The disrespectful remarks of other people - slights, criticism, or humiliations - can hurt us very much. Sometimes it hurts so much that we want to take revenge to restore our wounded self-esteem. Why is it possible that criticism and humiliation are able to harm us? The answer can be found in our biological heritage.

We are the product of millions of years of evolution. Though living in totally different circumstances than our prehistoric ancestors, we carry almost the same body with us - and that means also the same brain. For a very long time in the history of mankind our brain evolved in an environment that was threatening and dangerous. Survival was the basic imperative. And danger was everywhere for our ancestors: The saber-toothed tiger was just lurking around the corner, a mammoth might stomp on you while crossing the street, the neighbors could come for an unannounced visit and the cave was not properly dusted, etc. Peril was to be expected at all fronts; it had to be anticipated and avoided.

This program of the stone-age is still alive today. The hurt we experience is the alarm button our subconscious watchdog presses each time it perceives a rejection. Sure, our survival today is far less dependent on other people. But it depends on your level of sensitivity how much you are affected by slights or a nasty remark of your colleague. The more sensitive you are, the more criticism and disrespectful behavior of others hurt you. And your personal level of sensitivity correlates with your self-esteem. If it is more or less low, slights, criticism, and humiliation will hurt you badly, if your self-esteem is robust and healthy, those remarks will only be "barking at the moon." In the long run, the best you can do is to work on your self-esteem. But for the time being, here is what you can do immediately:

Expect to encounter impolite, rude, critical, or snubbing people as soon as you leave your house. Wait for the blow and be prepared. It will hurt less when it actually happens. And you will be able to distance yourself from the semi-automatic reaction from your watchdog of the stone-age.

Probably, the behavior of other people has nothing to do with you personally. They might had a bad night, a quarrel with a partner, or their cat threw up on the carpet. Thus you can mitigate the consequences of the initial pain (the cry wolf of your watchdog), like holding on to anger or brooding about what you may have done wrong.

Ask the other person for feedback. Maybe the behavior has something to do with you that you are not aware of. Thus you can clarify the situation. Or, at least, the other person will know that you are offended and apologizes. Be that as it may, you will be at peace afterward.

Realize that you don't need to be liked by everybody. People snap at you? Well, nuts to them! It's a great relief when you can experience for yourself how much such an attitude can change. Your self-esteem will be considerably higher because you disengage your level of self-esteem from the opinion or behavior of other people.

Author's Bio: 

Olaf Schwennesen, M.A. is a certified coach for solution focused therapy and a licensed natural health professional for psychotherapy. He is working as a lecturer and trainer for social and methodical competences and in private practice in Berlin, Germany.

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