The other day I was with my sister and I said something that wasn’t helpful. After the words left my mouth I could tell from her reaction that I had offended her, made her feel bad, and worst of all, judged. I noted it and then apologized.
Although we aren’t responsible for how someone takes what we’ve said, we are responsible for the words we speak. Taking responsibility for my words in this moment made me feel pretty badly, because the last thing I wanted was to hurt my sister.
On my way home I came to terms with the fact that I’d said what I did, but that didn’t mean I still wasn’t upset at myself for it.
So I started punishing myself for what I’d said.
I was punishing myself:
- By replaying the moment again and again
- By getting stuck in the pain I caused
- By thinking how mean my words were, which spiraled into questions like am I a bad person? Did I want her to feel bad?
I felt sad because I had made my sister sad, but dwelling and marinating within that sadness wasn’t going to help.
What I learned was that punishing myself for something I’ve done that I’m not proud of doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse. And the worse I feel the harder it is to speak in a kind, honest, and helpful way.
Punishing myself doesn’t change my interactions but reinforces them.
What then can we do instead?
- Commit to paying attention to the words we use
- Commit to speaking in a way that’s helpful to those we love – to recognize that we care for them, cherish them, want to help them feel good in this world – feel love, kindness, and acceptance
- Commit to helping someone suffer less
We can be upset for how we’ve talked to loved ones and strangers.
We can feel badly recognizing our wrongdoings, but the more we stay in that head space the more we beat ourselves up for what we’ve done, and the more pain we feel and in turn inflict.
The next time you are punishing yourself for something I invite you to feel the feeling, acknowledge your actions, and then let them go. One instance doesn’t mark you forever.
Detach from the event and commit to creating more helpful moments one moment at a time.by