My best friend is great, but every so often they say something so hurtful it reduces me to tears.
I can relate, says our elder. Start out by being your own best friend.
If someone was doing something that made you feel worthless – like genuine garbage – however unintentionally and however great they usually are (as in nine times out of 10 they’re great, but there’s that one that has happened several times that has you sitting in tears wondering why the hell no one likes you), would you confront them or pretend like it doesn’t happen because it’s the minority of their personality that probably won’t change) or just stop talking to them in general? This is about my best friend, by the way.
It must be so hurtful to have your best friend, someone you admire, say something that makes you feel worthless. It makes you feel that no one likes you. My heart goes out to you. They say that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Not true! Words are very powerful; they can harm or they can heal. I still remember the shame and self-loathing I felt when I was young and someone said something hurtful to me. I’m so glad you wrote, because I would like to share some things that might be helpful.
When I was young, I was very sensitive, as I imagine you are. I received a lot of criticism. If I did something good, it was ignored. I had low self-worth. Because of that, I looked to other people to assure me that I was worthwhile. When someone said hurtful things about me, I believed them because I still had those critical “tapes” in my head. Sometimes, I got angry at them, but mostly I felt bad about myself. It was hard to make friends.
As I got older, I tried to get help. I read a lot, and saw a therapist. I began to understand why people feel and act the way they do. A big insight was realizing that when someone criticizes me, it is often that they are really talking about themselves and their own fears. Putting the blame on someone else feels better! I began to understand that I had to love and respect myself if I wanted the same from others. This may be why your friend does or says something hurtful. But is it possible that she didn’t want to hurt you? Since you didn’t say anything, how could she know? I have a friend; someone I’ve known for ten years. We get along fine, so I was surprised when he got angry at me recently. He snapped, “You never say thank you!” When I thought about it, I realized that I just took for granted that he knew how much I appreciated him. But since I didn’t tell him, how was he supposed to know? And because he wasn’t telling me his feelings for a long time, he finally blew up in anger.
This leads me back to you. You wonder if you should share your feelings with your friend, pretend it doesn’t happen, or even stop talking. Pretending doesn’t work, because you know it happened, and you feel bad. You could choose to stop talking, but then you would lose a friend – and still feel badly. I’d opt for the first choice, telling your friend how you feel. You don’t know what response you will get, but it could be the beginning of a more authentic relationship. Someone once told me that a healthy relationship is one where each person feels free to be vulnerable and be themselves, it’s possible that you may lose a friend. But, if so, is a friendship worth saving if you can’t be open and honest? It’s good to have a best friend, but your absolute best friend must be you! People treat you the way you expect – and sometimes demand – to be treated.
How did I stop being so hurt by other people’s thoughtlessness or unkindness? I realized that there will always be those who like and respect me, and some who don’t. So what? As long as I like and respect myself! But I knew that I had to work on building up my own self-worth and self-respect. Eventually, what someone thought or said about me wasn’t that important; I realized that no one can “make” me feel bad. I learned to be my best friend, and to stand up for myself. I made friends who would be supportive. I did things that contribute to my feeling good about myself, like learning something new, getting involved in causes I believe in, and volunteering to help others.
I am so glad you wrote. I hope that sharing my own experiences and insights can be helpful. The more you are honest with yourself and other people, the easier it gets. Besides, you’ll feel better!
Article #: 462347