Dealing with other people’s words during recovery can hurt. The things they say can cut deep to your core and cause you to slip or, you can work to let them roll off your shoulder. It’s a choice we have to make as part of recovering from ED and one that helped me to really get to a place of peace.
For a long time, I lived in fear of what other people were going to say to me and how they would comment on my behavior, eating habits, and personality.
In the depths of my anorexia, I didn’t eat like everyone else, I didn’t talk, and I didn’t act happy. People were bound to make triggering remarks – things like “You’re so quiet, why don’t you talk more?” or “She doesn’t eat!” and the worst one – “What’s wrong with her?”
I’ve heard all of these comments – either asked to my face or said behind my back – and they hurt like hell. I’m a sensitive person to begin with, so hearing these criticisms made me question my worth and my relationship with family and friends.
“Why did they say such nasty things? Didn’t they know that I was falling apart inside?”
The answer is no. And that was what I didn’t understand.
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They had no clue that I was crumbling inside. Heck, they didn’t even know I had an eating disorder or would panic in social situations.
How could I think they wouldn’t say things like this? I wasn’t normal, and when you’re not like everyone else, people question that.
When I came home from school in tears, my mom would always tell me that people just didn’t know how to handle someone who didn’t talk or wasn’t like them. She said it was natural for them to pick on and judge people they didn’t understand.
And when I was finally able to realize that what these people were saying was actually a result of lacking the proper information, I began to let their words go. Yes, it still hurt to hear the things said, but I knew it wasn’t personal.
I also learned the important lesson that you can’t control what people say.
In the real world, people are not always going to be on the lookout for you and your feelings. That’s your job – a seemingly harsh reality, but important to remember. When people make judgments that trigger you and your struggles, what you do with their opinion is within your control. You choose what you’re going to do next.
Will you allow their remark to get under your skin or will you focus on moving on?
It’s easier said than done, but here are some tools I’ve used to make it easier:
- Write them down. Record the painful comments in a journal – ponder them, think about them, sleep on them. Sometimes, trying to fully understand what someone meant can bring clarity to the statement and make it more constructive. Alternatively, you can symbolically destroy the negativity by ripping the words up once they’re written down.
- Stop caring. Why is it so important that people understand you and your disorder or anxiety? Maybe they don’t have to, and maybe the key is learning to accept yourself instead of searching for others’ acceptance. James Frey said, “If you care about what others think of you, then you will always be their slave.” Be free and let it go.
- Stand up. When someone says something that hurts you, let them know. After you explain, you might find that they just aren’t thinking through what they’re saying.
- Stop hanging out with them. If there are people who really get to you and are especially triggering, you may need a break from them. It’s okay to set that boundary for yourself. You know what’s best for you. You just need to learn how to honor that knowledge.
- Laugh at yourself. This one can be tricky but I’ve found it to be really helpful. When someone says something triggering, laugh. Just laugh and pretend to go along with it. Sometimes taking a step back and looking at yourself from another perspective is helpful. Maybe your behaviors are really weird or the food you are eating is just extremely strange. Take a moment to really look at yourself and laugh.
Remember – people can and will speak their mind, and they might hurt you; you can choose to ignore it, or let it get to you; the choice is yours.
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