We all have times when our feelings are hurt. Being in the online space, I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant comments over the years. Often we find that in a sea of positive comments, one person says something negative or unkind, and that bursts our bubble and sends us into a spiral of despair over how utterly awful we must be.
There are endless articles on the internet about what to do if someone hurts your feelings, but I wanted to share a different take on it…
Here is an example: you’re scrolling through Facebook when you realise you’ve not seen a post from a particular person in a while, so you go and search for them to see what they’ve been up to. At this point you realise the reason you’ve not seen anything from them is that they unfriended you. You feel hurt and upset that they would do that; you thought you were friends!
Who hurt your feelings?
For most of us our answer here would be: The person who unfriended me hurt my feelings. But let’s look at it from a different angle. If they were the cause of how you are feeling, you would have felt like this the moment they hit the “unfriend” button.
The truth is that you didn’t feel like this until you knew it had happened – therefore the cause of your hurt feelings is not the other person’s actions, but rather your response to finding out.
What does this mean?
There is little point in telling yourself you shouldn’t feel this way, that you are wrong to feel hurt. How you feel is how you feel; there’s no point in trying to change that through shaming or should-ing.
That said, once we understand that the way we feel was caused by our own reaction, rather than the other person’s actions, we are empowered to make a change.
If the other person has caused how you feel, you are at the mercy of their actions to determine how you will feel later today, tomorrow, next week.
If you are the cause of how you feel, you can take control and decide you want to react and feel differently.
This is not about the usual defensive declarations of This person is not worthy of my hurt feelings. It’s not about the other person at all, in fact. It’s about you, and whether you are worthy of feeling good.
We are all worthy of feeling good!
The first time you consider this approach, the voice in your head will probably complain, But I still feel bad!
The question is: Who has the power to change how you feel? And the answer will always be: You.
How do you stop feeling bad?
Many of us will opt for distraction techniques when we want to stop feeling bad, but that can actually cause more suffering as our mind is caught up in this hurt feeling. When we try to resist what is happening, we just suffer more. It can be helpful then to say to ourselves: Ok, I am reacting negatively and I don’t feel good.
One way to approach this is to switch things around. Just as above we switchted the situation so that the cause of the hurt feelings was our own reaction, we can also switch around the reason the person decided they no longer wanted to be our Facebook friend.
Often when we find that someone has unfriended us on social media, we think we must have said or done something that has offended us; it must be our fault. But what if we reframe it? In the same way that your reaction is the cause of your hurt feelings, the other person’s reaction to your actions is their own problem. Perhaps they were having a bad day and couldn’t deal with having so much going on in their newsfeed. Perhaps they disagree with you politically and unfriended you rather than argue or have their beliefs challenged. Perhaps they did it by accident.
Whatever caused this situation, it was that person’s actions, not yours. Because they are in charge of their reaction to what goes on around them.
This is about more than just Facebook.
I have used the example of people unfriending us on Facebook in this post because it is easy to explain, and something to which most of us can relate.
But this approach can be applied to any situation in life.
We are all responsible for our own actions and reactions.
Whatever another person says or does, we are all responsible for how we respond to them. It can be hard not to be triggered, and sometimes we react in an instant, before we can calm ourselves down.
If we can stop and slow ourselves down each time, it becomes easier to delay that snap reaction and to take control of how we respond.
If this post has struck a chord with you and you feel that you might need some help to deal with your issues, therapy is a great place to start. BetterHelp offers online, professional, affordable therapy.