How to STOP Others From Hurting You
One of the most disempowering beliefs that so many of us adopt is the belief that others hurt us. From early childhood we are taught that we have the capability and power to hurt or heal. “Sally, stop taking that toy away from Suzi or you’ll hurt her feelings!” Or “Look, you made Suzi sad. Give her a hug and make her feel better.”
We lose our power when we believe that others can fill or take from our emotional buckets. We know that we are “agents to act and not to be acted upon” and as such we can learn to take responsibility for our own buckets.
A while back I was meandering through Barnes and Nobel and came across a children’s book called, the Bucket Filler. I’m sure you’ve seen it or have heard about it. It’s a concept that’s generally taught in younger elementary grades.
The idea is basically this: when you do something nice or say nice things for other people you “fill their bucket” and likewise when you’re being unkind, you’re then taking things away from their buckets. They ask questions like, “Are you a bucket filler? Or a bucket taker?”
While I do understand the concept behind these ideas as a way to teach kids to think about others and to serve others, I find that it’s inaccurate and thinking this way creates a very scary and negative impact on our lives, our relationships, and our ability to feel confident and trust others.
There is a problem with this idea, the idea that other people fill or take away from our buckets, our emotional buckets, is that we assume that they have the ability to hurt or offend us or that we have to wait for them to do something for us to feel good. We have to wait and HOPE that they will indeed fill our buckets. We also are powerless to having our buckets drained or altered when someone doesn’t act the way we think they should.
Agents to act
This line of thinking is contrary to what we know about our agency, “We are agents to ACT and NOT to be ACTED upon.” – David A. Bednar
We have our agency, our ability to choose whether to let anyone anywhere near our buckets – this includes filling them or taking from them.
Think about this for a moment, Have you ever experienced a time when someone has said something nice, complimented you and it really didn’t hold much weight because deep down you didn’t believe it?
I like to sing. I’ve always liked to sing but I used to be really hard on myself especially after I sang in a performance. I’d pick apart everything and think about how I messed it all up. I’d dread seeing people after because I knew they’d come up and say something nice and I just didn’t want to hear it because I believed they were just saying it “to be nice”. I didn’t really believe they meant it.
So even though they said kind things – complimented me – I felt empty. Now, if the concept of being a bucket filler is true, then they should have be able to fill my emotional bucket, right? Their kind words and gestures should have made me feel better and happy – but they didn’t because I didn’t believe them. I used my agency to decide what I wanted in my bucket and at that time it wasn’t that.
Can you relate? Is there a time when someone said something nice to you and you chose not to believe it? You chose not to add it to your bucket. They couldn’t add it – they don’t have access to it – you fill it.
But what about when someone says something mean or cruel? It hurts. Most of us tend to replay those words again and again stewing and ruminating about it all the while hurting deeply. Some relationships are destroyed because they believe the other person “hurt” them deeply.
Simply put, it looks like this:
They said or did something = I’m hurt
Looking at the equation like this it’s east to believe that “they” hurt us. They said words and now I’m hurt. But we’re missing a key component in that – and that’s our agency.
The Correct Equation
They said or did something + My Agency (Choosing what I want to make those words mean about me) = What I feel
In other words, they said words, we CHOOSE what to make those words mean, and we choose to be offended, hurt, or angry.
The beautiful, empowering truth of the matter is, others CANNOT hurt you. You and I are responsible for our own buckets; that it’s not other’s responsibility or “job” to fill our emotional buckets, it’s ours.
Waiting for “Fixed” behavior
But when we wait for others to do something for us, to apologize, to give us back the toy, to “fix” it, we’re postponing our happiness until they feel like doing something for us…and what if they NEVER want to do anything for us? What if they never apologize? What if they never compliment you or say exactly what you want them to say? What happens then?
We’re powerless, limited, stuck, UNABLE to feel how I want to feel until they apologize or rectify their behavior. Again…what if they NEVER apologize? What if they never change? Am I to be powerless indefinitely?
No, absolutely not.
You Don’t Have to Wait
You get to feel however you want NOW. How you feel is NOT contingent upon other’s actions, words, or intents. This is GREAT NEWS! Each day you’re in charge of your own bucket. Each day you get to decide how “full” your bucket is and if it stays full all day because it has NOTHING to do with the other person.
This is especially great news because we can’t predict how others are going to show up each day. We can’t predict if they’ll be kind or if they’ll be negative. This is one of the greatest blessings of our agency, that we get to choose what to think and how we’ll feel. We get to choose what we want to do with our buckets.
Other people can’t hurt your feelings.
They don’t have access to your emotional bucket. So why do we feel hurt when they say things then?
Remember the equation?
They said words + MY AGENCY = How I feel
They said words. I interpret those words. I choose what I want to make those words mean about me. I choose whether or not I believe them. I choose to believe thoughts like, “they shouldn’t have said that to me. That’s not right. How could they think such things of me?!” These thoughts, YOUR thoughts then create how you feel.
Your agency, your ability to choose how you want to interpret the situation is your greatest superpower because it arms you against others. It protects your emotional bucket. You get to choose then if you want to fill or empty your own bucket. If you want to believe what they said was truth or if you want to NOT believe them.
Other people can’t hurt you.
When you’re hurt, it’s not them. It’s NEVER them.
Why Am I Hurt then?
We hurt our OWN feelings. It’s because YOU chose to believe something hurtful about you. You chose to believe that negative view of you.
And why would you want to do that?
Why would you want to hurt your OWN feelings?
The most empowering thing you can do is to take responsibility for your own bucket. Other people cannot hurt you.
You hurt you by what you make those words and actions mean.
You Have the Power
This is good news because you don’t have to wait for anyone to “fix” anything or change their behavior before you can feel better (because sometimes they NEVER change). But if you know that you are the one creating the hurt by what you’re making their words mean then when you’re ready, YOU can choose to believe something else and stop hurting you.
You have the power.
You hold your own bucket.
You are the only one who hurts or heals YOU.
Isn’t that a relief?
Don’t forget to check out the podcast! Episode 6: Set Her Free