If you've been called "sensitive" lately, this is for you

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
               -Eleanor Roosevelt

This is one of my mama's favorite quotes.  She likes to remind me of this when I am feeling particularly crappy.  Her take is that you have a choice when unpleasant things happen.  You can either take whatever thing someone has said or done to you and internalize it as truth or you can say "nope" to the whole kit and caboodle and not accept the crappy thing and move on.  (She was pretty much advocating for "resilience" before that word that got thrown around a lot)

That sounds mostly reasonable.  You can't control what other people do or say, but you can control how you respond to those things.

However, I did say "mostly reasonable."  Because to me, on further evaluation, Mrs. Roosevelt was cooking up some bullshit.

People are always gonna try and tear you down.  People are mean.  People are thoughtless.  People are shitty.

Saying that it takes my consent for someone to make me feel inferior is saying that I have allowed someone to treat me badly or that I welcomed unconscionable treatment.  It's saying that it's my fault if someone's thoughtlessness or deliberate cruelty upsets me.  But of course it upsets me, it's UPSETTING by definition.  This sort of thinking says that bullies don't exist and the bullied are merely "thin-skinned" or "sensitive" or "reading too much into it."

I reject this line of thinking.  I think that if you're constantly told you're stupid or crappy or "inferior" in any way, that message is going to internalize and is gonna you make you feel bad.  You didn't offer your consent for that.  You didn't choose that.  No one would choose that.

But, I do get where my Mama was going with this.  She wanted me to be able to metaphorically fall and get back up again, to brush myself off and keep going.  And she's right and that's a great sentiment.  Resilience is important.

But so is recognizing that it's not your fault when people treat you like crap.  You didn't ask for this.  You didn't do this.  It's not your fault.

You can be resilient and "sensitive."  Those are not two mutually exclusive states of being.

As a human being, I strive to be resilient, but I'm okay being "sensitive" too.  I think it's my responsibility (and the responsibility of every other human being) to not be mean, to not be a bully, to be thoughtful instead of thoughtless, and, in general, to try to avoid being a shitty person.

I try.  Sometimes I fail.  But when I fail, that's on me, not on the person I was shitty towards.

I'm pretty sure Mrs. Roosevelt was wrong on this one.


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