Last night I was watching a live stream from a well known blogger. She’s smart. She’s gorgeous. She works hard. And she’s accomplished. Ever the fan of “makeover” stories where people show commitment and determination to get from “Undesirable Point A” to “Desirable Point B,” I was getting sucked into her story: depressed goth girl who cuts herself and has an eating disorder turned radical self-love pioneer who finds personal success, happiness, and loves her life. #awesome
My reactions were pretty typical in this setting, from “You go girl!” to “Well done for working hard!” to feeling inspired by her capacity to turn it all around, but as I was reading the live comments under the post, I noticed how mean they were. They criticized her accent, her outfit, saying that her words don’t even matter and as I was thinking about this, I said out loud…
“Why do people have to be so mean?”
And it was a legitimate question in my mind, as though I honestly didn’t know the answer.
But then it occurred to me that I DID know the answer.
And I knew it really well. Because that used to be me. In high school I used to be a “mean girl.” Critical, judgmental, and cruel. I’d make fun of people for anything and everything. I’d always point out the negative. My motto was “life sucks and then you die.” I manipulated and controlled situations and probably made people’s lives a living hell. All of this saddens me.
It’s strange how much I’ve forgotten this side of myself as almost 20 years have passed and my ultra sensitive, gentle self has come out from hiding, where she went 20 years ago when life got really dark, hard, confusing, painful and traumatic. And all I knew how to do was harden, avoid, distract and spew the sadness in my heart onto other people.
And so when I was thinking about this, I knew how to answer the question, “Why do people have to be so mean?”
People are mean because they are hurting.
They are critical and judgmental of themselves and so they will be judgmental and critical of you. They expect perfection from themselves so they expect perfection from you. They are unhappy. Or feel stuck. Or have emotions they don’t know how to handle and so they take it out on you and the world and make shitty comments on the internet for no good reason.
They do it because it makes them feel powerful and better than you because they don’t inherently feel valuable, worthy and good. They do it to feel like they have some kind of control in their lives or something to prove. They do it because they don’t realize the impact they’re having and they don’t think it’s a big deal. And they do it because deep down they don’t love themselves so they can’t love you. And instead, have to be mean. I know this because I WAS this.
I recently had a situation where I was reminded of this. I was feeling criticized and belittled and small. And it was really easy for me, in those moments, to feel bad about myself and go into a spiral of negative self talk. Feeling unworthy of love, but grasping for it like an addict trying to cover up the pain.
But then I remembered something important…that most of time, when people treat you badly, it isn’t about you. But rather it’s a reflection of something inside themselves they aren’t addressing.
Our behaviors come from somewhere. They aren’t arbitrary. And often they come from our past traumatic experiences and our own suffering and pain. It reminds me of a lyric from my old band that says, “I never met a madman who didn’t have a cause, and I never met a pervert who didn’t have a broken heart.” Check out the song right here:
But even given that the way people treat us comes from somewhere, and we can be empathetic, we also still have a choice. We can either let it keep happening, or we can stop it. We can engage it, or we can ignore it. We can internalize it, or we can remove ourselves from it.
We can stay in “Undesirable Point A,” or we can try to get to “Desirable Point B” by pointing all our decisions towards B. Like the well-known blogger from the live stream who made a choice that NO MORE was she going to live how she previously lived. Like I did by standing up for myself to say that I won’t tolerate that kind of treatment. And like so many other decisions (big and small) we make constantly that help us be where we want to be in life.
And choice is everything.
Whether you’re being the “mean girl” right now, or you’re the victim of cruelty, you have a choice to turn it all around.
It only takes one decision and a desire to be different.
If you’re currently the mean girl, ask yourself, “what am I feeling about myself and my life right now that could be contributing to this?”
If you’re currently the victim of cruelty, ask yourself, “In what ways can I love myself and stand up for myself right now?”
Today, I’m choosing to love myself and love others to the best of my ability. And to know in myself when I’m being cruel. And to be aware of when my own pain is being used to hurt others. How about you?
None of us are perfect, and we will make mistakes. Sometimes we’ll be mean and cruel and sometimes we’ll be loving and kind.
But the best thing we can do is see the places of darkness inside ourselves and strive to bring in more light.
And we can prevent our own light from being dampened by outside negative forces. And to me, that’s what it means to live wildheart.
As you know, discussion is my favorite part of this blog, so I’d love to hear from you.
In the comments below let me know:
- Have you ever been on either side of this coin? Have you been the “mean girl/guy”? Have you been the victim of cruelty?
- What is one thing in your life right now you want to turn around?
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