5 Ways To Stop Getting So ButtHurt

Did I offend you with the title to this article?  No?  Well you clearly have an edgy sense of humor and I like you already…oh wait the title did offend you?  Excellent!

My intent is not to offend or be the catalyst for controversy simply for the sake of it.  My intent is to enlighten you, open your eyes, get you to think for yourself, question things, and become a better and wiser person.  With the U.S. presidential election quickly approaching and many societal issues being brought to the forefront, I think it’s time to address the incessant whining and butthurtedness (yes I did just make that up) that I see and hear on Facebook/social media, the news, and thought expression in general.

“Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”

This endearing quote declaimed to me by my lovely mother is perhaps one of the wisest recitations I’ve ever heard.  Everybody (and I’m speaking in generalities here) has an opinion and not only that; they believe their opinion is right.  I mean, our opinion has to be right doesn’t it?  What would it say about me as a person if my opinion wasn’t right?  Would that make me a loser or even worse…WRONG?!

Alright I’ll cut the sarcasm and BS and actually get to the point.  The reason why people get offended by differing opinions, perceptively negative remarks, or anything else that challenges their belief system is because we as humans have this strange tendency to attach our sense of identity and self-worth to ideas, people, circumstances, and beliefs.  Additionally, we become heavily emotionally invested in these things which leaves us liable to experience negative emotional repercussions. Here’s an example…

I’m a die-hard Minnesota Vikings football fan (yeah, come at me bro).  For whatever reason, I’ve become emotionally invested in this specific football team and feel like they’re MY team.  I’ve invested in a key lanyard, a jacket, a jersey, several shirts, and other memorabilia.  I enjoy talking about them especially when they’re winning because, when they’re winning, I feel like a winner.  I feel like I made the right choice.  I’d be lying if I said my Sundays weren’t a tad better after a Vikings win.  On the other hand, when they’re losing I feel a noticeable degree of sadness.  I dislike when people talk trash about the team.  I hate when we fall in the power rankings.  I can rationalize it away (I have no impact on the game, the coaches, the players, etc.) but it’s near impossible to rationalize these emotions to the point that they no longer exist.

The interesting thing to note is that none of my emotions have anything to do with the team itself.  They have everything to do with how I perceive the team.  I’ve essentially attached a piece of my identity to the team as evidenced by referring to them as “my team” or saying that “I am a Vikings fan”.  This concept can be extrapolated to other abstractions and physical entities; really anything that you say or think is a part of you and your belief system.

Perhaps you’re not a football fan or don’t live in the U.S. in which case this example may seem silly or fail to resonate with you.  Perhaps something like a sports team is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things and I’m an idiot for feeling emotionally connected to one.  Well what about when someone criticizes your political or social views?  What about your weight or physical appearance?  What about your job, goals, or life ambitions?  What about your significant other or children?  It doesn’t mater if the criticism is direct or indirect; I’d be hard-pressed to find an individual who would not feel a sense of hurt given any of the above situations.

A lot of people tend to respond to incoming negativity with negativity of their own.  They become defensive, argumentative, troll, or dig their heels in even further.  If you don’t believe me scroll through the comments on any YouTube video or Facebook post.  Go up to someone in person and ask for their views on an issue, then proceed to challenge it without tact.  The result in most cases is going to be negative.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, famously said that between every stimulus and response is a space.  The space that Covey refers to is the opportunity to choose a response.  This is the difference between being proactive and reactive.  The reactive person sees a meme dissing Bernie Sanders and feels the need to comment vehemently at the ignorance of the content creator.  The reactive person interprets a stab at their physical appearance as a stab at their character and self-worth and reacts by shutting down, becoming angry, or lashing back at the perpetrator.  The reactive person cannot handle negative feedback or differences of opinion without feeling emotionally wounded.

What does the proactive person do and why is responding in this manner ideal?

1) The proactive person is able to understand that they are not fundamentally attached to the things that they believe. You are separate from your political views.  You are separate from your beliefs about the world.  You are separate from your physical appearance.  This might sound strange but stay with me…

If the U.S government didn’t exist tomorrow you would still be you.  If a paradigm you’ve entertained for years was suddenly crushed by new information you would still be you.  If you lost an eye you’d still be you.  What I’m getting at is that there is a core to every human being consisting of your personality, values, character, experiences, dreams, and everything else that makes you unique.  The proactive person understands that, while their opinions and beliefs are significant and do impact how they view and behave in the world, they do not define who they are and are able to rationally and maturely handle conflicts of opinion, negative remarks, and anything else that does not align with their point of view.

2) The proactive person does not not feel personally attacked when someone challenges their opinion because they understand that it is the opinion itself being challenged, not their character, values, or worth as an individual.  A stab at your choice of presidential candidate does not mean you are stupid or that you don’t understand politics or that you have a faulty belief and value system (are you noticing a theme here with all the political references?).  It simply means that the other person disagrees with you and that’s okay.  If you live your life trying to please others you will become a prisoner to them.

3) The proactive person handles conflict and difference of opinion with tact, emotional intelligence, and maturity.  They defend their side without feeling the need to change the other person’s mind.  They do not respond with anger, defensiveness, sadness, or any other negative reaction.  They are able to stand their ground, do their best to convey their side of the story, and leave it at that.  The proactive person does not troll, leave hateful comments, or purposely try to disparage others; they are secure in themselves and have the self-confidence necessary to handle negative feedback.  Responding to negativity with more negativity does not solve anything, convince anyone, or elevate consciousness in any manner.

4) The proactive person accepts that they might be wrong.  They understand they may lack the perspective and information necessary to completely back their point of view.  As a result, they are open to differing opinions and negative feedback.  They are open to learning and becoming more informed.  This doesn’t mean they will blindly accept criticism but they will do their best to remain open minded and learn as much as they can.

5) The proactive person understands the bigger picture.  They do not get bogged down in petty arguing or trolling; they realize life is constantly fleeting and that there are bigger, more substantial things to focus on such as love, philanthropy, connection, creation, giving, experience, and happiness.  Who cares if someone posts a video or comment about something you disagree with?  Why exert the energy responding to it when you can use that energy to actually experience life and do something that matters to you?

It really frustrates me that people spend so much time and energy defending themselves, arguing with others, trying to convince people that they’re right, trolling, and contributing to the excessive negativity on the internet and in the world.  Stop being so reactive and become proactive.  Focus on yourself and stop letting other people get under your skin so easily.  Every time you do that you give them power.  If you do feel the need to express your opinion or belief do so with tact, maturity, and emotional intelligence.  Add to the conversation, not the conflict.  Don’t challenge people, challenge ideas, circumstances, and paradigms.  Become part of the solution not the problem.  The alternative is to live your life perpetually butthurt.

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  1. Michael Blowers

    This post was written over a year ago and I think fails to make the distinction between values and beliefs. Beliefs are ideas we hold to be true whereas values are ideas we hold to be important (more or less). We get into trouble when unsubstantiated beliefs are vigorously defended as if true.

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