isn’t real. Your thoughts are what’s making it real to you. A dog sees the world completely different from you because they have a different sensory perception. Another human will see the world differently from you because they have different thought processing.
When you are surrounded by people who try to put your down, or are moping about life, or are otherwise not a positive influence, it takes a strong conviction that you are OK, that life can be beautiful and that there are beautiful people our there, not to be run down by the other people. That conviction, or those thoughts, mean you can go unscathed through a crowd of miserable people.
Life is filled with good and bad. You choose what to focus on.
Maria Montgomery is a writer, director and producer. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.