Help in Moving On: When Others Misperceive You and It Makes you Want to Scream!

July 2, 2013

Positive-ThinkingMy mother is one of the smartest people that I know.  I have gone to her for every problem I have ever suffered through.  Over the years I have come to see my mom as one the world’s greatest advocates of “turning the other cheek”.  She is not a fan of putting one’s head in the sand, but feels that staying true to oneself – even when others have nasty things to say about you – is, in the end, the best way of pushing through life and coming out the other end as a happy, well-adjusted person.

So, for those of you who are suffering under the oppression of other people’s negativity towards you, here is some advice that my brother and I were raised with and that, in turn, we both rely on when raising our children.  I asked my mom to write up her philosophy on this topic.

The Question:

When your spouse, ex-spouse, friend, or former friend personifies you in a way that is demeaning, hurtful and incorrect, how can you avoid the personal pain that is caused by such misconception?

The Answer:

First off, you must know that the image portrayed and accepted by these persons may be permanently installed in the folklore of their family (friends), and is NOT you.  Think of this image as an invention of someone else’s imagination shared at your expense.

What to do?  You must rise above it all BECAUSE you know who you are and this image built around one single version of you is not you.   You also know that you are being pushed down so that those pushing you down can appear higher (right, superior, the winner, whatever).

You must know yourself and who you are so well that nothing can shake you (otherwise you won’t survive.)  You must feel so right about decisions you make and things you choose to do that it does not matter what those around you say.  You are as entitled to an opinion as they are.

Do not worry that former friends now taunt you.  They are no longer friends.  They were friends not worth having.  It may worry you that they do not like you, but plenty of people do like you.  Shift your attention to those people.  Remember, no one is liked by everyone.

And remember, also, when you are put down by a friend or former friend, spouse or ex spouse, despite what they may think, they do not run the world.  They are just one voice and not necessarily the voice of wisdom and reason that they may think themselves to be. Treat them with the same type of respect as you would accord a next door neighbor that you weren’t really close with, but had to deal with occasionally (or even often).  Don’t expect anything gratuitous from them and then you won’t be disappointed when they say hurtful things to you or about it.  It will just be business as usual.

When you know you have to come into contract with one of these ex-friends who is going to put you down, even ever so subtly, practice a mantra in your head: “I’m not listening to what you are saying, I’m not listening to what you are saying, I’m not listening to what you are saying”  Then, you will hardly what they have to say and it won’t hurt nearly as much as it otherwise would, or even at all.  Eventually you won’t hear what they are saying.  Eventually they might even notice that you hardly hear what they are saying and will stop wasting their breath.

Here is some wisdom that I recently found in an art magazine, regarding artists who are hurt by critics and even other artists (my mom is a collage artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia):

“When someone says, either in veiled language or in no uncertain terms, that you are an idiot, have no talent…often your reaction will be a hard-to-tolerate emotional response that shifts your world.  Nearly everyone has a strong, visceral reaction to being criticized, humiliated or shamed.  …Some very advanced or very detached human beings may be able to avoid these feelings.  For the rest of us, we feel them.  What to do?  The author continues (and I will summarize):

  1. Acknowledge to yourself that you just got slapped in the face, or worse.
  2. Realize that nothing important really happened.  What hit you is only one person’s opinion.
  3. Engage in a courageous personal assessment of the situation.  Maybe what they said is true and maybe that is the way you want to be.  Maybe they only took one part of your personality that they did not like and used it to define your whose being.  Maybe they are totally unqualified to pass judgment on you at all….like when a realistic painter feels an abstract painter isn’t really a painter…or a person who writes poems that do not rhyme is really not a real poet…etc…etc.

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator with Gwendolyn Graine of

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


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