My family thinks that I get offended and defensive too easily. I admit I may be a little over sensitive to feeling insulted, but I am not going to just let people hurt my feelings without saying something. If people say or do things that hurt me, I’m not going to just ignore it. They claim they walk on egg shells around me, which hurts to hear (and frankly offends me), but I am willing to work on this because it’s not who I want to be. Could give me some advice?
Don’t be offended by your family or friends bringing this to your attention. They love you and want you to experience more peace and less unnecessary suffering.
This problem is usually tied to a subconscious victim mentality. It is highly likely that you experienced being insulted, put down, treated unfairly or wronged at some point in your life that has made you overly sensitive to these types of experiences. Your subconscious mind is now constantly on guard to protect you.
This behavior is also tied to your fear of failure (not being good enough) and your fear of loss (being taken from). When someone says anything that could possibly be interpreted to mean that you aren’t perfect, or is a sign they might take from you, you subconsciously see this person as the enemy and treat them accordingly.
The problem is that if this keeps up, you will eventually push everyone in your life away and you will be safe from harm, but you will also be alone.
Here are five principles that will help with this problem:
(I recommend you read these daily and commit to adopting them.)
1. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Most of the people in your life are good people who love you and mean you no harm. When they have moments of selfishness you must remember these are driven by their own fears of failure or loss. In that moment, they are worried about their own safety and can’t see how their behavior affects you. They do not intentionally mean to harm you, they just experience moments of oblivious selfishness. (You do the same thing when your fears get triggered.) When someone offends you, you can choose to see their behavior as unintentional, oblivious selfishness driven by fear. If you do this, you can let most offenses go. This person is more scared, than mean or bad.
2. Don’t take anything personally. Understand that 90 percent of what other people do or say is about their own fears and is not about you. Even behavior that looks and feels like an attack is actually about their fear. Don Miguel Ruiz in the book "The Four Agreements" says, “Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” Don’t make everything about you. When someone offends you, stop and put yourself in their shoes for a minute. What are they experiencing? What are they afraid of? What do they need in this moment? Choose to make this moment about showing up for them. (I realize you may feel unprotected here, but you are actually safer than you would be if you were defensive. Defense makes real the illusion that you can be hurt. Letting go of your need to defend, makes real the idea that you are bulletproof.)
3. See yourself as bulletproof. You are a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, infinitely valuable human soul. Your value is therefore infinite and absolute and cannot be changed by anyone or anything. Nothing anyone says or does to you can change your value or diminish you in any way, unless you choose to let it.
Because of this truth, any pain you suffer over the words or deeds of other people is self-inflicted. They can’t hurt you without your permission. Instead of getting defensive, which subconsciously means you see yourself as vulnerable, choose to put down your defenses and smile, consciously choosing to see yourself as bulletproof and indestructible. Remember how Superman just smiles while bank robbers shoot at him. He isn’t offended they are trying to kill him because he can’t be killed. Your ultimate protection lies in believing they can’t hurt you.
4. Decide not to be a victim. You get to choose how you want to experience your life and you have only two choices: You can see yourself as a vulnerable, weak, picked on, powerless victim in dangerous world, constantly at the mercy of all the bad things and bad people around you, or you can choose to see yourself as a strong, bulletproof, powerful creator of your life, in a beautiful world that is constantly serving you and who can’t be diminished by anything or anyone.
How do you want to live?
If you choose a victim mentality you may earn some sympathy love and pity from people around you, but you will not earn their respect. You will also be choosing a life of grief and unnecessary drama. I recommend you make it your official policy to see yourself as safe, and the world as a perfect classroom constantly conspiring to serve your process of becoming. Choose to see yourself and the world as safe and you will experience more joy and peace.
5. Choose a forgiveness mentality. You get to choose how you want to see other people and you have only two choices: You can see people as flawed, evil, guilty, messed up, mean and mostly undeserving of mercy and forgiveness, or you can see people as perfect, struggling, scared, divine, amazing students in the classroom of life, deserving of mercy, compassion and in need of education and learning.
But you must understand that what you choose for them you also choose for yourself.
If you choose a judgmental, condemning mindset toward others you will also subconsciously feel flawed, evil, guilty, messed up and undeserving of mercy and forgiveness. Your self-esteem will suffer and will never feel good enough.
That is just how it works.
If you choose to see all men as perfect, struggling, scared, divine, amazing students in the classroom of life, in need of more education and learning, you are going to feel better about yourself and have good self-esteem.
(If you don’t believe me this is true, experiment with it yourself.) I promise you get what you give. Choose to see everyone as good enough as they are and you will finally feel good enough yourself.
Understanding these principles will help you to see situations, people and yourself more accurately. You will now understand how fear affects their behavior and the fearful way you experience it. You will also have the power to choose love and truth instead.
If some of these concepts are new to you, you may need to re-read them and process them for a while. You may also want to work with a counselor or coach to improve your self-esteem and eliminate the fear behind your need to be offended.
(This article did not address serious mistreatment or abuse. If you are experiencing either, you should remove yourself from the situation and seek professional help. This article only addressed minor offenses and a propensity for drama and overreacting.)
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker. You can take a free fear assessment on her website to see if being offended is an issue for you.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.