I forgot about the pull of peer-influence as an adult. It’s still there, in my life like it’s always been, but I’ve learned to tune it out better or deceive myself into thinking that others aren’t influencing my actions. It wasn’t until Jai started mimicking other children that I remembered how significant the influence of others can be in our lives. Self-doubt comes within, but others can influence it as well.
Sometimes friends or family members repeat a concern out of love, but it isn’t delivered appropriately. Other times, people will behave with the intent to bring us down emotionally so they might lift themselves up.
If you experience internalized self-doubt and couple it with externalized behavior of others, it can become extremely discouraging.
When Self-Doubt is Influenced by Others
My external sources of self-doubt aren’t distinct. To be honest, I don’t even believe these sources know they are doing it. As it is for us: we don’t sometimes recognize when we’re bringing someone else down, possibly feeding into their negative internal narrative.
I’ve had people want to help in certain areas of my life only to lose interest when I take them up on it. It’s somewhat discouraging and leaves me feeling bad because I asked for help and inconvenienced them. This plays into my self-doubt because I hate being a burden on others.
I often stop myself from trying something new or different if it requires me asking others for help.
I know someone who has to be the smartest person in the room. It’s infuriating because it’s clear they are insecure about their own abilities. I am often left in awe by the scope of their knowledge on a particular subject that I have little interest in. But when they talk about it with such expertise and enthusiasm, I find myself invested.
When there is knowledge/interest overlap, and I am more
knowledgeable on a subject, this individual nitpicks at the minor mistakes I
make (often revolves around correcting my spelling in a hastily composed text).
They will slide in with “corrections” if they think I got a factoid
wrong, though often they are wrong in their corrections. I learned from
previous encounters not to say anything because they won’t let it drop, regularly
sending me a message many hours later pointing out how they are technically
Coupled with my MS, I find this behavior extremely discouraging. My memory already is spotty, and so I’ve been humbled to no longer trust myself when it comes to information. To have someone pick away at my knowledge base so they might feel better about themselves makes me feel awful.
Choosing not to Listen
We have two choices when it comes to these external influences to our self-doubt: listen to them or not listen to them. I am going to advocate to not listen to them if they make you feel bad.
others provide us with excellent objective insight that is worth considering,
but we’re discussing the moments their input negatively exacerbates self-doubt.
When I feel bad about asking for help, I found alternative solutions to my situation. Many of these solutions propelled me forward in ways I hadn’t expected. Allowing myself to be tethered to asking for help was holding me back. When I removed the external source of self-doubt, I removed that instance of doubt in my life.
For the person who needs to be smarter than me: I still find
it irritating to get caught in a conversation with them, but I no longer allow
them to tear me down. Rather than revealing my knowledge on a subject
(fortunately they don’t remember what I am knowledgeable about, so this is
easy), I just play along with that they are presenting me with new information.
I reflect the conversation back and work on being compassionate to their insecurity.
I won’t say
it’s easy. I still have my moments where I complain to Ash about them and how
irritated I feel about my treatment, but it’s getting more tolerable with each
If I don’t engage with their behavior, I have no reason to
start doubting my memory or intelligence. I consciously make the decision not
to give them the opportunity to make me feel bad about myself.
Letting Go of the Negativity
When others exert their influence on us, even unconsciously, it’s because they have their own negativity they have to work through. They may reach a point where they can do so, or they may never get there.
Unfortunately, it’s up to us to forgive them for their behavior towards us. Just like we
must forgive ourselves for our mistakes, we must forgive them even when
they don’t apologize. When we don’t forgive them, we allow the hurt and pain
they cause to continue.
To be clear: forgiveness is not saying their behavior is “okay.” It’s no longer giving power to their action to
continue to hurt us emotionally/mentally. When we allow others to feed into our
self-doubt, we give them precious head and heart-space. Our time is better
spent elsewhere, like
taking care of ourselves in our chronic illness.
These people will continue to hurt us, and we will need to continue to forgive them. Hopefully, you will be able to get to a point to either excise them from your life or, it no longer bothers you.
Make the decision no longer let others influence your self-doubt. You don’t need to tell them that you are forgiving them, in fact, unless they ask, there’s no point in saying anything to them. Hopefully, you’ll find the interactions easier once you stop giving into the negativity.
With forgiveness, embrace compassion towards them if you can. These external influences are hurting in their own ways. Understand that their inability to help you or insecurity in their personal life impacts how they behave. It isn’t your fault they are like that, they have ineffective coping mechanisms.
It’s not your job to fix them, but your responsibility to protect yourself. Stay focused on keeping your mind healthy and out of the negative influence of others.
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Featured photo credit: Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash