By now, if you're following along on this blog, you know I'm sensitive, I often feel like a fraud, I take a tough love approach to... everything, I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others, I'm a Type-A perfectionist, I'm a realist, and I don't like waiting. Among many other things. I also take the things people say to me to heart, even when I tell myself it's not worth it. I can't help myself. If someone says something that could be taken negatively, I have the following thoughts, sometimes within a matter of seconds, other times over several days:
- "Hmmm... is that a compliment or an insult?"
- "I think that may be an insult. I'll pretend it's a compliment."
- "No, that was definitely a dig."
- "But I'm sure they're just teasing."
- "Yeah. They're kidding. They forgot that little winky emoji that says, 'Just kiddin', not really,' but okay."
- "I think I've become too dependent on emojis to ascertain the intent behind the things people say."
- "Oh, well. Even if they did mean that as an insult, who cares? They probably misunderstood the thing I orginally said, which led them to say what they said."
- "I should ask them what they meant."
- "NO, I SHOULDN'T. That violates Section 3.9.3012 of the Non-Confrontational Code, which supercedes all other codes of conduct in the Life of Brea Brown. Der."
- "Got it. Moving on."
- "But hang on. What do they mean by that word? It doesn't fit in this situation as a compliment or an insult."
- "Even so, am I [fill in blank with the word]? I don't think I am, but maybe I am."
- "Maybe I'm not sure what that word means." *looks up word and spends embarrassing number of minutes looking up synonyms of the word*
- "No. That still doesn't fit. I'm pretty self-aware, too."
- "But doesn't everyone think they're self-aware?"
- "Hang on! I bet they were being facetious." *goes back over conversation and applies ironic tone to other person's statement*
- "Hmm.. Now that really doesn't make sense."
- "Or maybe autocorrect is to blame here. Maybe they didn't mean that word at all. Stupid autocorrect!" *looks at computer and phone keyboards to analyze what intended word may have been* *scratches head*
- "Maybe they think that means something else. Like, 'amazing.' (Or, more likely, 'neurotic.')"
- "Okay, never mind. I'm just going to laugh it off and forget it. It's not worth it."
- "What do they know, anyway? I'm not [fill in blank with word]. Am I? No. Well, maybe a little. Sometimes."
Inevitably, it emerges that the person misspoke (or mistyped) or says, "Oh, I always get that word confused with [word that doesn't mean remotely the same thing or rhyme or have any relation whatsoever to the word used]." Or they were in a bad mood. Or that was on their word-of-the-day toilet paper, and they had a bet with a friend that they could use it in a sentence to thoroughly confuse and/or bring about an identity crisis in someone. Or maybe they know exactly what the word means and what they mean, and they think based on two seconds of knowing you on social media, they have you pegged.
In some cases, you'll never find out what the hell happened there. [Cue horrified shriek]
What's my ever-loving point, you must be wondering (or you wondered 500 words ago)? Hang on; give me a second to remember. Oh, yeah. The point is... thanks to technology, we can have thousands of interactions a day, which means there are thousands of opportunities for not only misunderstanding but needless belly-button staring brought on by a carelessly typed word or phrase. And for those of us prone to allowing others' perceptions of us define us, that's a lot of opportunity for paranoid brain ramblings.
In case you were wondering, I don't really think all of those things above (yes, I do), and I'm not that concerned with what people think of me (yes, I am), and I can totally laugh at myself (actually, I can, oddly enough), so you shouldn't tiptoe around me like I'm judging everything you say, because I'm not (most of the time). Someone did once say I was pedantic, but I'm pretty sure she thought that meant, "pedagogical," which I totally take as a compliment, so I never stare into space wondering, "Am I pedantic, like so-and-so said that one time... two decades ago?"
(Anyway, I already knew I was before she said it, so the joke's on her.)
In all seriousness, although it shouldn't be our only source of information about ourselves, other people's perceptions of us are important. If nothing else, they tell us how we're presenting ourselves--consciously or otherwise--to the rest of the world. I really do try not to let things that people say to or about me take too deep a hold, but only a fool disregards every observation. That suggests an uncomfortable level of arrogance.
On the flip side, we'd all do well to remember that words are powerful, and it's always good to think before we toss a word at someone that could stick with them for the rest of their lives.
So, what (good or bad) did someone call you at some time in your life that has stuck with you--even defined you--the most? Share it in the comments!