Have you ever met a seemingly confident person who was sarcastic with you up to the point of you feeling offended? Perhaps they joked and you took it too literally and pretended that you didn’t get it. Or maybe you’ve read a Facebook post about gender equality, climate change, or politics that you strongly disagreed with so you decided to sweat over your keyboard just to let people know exactly how you felt. Every now and then, we all take offence. But does it emotionally affect you? If yes, then maybe it’s good to slow down and question why you’re getting offended.
Adapt your self-image
When I was a kid, I couldn’t laugh at myself. I was taking things too seriously and was even jealous of other kids who would throw jokes, be chill, and just have fun. I, however, couldn’t handle jokes when they were thrown at me. I tried to escape any situation which could involve public appearances, group activities, and presentations. I simply couldn’t stand the thought of doing something silly which could result in humiliation.
Simply put, I was afraid of not being accepted.
But why? Why did the opinion of others matter to me so much?
Let’s take a quick look at what science says about it:
“An offence is a wound, an injury to the soul, an attack to something even more important than the integrity of our body: our image. We feel offended every time we think that someone conceives – and possibly communicates to ourselves or others – an evaluation of us that is worse or lower than one we think we deserve.” – (excerpt from study)
So if it’s mostly about our self-image, why are we holding on to it so tightly?
Our ‘self-image’ is how we see ourselves. It’s constructed from many different things, like values, beliefs, habits, experiences, and the opinions of other people. But most importantly, our self-image always changes, unless we hold on to the particular image we perceive to be the correct vision of who we are. We fail to achieve a free flow of our self-image because we’re so attached to it.
For example, when someone tells you something that doesn’t fit into your picture of who you are, your brain tries to protect it by taking offence. In other words, you become self-centered and consumed by your own frustrations.
It’s a trap…
The first thing to do is to become aware of your emotions and feelings. Quite often, we hardly recognise how we feel because we’re so used to it. Buddhists practise detachment from their self-image. They believe that the less you identify yourself with your ego, the more control you have over your emotions. And that’s because you won’t be stuck with just one perception of yourself. You can be whoever the f*ck you want to be, at any given moment.
I recommend reading a book by Maxwell Maltz, called Psycho-Cybernetics, to learn more about self-image.
Live up to your values
A person’s self-image and real image are tightly connected since they determine each other. But a person’s adaptation mainly depends on their self-confidence, which is preserved when their self-image is not too dependent on the opinions others have of them.
“To achieve an independent judgment, we make up our own set of values; the criteria of evaluation with respect to which we will evaluate ourselves, in order to our positive self-image, and stick to them, even if they are not the same against which others evaluate us.” – (excerpt from study).
Practically, you can sit down, take a pen and paper, and write down everything that you believe is important to you. It could be anything, like gratitude, wealth, health, relationships, and so on.
The second part is much harder. You need to live up to your own values. And this leads to developing integrity. But that doesn’t come on its own. Are you keeping all of your promises? Are you honest in all of your communications? Do you do what you say you will?
You see, it’s more difficult to get offended by anyone if you firmly stand by your values and don’t take notice of opinions.
Similarly, it’s easy to take it easy when you know you’re good at something.
In school, athleticism and sports were very important to me, and my behaviour and actions proved that. I wasn’t shy because it was one of the areas I could excel in, and I was proud of that. It was also interesting to see my “funny” classmates become not-so-funny anymore when they couldn’t perform in sports.
I believe we shouldn’t allow our weaknesses or our strengths identify who we are. Which is very easy to do when we take things too seriously.
Watch stand-up comedy
Just watch how comedians use spontaneity and free-flow of their character. People who are able to perceive life’s situations through the lens of
You basically don’t take anything personally.
That’s why comedians can joke about themselves, are willing to be vulnerable, and make others laugh at it. When you learn to do that, you become invisible. Take a few minutes to watch Steve Hughes making this really clear.
In fact, most stand-up comedians started in the playground when they were bullied. It starts off as a defence mechanism and ends up as empowerment. That’s why humour can be a force for human growth.
What I love about stand-up is that it teaches me how to take my insecurities, fears, and false beliefs, and turn them into jokes.
Finally, once you get over people’s opinions about you and what you do, life becomes easier and you don’t need to spend your mental energy on defending yourself. Even if you only do it in your head. Better to take that time and energy and go do something good with it.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy the next one. Just make sure you don’t miss it!