Ever had a bully, a parent, or a friend give you a backhanded compliment, shoot off a zinger accusation, or jibe? They sting. And sometimes we can’t shake the barbs of those taunts – they continue to hang around us like a specter.
Since I hit puberty, I have fluctuated between a size 9 and a size 16. When you’re 5’3″ that’s a ginormous difference in size. I had taken a new job and spent all summer working out, eating healthy, sweating off weight until I got down from a size 14 to a size 10 in about 6 weeks. (I worked my butt off – hahaha.) I asked the head lifeguard, in a moment of rare vulnerability – had he noticed? Yeah, asking for it – I know. I’d caught him watching me the day before – and ladies, we know when a guy’s checking us out. I was puffed up with false confidence.
His reply: You could stand to lose a little more.
I went on to date that guy for 3 years, and that statement has honestly haunted me since I was 17. Have I lost enough weight yet? No matter what size I happen to be wearing – I hear his voice in my head: You could stand to lose a little more.
His opinion shouldn’t have mattered then and it certainly doesn’t now, but the real honest truth is that I agreed with him then and now. When I look in the mirror, I’m constantly comparing myself to some size I’ll probably never be able to maintain without hiring a personal trainer and chef. And maybe not even then.
It’s when the comment echoes our own beliefs or suspicions about ourselves that the taunts, jibes, and comments linger and haunt us.
How about: You’re such a tease. Yep, had that said to me. Reverse psychology sucks! And it was a heartless and mean thing to say, but those words echoed in my head for a very long time. Is there somebody in your life you just want to smack?
Sometimes it’s not a backhanded compliment, but something said more in the spirit of a prophecy. Someday, you’ll be a bestselling novelist. Marcy Kennedy’s post about her fear of success is spot on with this point. Have you nearly killed yourself trying to live up to someone else’s expectations?
Get To The Root Of The Issue
So, what can we do to overcome the taunts and specters of the past that haunt us? First, recognize what’s going on. You can’t fix a problem you don’t realize you have. Introspection can be very valuable as long as it spurs you to change purposefully. Second, search out the heart of the matter – why has it stuck with you? What fear does the specter confirm or bring out? Now, take the extra step and do the hard work of healing from that hurt. You’ve carried that extra baggage long enough. Dump it at the curb and walk away. And keep dropping it at the curb until it stays there.
Finally, sometimes these specters haunt us because we hear them all the time. Sometimes you need to rid yourself of the toxic people in your life, or create a boundary with the offending person. You’re just not going to go there anymore. And this is such a hard thing to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. When I told my parents (at 21, two years into a four year degree) that I was getting married, they were less than enthusiastic. Finally, I got sick of the trash talk and threatened to get married in my fiance’s home town 2,500 km from where they lived and hung up on them. I felt absolutely horrible for about ten minutes, and then was overtaken by euphoric freedom. My parents never crossed that boundary again.
Combat Lies With The Truth: Flip The Script
A good friend used to keep recipe cards in her purse. She had written out all the lies that she had a tendency to listen to (and which triggered depression). At the bottom of each card she’d written in large block letters GARBAGE! and on the back wrote out the truth to combat the lie. She said after just a few weeks of taking the card out everytime she was tempted to listen to the lie, she no longer needed the cards and was able to pull herself out of that downward spiral.
Is there a lie that you continue to listen to? Is there a toxic person in your life? How are you handling that situation? How are you identifying the garbage and finding the truth?