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How to stop caring what others think?


solacean

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Over the last hour I've been on an emotional roller coaster, and all because of an Internet forum. And someday I'd like the roller coaster to stop and let me off.

 

First, some complete stranger responded to an innocuous message of mine on a forum (not this one) to essentially tell me (in all caps, mind you) that I'm a worthless piece of nothing. (I'm cleaning up what he said here.) Well, I already knew this most likely came from some kid who gets off on acting all big and tough on the Internet. But still, I couldn't stop myself from feeling kind of sick about it, and I'd started thinking about deleting my account there. Furthermore, I'd decided not to go out to the supermarket this afternoon either because I just couldn't face any more strangers today.

 

Then some other complete stranger responds to me on the same forum to tell me not to worry about the first guy, who he says is in fact exactly that kind of kid. Well, that was cool of him and all that, and I responded to thank him, which I hope was fine. But what's not fine is how I've suddenly noticed that ever since then I've been happily bobbing around my home like a little dog that's just been patted on the head, and planning to go food shopping today after all.

 

So here's the $64K question ... why do I let the random words of strangers affect me so much, in either positive or negative ways!?!? And what can I do to stop it???? I know my tendency to overreact to such situations plays a significant role in my reclusion, because the earlier, harsher type of treatment is what I usually get from strangers, almost certainly because my first impression with people is a negative one because of my unattractive appearance.

 

Any thoughts would be welcome. (Yes, I expect there to be at least one response putting me down, specifically because I have revealed that such attacks get to me. And also because the odds favor it - strangers are always lining up to take a run at beating me up, it seems to me.)

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Well you are not alone. A lot of people are similarly affected by things strangers say to them on the internet.

 

I can tell you that you should take it with a grain of salt but fact is you are probably a person who is sensitive to the words of others and nothing much is going to change that....even though logic should tell you it has about as much relevance to your life as that ant you stepped on yesterday morning.

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Well you are not alone. A lot of people are similarly affected by things strangers say to them on the internet.

 

I can tell you that you should take it with a grain of salt but fact is you are probably a person who is sensitive to the words of others and nothing much is going to change that....even though logic should tell you it has about as much relevance to your life as that ant you stepped on yesterday morning.

 

If there really are that many others similarly affected, that would be helpful to hear. I've usually felt like I'm the only person in the world with this kind of problem.

 

Yes, my own logic has already told me about the "grain of salt". I just wish it was easy (or even possible) to turn that knowledge into actions. Doesn't anyone have an exercise or something for this? Like, "do three sets of not-paying-attention-to-strangers-opinions each morning and then stretch for five minutes to avoid cramping"?

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(Yes, I expect there to be at least one response putting me down, specifically because I have revealed that such attacks get to me

 

Your comment above reminded me of a woman I knew back in the mid 90's. She was considerably older than me and we used to chat quite a bit. She knew my weak spots and one day she just decided to go for the jugular...there was no provocation...I happened to be feeling down that day and she just moved in for the kill and said some very cruel things based on what she knew would hit below the belt for me. Some people are just like that...they kick you when you are down. As for the internet thing...when you are sensitive, it doesn't matter if it is a friend, a stranger or an anonymous internet person, having hits below the belt are bound to affect you, and then when someone gives more positive feedback, it is natural to feel better. I think your reactions are perfectly normal. So since you feel like a dog that just got patted on the head..remember that you can add to those positive feelings by treating yourself to some dog biscuits when you are grocery shopping (okay, maybe some people chocolate biscuits!).

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If there really are that many others similarly affected, that would be helpful to hear.

 

Absolutely. You should spend a day in the moderators room and you would see the number of people that get offended and upset by others on the forums.

 

In fact, if no one got offended or upset by anything anyone else said on the internet you'd hardly need moderators.

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I had an ex like this. He is a very very sensitive man. The smallest slights would hurt his feelings and it didnt matter who did it, it still hurt. We were together about 5 years and I appreciated his sensitivity as it was refreshing to have a bf who understood the emotions of others, especially women. We are VERY emotional. And he was sensitive to it.

 

You definitely are not the only one.

 

My ex works and has hobbies, but he doesnt have a social network of friends. I wouldnt say he is a recluse, but he doesnt get out much with others either. I love to go out and do things, so he went alot with me. I guess that's how he started to develop a thicker skin, just by experiencing people and dealing with them.

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I like to think of myself as a person who is "above it all" when it comes to what anyone might think of me. In general, I suppose that's true, but then there have been times when something a stranger might say has had this huge, unexpected effect on me. It's irritating. I have to stop and remind myself where that comes from.

 

There is a passage in "The Four Agreement" in the "Don't take anything personally" section that talks about a girl and her mother. The girl has a beautiful voice, and she's innocently singing out loud. The mother, however, had a long day at work, is in a bad mood, and she barks at the child, telling her to knock off the noise, that her signing is ugly and is driving her crazy.

 

So, now the child has made an agreement with herself. She believe these words to be true even though they are anything but simply because she valued the opinion of the opinion giver. And in this life, we all do this with all sorts of agreements, both positive and negative.

 

For example, if someone says that you're ugly, and you are not strong enough to value your opinion over their's, then you will hold onto this agreement until someone breaks it for you. And if someone says that you're smart, and you really value their opinion, then you have made yet another agreement about yourself... unless it gets broken.

 

Basically, I'm saying that, in a sense, you are whatever you think you are. Sure, that theory has lots of limitations, but it's so true in so many ways.

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"The Four Agreements" ways.

 

This is an excellent book and that chapter you mentioned is very applicable. I urge the OP to check this book out. It's a very easy read actually and will enlighten.

 

I'm a sensitive person as well and prone to dwell on the negative things that people have said. Indeed I dwell on when people say nothing.

In fact I've written some super brillaint advice on ENA and have never been thanked and "repped" for it, which really irks me.

But I'm dealing with it.

 

The alternative is to feel nothing...and to give nothing of oneself to the world. A hollow existence.

 

edit: Big thanks to those who have repped and thanked me on here by the way.

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I think the reason things bother you so easily is because you are a sensitive person. I am the same way. I can't help it. I've always been this way, and I seriously doubt it going to change much as I get older.

 

What I've learned to do is to not openly show it as much. I tend to blow it off. I think to That usually helps me out a lot because it doesn't provide ammo to the person is being a jerk.

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You probably can't stop caring. But you can change how you respond to those comments. When they say things that are negative, simply look at it a different way. Change your perspective. Try to change these things into positive outcomes. I try to learn something from each person's perspectives and posts. Even if it is to realize that I don't want to come accross as negative (or even ignorant) as them. To me that makes the interchange a positive experience. I can even laugh at the amount of emotion that someone else will put into something... change it to comedy. WOW.. I must have really influenced them in order to get their blood boiling and write that kind of comment.

 

I have gotten a few flaming responses before, but I realize that I might say something that simply differs from somone else's morals or opinion. When people write stuff down it can come accross a lot harsher then they might have intended it. People can simply get carried away. Miscommunication is not uncommon.

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I had an ex like this. He is a very very sensitive man. The smallest slights would hurt his feelings and it didnt matter who did it, it still hurt. We were together about 5 years and I appreciated his sensitivity as it was refreshing to have a bf who understood the emotions of others, especially women. We are VERY emotional. And he was sensitive to it.

 

That's unexpected. Most of the time I hear women saying that they don't want anything to do with a guy who is that sensitive. That such guys are too "soft" and "feminine". That "masculine" should mean "strong and silent".

 

My ex works and has hobbies, but he doesnt have a social network of friends. I wouldnt say he is a recluse, but he doesnt get out much with others either. I love to go out and do things, so he went alot with me.

 

I'm thinking he was fortunate to have your help for that. Whatever I do about this (if I do anything), I'm going to have to do on my own.

 

There is a passage in "The Four Agreement" in the "Don't take anything personally" section ...

 

So, now the child has made an agreement with herself. She believe these words to be true even though they are anything but simply because she valued the opinion of the opinion giver. And in this life, we all do this with all sorts of agreements, both positive and negative.

 

This sounds like a book that I should read ... thanks for pointing it out to me. So, perhaps the question I really need to be asking is "how can I learn to value my own opinions at least as much as, if not more than, those opinions offered by complete strangers?"

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Speaking as someone who doesn't usually have too much trouble 'getting over it' - I think there's something different about receiving abuse over the Internet. It's not the same as somebody being rude to you in a bus queue. I find it hits me much more personally.

 

I can relate to the OP, and I'm wondering why this form of communication IS so potent. I think it's because we will often receive unpleasant stuff in our own homes, on our own equipment, and it's much more a violation of our personal space. Also I guess that for many people there's a degree of trust involved, too - I know there is for me - that other people are out there with some sense of good will.

 

And because it's been written down, it stays written down and you can go and revisit - not like a chance remark which is a thing of the moment and is gone.

 

In my opinion, getting a nasty comment on an Internet forum is more like receiving a poison pen letter or a threatening phone call - and being thrown off balance by it is a very natural reaction.

 

Glad the OP had the nice comment to counterbalance it!

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What I've learned to do is to not openly show it as much. I tend to blow it off. I think to That usually helps me out a lot because it doesn't provide ammo to the person is being a jerk.

 

Do you just blow it off openly, or are you also able to let it "roll off your back" in your own thoughts? I think I do the former pretty well (I almost never have posted an angry response in such situations, and didn't today either), but inside my own head it continues to eat at me, and I don't think that can be emotionally healthy.

 

I have gotten a few flaming responses before, but I realize that I might say something that simply differs from somone else's morals or opinion. When people write stuff down it can come accross a lot harsher then they might have intended it. People can simply get carried away. Miscommunication is not uncommon.

 

That may be true in some cases, but at least I doubt there was any miscommunication in the first person's response to me today. His goal was clearly to say that I have no value as a human being, and he used enough caps-lock and exclamation points to prove it (and has now been called on the carpet for it by several other participants in that forum, by the way).

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I think some sites online (like this one) have so many positive, kind-hearted, well-meaning advice givers that it's not necessarily that we 'care what they think' so much as we are seeking validation, solace and some suggestions about what we can do in a particular situation. When you have those expectations and then someone comes back with, "Well, that was dumb of you" or something mean-spirited, it's more hurtful than if some jerk on the street said something mean to you. It's not meeting your expectations. You're being open and vulnerable and they're taking advantage. Unfortunately, there are many people that enjoy kicking someone when they're down....but there are many more that will be there to help pick you back up! So, smile your way over to the grocery story and get ready for a blessed holiday. May the new year bring health, happiness and some quality friends you can lean on!!!

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I have had same kind of problems too, but luckily not so much anymore.. maybe it's the age and lifeexperience, don't know. I have also found hobbies I love. Environment where you can be yourself and start getting experiences which engourage you and also people who make you feel you're special! Then piece by piece.. you start feeling like "I'm worth it, I don't have to care!"

 

I hope you will find some answer, it's hard to say what's best just for you..

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Is it that you're really very sensitive or is it a respect issue?

I become very annoyed with people who are rude online and as sensitive as I am, it is simply an issue of respect [ or lack thereof ].

There's no need for people to say or do offensive things for no reason. But there are always people out there who are looking for fights. You could simply ask, "why is the sky blue" and there's always going to be some nutbar that needs to answer aggressively or what have you.

It happens to all of us so don't take it personally and these people are only saying these things because they know they're safe behind their computer screens.

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I recently went to a training session about personality disorders, and there is a specific type of personality disorder which is likely to be found in Internet chat rooms.

 

Which, of course, is not to say that all people in Internet chat rooms have a personality disorder!!! Or even that everyone with this PD will be on the Internet - but if it helps, you might like to bear this in mind.

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I certainly hope you'll give yourself due credit for posting this thread and raising your vulnerabilities for public comment. That speaks of courage--especially in the face of your reasonable sensitivity about a foul.

 

We all have fragile times, and even full blown cycles of them. I think it helps not to assign a permanence to my emotional upheavals, because I believe such can become self-fulfilling. During my most intense times I've been quick to blame myself for 'always' being like this and 'never' overcoming it--because that's how it feels at the time. It must tap a familiar weakness that I can trace back to my earliest memories or something, even while I lose clarity about all the good I've enjoyed.

 

As for concerns of how I'm perceived by others, I find it helpful to turn the tables on my own insecurities by turning my focus away from feeding the monster. When I feel most fragile I can be more perceptive of how others may be feeling--IF I get over myself and remember to go there. I try to remind myself that I'm not my most accurate about 'me' when I'm upset, or else I'll convince myself that I'm a freak. Everybody else on the planet has bad spells, too, and if I add narcissism to the mix, I'll separate myself from humankind and drill myself into a ditch.

 

So I fight self-consciousness with a determination to stop making it all about me. I've been surprised how quickly giving my attention away instead of navel gazing with it can generate that 'pat on the head' feeling you described. Instead of seeking it for myself, I offer it to someone else--then I get to share it and keep it at the same time.

 

In your corner.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The 2nd poster was 100% correct. There is a whole culture on the internet that revolves around trying to provoke feelings out out of people based on insincere insults. I actually did a thesis paper on the phenomena and have studied them extensively and i can assure you that there is very little relation between what such people say and actually believe. In a way it's a form of "flattery" because you got the persons attention enough to make them want to insult you. This might seem strange to you but if the bully in question was being insulted by other people on the forum he'd probably feel pretty proud about it. The best way to respond to these things is ignore them or play along in a joking manner and never take anything the person says seriously.

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The 2nd poster was 100% correct. There is a whole culture on the internet that revolves around trying to provoke feelings out out of people based on insincere insults. I actually did a thesis paper on the phenomena and have studied them extensively and i can assure you that there is very little relation between what such people say and actually believe. In a way it's a form of "flattery" because you got the persons attention enough to make them want to insult you. This might seem strange to you but if the bully in question was being insulted by other people on the forum he'd probably feel pretty proud about it. The best way to respond to these things is ignore them or play along in a joking manner and never take anything the person says seriously.

 

This research sounds fascinating! Is it just a question of negative attention being better than none at all?

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So here's the $64K question ... why do I let the random words of strangers affect me so much, in either positive or negative ways!?!? And what can I do to stop it???? I know my tendency to overreact to such situations plays a significant role in my reclusion, because the earlier, harsher type of treatment is what I usually get from strangers, almost certainly because my first impression with people is a negative one because of my unattractive appearance.

 

I would look at what has been said and by who and try and think whether or not this should affect you. I have placed the things to look at and think about in an order of how important I feel they are. Of course everyone thinks differently and you might place things differently or view things differently a bit but I think the points are useful (to me at least).

 

1) Should this persons view mean or count for anything to you? Is this person involved in your life? This test is useful to decide if you should give any weight to their view. Generally if you do not associate and do not want to associate with this person and they are a stranger, does it matter what they think? Essentially they play no part in your life and so their view of you counts for nothing.

 

2) Is their view realistic, or just an opinion? Look at what they said. Are they talking about something that cannot be proved? Things that can never be proved conclusively are opinions such as s/he has a nice / not nice sounding voice, s/he has nice / not nice looking eyes. If someone is directing a nasty opinion at you then remember opinions are never fact, one persons nice is another persons not nice. There will always be someone that has a bad opinion of me or you or anyone. If someone has expressed a nasty opinion someone else will think the opposite about you. This links to point one. If you don't want to associate with the person who made the nasty comment then does their opinion really matter in the slightest?

 

3) Just because it is typed on the internet for all to see, it's quite likely that it could well be totally wrong. Is this person talking rubbish? I can tell you 2 + 2 = 5 all day over and over but it still won't make it true. Some people will write rubbish that has no basis in truth. Is this the case? For example "short men will never get a date ever" is rubbish (and this is borne out by fact), so if you see a nasty comment that appears to be flawed you can easily disregard this. Think carefully about what has been said and if it appears incorrect why should it bother you? Just because someone said it doesn't mean it's true.

 

4) Does it appear to be written in a way that is intended to provoke a reaction? If so then you can probably consider the poster to be someone who is just picking insults out of the air, because they desperately want a reaction and to feel that they hurt someone and gained the upper hand. These people will pick out insults quite possibly at random and without much thought. thereforee their insults can be considered again to have no basis in fact and thereforee be worthless.

 

If the result of looking at what someone said and who they are leads to you thinking that the person is a stranger, not someone who you want to associate with and who is likely to be talking rubbish / just to provoke / or just a nasty opinion then it is I think easier to disregard it and forget about it. Worthless views from people that are not involved in your life are not important and can be discarded and forgotten. Well that's how I like to view things, I no longer bother about nasty comments about me on the internet. I used to concern myself with strangers nasty comments but no longer. This kind of process is almost like analysing and challenging negative thinking and I think it can help.

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Remember that the internets are serious business.

 

Anytime someone posts something negative about me, I just remember the saying (from Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, of all places): "The internet is nothing more than a place for people to slander others anonymously". Keep in mind that those types of people are usually cowards who would never say it to your face.

 

Worry about what those close to you are saying about you, not strangers. It's not worth getting worked up over.

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