Completing your first 5km run is a great achievement, something to be rightly proud of, so it’s upsetting when a voice announces true glory only really comes with a marathon. Making a batch of chutney from tomatoes grown in your own garden is also an impressive accomplishment. Therefore, it can hurt if you’re mocked and told that your homemade offering looks unappealing or doesn’t measure up to store-bought standards.
Undermining, as seen in these examples, takes place all too often in homes, offices, and even on the school run, with cutting remarks made by family and so-called friends, as well as acquaintances. Moments of elation, or indeed just an everyday action, can be suddenly sabotaged by a fleeting snide comment or needlessly cruel query.
Success, goals, decisions – it sometimes doesn’t matter what you say or do, there’s someone out there who may be determined to shoot you down. An individual who uses negativity to weaken your efforts, handiworks, attitudes or behaviour. It can dent your confidence, cause distress, and make you feel less powerful or less likely to succeed. Luckily, there are ways to cope with crushing comments and deal with confidence-wreckers.
Talk it over
While the last thing you may want to do is confront the person who’s undermined you, it’s a good idea to make them aware of their behaviour and your feelings. The offender might be appalled and oblivious that they’re being hurtful, or it may allow them to explain the reasons behind their words or actions.
Know your worth
It’s natural to want approval from others, but the only person’s opinion that should really matter is your own. You know when you’ve done well, so trust your feelings and be happy – you’ve worked hard and deserve success. Stand proud and congratulate yourself.
Avoid touchy topics
It seems unfair that you can’t shout your achievements from the rooftop, but if you know it’ll prompt a mean comment, then sometimes it’s best to remain happily pleased with yourself. Callous knockbacks can dent your confidence and get in the way of you fulfilling your goals, so don’t risk it.
If you know a particular person responds negatively when certain subjects are raised, steer clear of those topics. You don’t need to avoid a friend, but perhaps do something not conducive for chat – the cinema, for example. If it’s a workmate, stay focused on the task in hand, and if you’re concerned, invite along a third party.
Stick to your guns
You might be challenged when being undermined. You’ll be put on the spot, questioned and provoked. Try not to feel under pressure. You’re an adult, your opinion is well founded, and that’s good enough. You don’t need to explain or justify yourself further.
People who undermine often tempt others to steer off the straight and narrow. They’ll try to encourage your failure, though won’t say as much. Perhaps they’ll insist you skip your evening gym session and join them for a pizza when they know you’re in training for a 10km run. Stand your ground and keep on track.
Don’t let undermining comments get the better of you. Those who use them deliberately generally want a reaction, and if they see you crumble, they’ll think they’ve won. Don’t give anyone fuel to stoke their negative behaviours. If that backhanded compliment doesn’t get a response, then in a way you’re undermining their behaviour. It’s not a competition, but consider it a win for you.
Words: Lorna Cowan