Guzzling Venom

a glass jar with red liquid in it

I take criticism from other people very much to heart – perhaps too much to heart. Sadly, compliments tend to roll right off my back.

If someone gives me a compliment, especially if it’s very global and nonspecific such as, “You know, you’re a really wonderful person,” I immediately begin an investigation in my brain, questioning their motives for doing so. What does this person want from me? I ask myself. Usually, I’ll conclude that they’re just being polite. The less I know them, the more likely I am to at least entertain that they’re on to something, especially if the compliment is specific and something I haven’t heard before. Actual example, “You know what’s refreshing about you? You’re not someone who accepts the status quo,” from someone I’d never met before after we’d been chatting for about 20 minutes. I believed that one.

I’ve learned that people find it obnoxious when you verbally reject their compliments so my usual tactic has been to thank them and quickly change the subject. Well, with non-partners. With romantic partners, I’ve typically asked them to be more specific in a lawyerly and cross-examination-style fashion. Super charming, I know. I’m working on it.

I’ve joked that my superpower is being impervious to compliments, and there’s some truth there.

Meanwhile, someone I’m close to can tell me I’m a jerk and a bad communicator once or twice, and even if we suffer a falling out and they demonstrate themselves wildly emotionally unintelligent in the process, I still think, “Hmm… they may have been on to something.” And I find myself defensive, confused, lingering in the moment of the insult for literal years after its passage.

There’s little wonder that I’m fundamentally insecure, given this. I spit out the life-saving medicine and guzzle the venom. It is profoundly fucked up.

Normally, I acknowledge this, shrug my shoulders, give a “gee whiz” sort of helpless expression, and then shuffle onto the other fires burning in my brain and work/life that I need to put out and never address it.

Today, I’m going to do something a little different. I need to. It’s about damn time.

I’m going to work on adopting a new belief. I don’t quite believe it yet, but I want to believe it, and I suspect it’s true, having watched this play out with other people that I can watch in a more unbiased fashion (any interactions that don’t directly involve me I’m historically very good at reading).

New belief:

When people are being terrible, they just spew random insults. Sometimes it’s like they insult you in random ways and watch your reaction to see which ones hurt you and then they make sure to insult you in that way over and over, pushing your buttons so they can “win” and get what they want. They do this especially when they’re insecure themselves and desperate for control. The result of this is you come away with all these ridiculous insecurities that were basically implanted in you by people who wanted power and control.

The insecure emotional vampire has bitten you and turned you into a vampire yourself.

So, despite how terrifying it feels to take this route, I’m consciously choosing to stop being a vampire and to step into the light. I only THINK it will turn me to dust. I’ll be just fine. In fact, I’ll be awesome.

I’ve had it backwards. I’m worthy. There are good things about me. I’m choosing to believe that. At least a little bit. Today.

P.S. While I wrote this, a friend complimented me (“you’re really good at managing people”), and I got to practice. It went okay. I’m choosing to believe her.

 

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