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Last night a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook, as I was composing an answer they apparently deleted the post, but I found it quite interesting, it is something I’ve wrestled with in the past and even today I find I have to remind myself what I’ve learned from therapy, when this question revisits my head.

“Why does it take one person to make you feel worthless?”

I used to always say “when she said ____ it really made me feel _____.” I made the mistake of saying that in therapy and boy did I get an ear full. I’ve probably even said it here on this blog before, because it’s something we hear all the time, I’m sure I’ve said it in conversation recently, in fact, I know I have in regard to the Support Group I’m starting.

It’s so easy to blame our feelings on other people, to fall into the ‘victim’ role and to believe other people control our moods, our happiness, and the way we think about ourselves. If I remember correctly, my therapist considered that kind of thinking a ‘defensive mechanism’, a way we protect ourselves from having to deal with unpleasant things about us and the way we choose to handle things in our day to day life.

Recently, when looking for a location for my Support Group to meet, I and another individual had been making numerous contacts with local churches, organizations, etc. and we were running into the same obstacle over and over again. We were getting quite frustrated and I was starting to worry that we weren’t going to have a location to meet at before our first official meeting. I posted on the Support Group page on Facebook that I would appreciate some ideas from others in the group, surely I was overlooking possible locations. One woman commented, “Oh ____, it’s Williamsport, for heaven’s sake, you should be able to find something!!!”

I told the Sponsor that I thought that woman’s comment was less than helpful and in fact she made me feel stupid for even asking for the help. I realized after, that she didn’t make me feel anything… I was already feeling insecure about getting things accomplished, feeling that I was letting other people down and doubting my ability to facilitate the group. When she said that, it just brought to the surface everything I had already been feeling.

I think when we feel ‘worthless’ or ‘inadequate’ (as I felt in trying to manage important details regarding my group), those feelings are already inside us, they are what fuel our insecurities, self doubt and lack of self-esteem.

I know that I spend a lot of time in self-examination, introspective thought, trying to figure out my role in the dynamics of relationships and situations that occur. I always, immediately, take the blame and responsibility for things not going well, so when someone says something that resonates with those feelings it’s a whole lot easier to be angry with the person that triggered those feelings than to deal with my own issues.

I asked another friend, who has helped me, in the past, to process these kinds of feelings, what they thought about the question “Why does it take one person to make you feel worthless?” and the answer confirmed what I had been told in therapy… “your worth should not be based upon another person and their opinion or the way they treat you. If you feel that way then maybe you need to dig a little deeper inside.”

My friend also reminded me that often those feelings are brought to the surface by the ‘old tapes’ that we play over and over in our heads. We keep revisiting the feelings we’ve had about ourselves in the past, things that have happened, been said, etc., that we accepted as ‘truths’ about ourselves.

When I’d gone to this friend for support, when the comment I mentioned above was made, that was the first thing they reminded me of… ‘that comment triggered the old tapes.’ Surely the woman who’d said that didn’t mean to be condescending, but rather was trying to encourage, though certainly in a clumsy way. It had more to do with how I’d interpreted what she’d said, than with her actual words.

I was already feeling badly about myself because I was struggling so much with the situation, so when she made that statement, it brought all that self doubt to the surface, in my head it reaffirmed the negative feelings I was having about myself.

So, I guess my answer to “Why does it take one person to make you feel worthless?” is that it doesn’t! How we feel about ourselves is inside us, it is about our acknowledgment or our denial of our own shortcomings and faults, when we are reminded of them as a result of the actions of others. It has more to do with what we do internally with things that are said and done, than it does with the actual comments or actions outside of ourselves.

I’m still working on this, I think we all are, perhaps on different levels, perhaps at different stages of understanding, but we all are working on improving who we are and how we cope with life. It’s a difficult realization that other people aren’t responsible for our happiness, success or sorrow, but that we, ourselves, are, because it forces us into a position of responsibility rather than that of victim.

Healing happens in small steps, over time and only when we become honest with and accept responsibility for ourselves.