Protecting our Mental Wellbeing: Choosing What Enters and Affects Our Psychological Space
In our everyday lives, most of us would have encountered situations where people’s words hurt and affected us.
Whether it is a relative asking why we are still single, a loved one body-shaming us, or a family member judging our career choices etc., words can be really hurtful and certain comments or questions oftentimes linger in our minds for a while and affect us.
It is completely natural for us to be affected by such instances and it is a common struggle for so many of us. So how we do we take care of such incidents and more importantly, their impacts on us?
The key to managing is to first recognize that when others say something to us, we DO NOT need to take in what they say straight away and as they said it! We have the CHOICE to first pause, and evaluate what was directed at us. After evaluating, we have the choice again to decide if we wish to accept what they said and whether their words should affect us or not.
Simply knowing that we have the CHOICE to evaluate and decide can be very liberating.
This allows us to realize that we are not chained to the meanings and effects of other people’s words. Instead, we can CHOOSE FOR OURSELVES whether we want to accept them and/or be affected.
Now, you may ask, ‘How can I evaluate what others say?’
Here are some suggestions on how you can evaluate; you may also decide if these align with what is comfortable for you:
Evaluate whether the person has full, accurate information
Assess whether the other person knows the full and accurate story about you or your situation to make a fair and reasonable comment.
Sometimes, people pass a comment about you or your situation based only on one or some part of the whole picture that they are aware of. For example, you may have a diet plan which involves you eating healthily on weekdays and indulging in the food you like on weekends. Your friend who happens to meet you during the weekends may judge you for not putting in the effort to lose weight. Using this strategy, you can decide not to accept your friend’s words as he or she is commenting simply based on observing you on a weekend, and not understanding your diet plan as a whole.
Evaluate if other people’s words are only a reflection of us, or also a reflection of them
When others say something insulting or hurtful, it’s natural for us to think that their words are a reflection of us, that we are not good enough or we are entirely at fault. Whilst it’s important for us to assess if we have done anything to contribute to others’ words or judgment, it’s critical to realize that other people’s words could also be a reflection of them, such as their personality, background, and issues.
For example, a bully may criticize you for your appearance. Whilst it’s natural for you to judge yourself for not being good enough in your appearance, the bully’s words may be a reflection of his/her issues rather than be a reflection of you. In fact, the typical psychology of a bully is someone who has a low sense of self and needs to bully others in order to make himself/herself feel better.
Evaluate if the other person has similar or different values, beliefs, and priorities from you
Often, people make comments based on their individual set of values, beliefs, and priorities.
For example, a relative at a family gathering may judge you for not getting married by a certain age. Perhaps your relative may value reaching certain norms or milestones set by society as being important whilst you believe that finding the right partner is the priority. Thus, if the other person has a different value, belief, or priority, you can then decide not to allow his or her words to affect you. In this case, you can assess the relative’s judgment not to be indicative that ‘you are not good enough to find a partner but rather a reflection of a difference in values, beliefs, and priorities between you and your relative.
When using this strategy, it does not mean that we turn a blind eye to our own flaws. It is critical that we objectively evaluate ourselves and consider if we played any part in contributing to others’ words. After evaluating, if we assess that others are providing constructive feedback, genuinely mean well for us, and want us to grow, then it will be important that we take in their comments so that we can further develop and learn as an individual.
In essence, whilst others’ words and actions are not within our control, we have full choice over our inner psychological space and we can decide what enters in to influence our mental well-being. Whenever someone says or does something directed at us, CHOOSE FOR OURSELVES, to pause, evaluate the person’s words or actions, and decide whether to allow them to affect you.
Take action to protect your mental well-being today!