The Only Way They Can Insult You

No one gets under your skin without permission.

In the 1760s and 1770s, it was fashionable for English gentlemen coming of age to embark on a grand tour of Europe. When they came back, this generation of well-dressed, well-heeled, and sophisticated men was collectively referred to as “the macaroni”. The line in “Yankee Doodle” was a derisive insult. You couldn’t just stick a feather in your cap and call it fashionable or high-class, or in other words, call it macaroni.

British troops would sing the song to taunt the colonists. It didn’t work. They took the song and owned it. Instead of an effigy of scorn, Yankee Doodle became the patron saint of the fledgling nation. Today, it’s known as nothing but patriotic, if slightly confusing.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / vladimirfloyd

Take Away the Stick

The colonists stopped the British troops’ insults by taking away the insult stick. It’s the same tactic that Po, the Dragon Warrior, uses to brush off Tai Lung.

“You can’t defeat me. You… you’re nothing but a big, fat panda!” reeled the evil snow leopard.

“I’m not a big, fat panda” Po answered calmly. “I’m the big, fat panda.”

It’s hard for someone to beat you with a stick when you take the stick away from them.

Who cares what they think?

When I need medical advice, I ask my doctor. If I want to know if an expense is tax-deductible, I ask my accountant. They have specialized knowledge. They know what they’re talking about. More importantly, they’re trying to help.

I’m out to build. I’m pretty sure you are, too. Anyone trying to tear down and destroy goes straight to the outside of my circle of concern. Don’t give a second thought to what the bucket crabs think of what you’re doing.

If your broke friends are making fun of your financial plan, you’re on the right track.

Dave Ramsey

Feedback is constructive. It’s focused on the positive—the change that can help you improve. You should seek out feedback, absolutely. Just make sure that the person giving you the feedback actually knows the path they’re trying to help you walk. You’re looking for the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a critic.

Critic’s Math

Think back to the last time you got spaghetti sauce on your shirt. Go look in the mirror. What do you see? It doesn’t matter how small the stain is. We ignore the 99.7% of the shirt that’s clean and focus on what’s wrong with it.

Jon Acuff calls this Critic’s Math:

1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult

Nothing says you have to make the haters happy. In fact, you’re not going to. They’re struggling with a deficient need to feel Important and don’t know what to do about it. No matter how much they complain and try to get others to change, they’ll never have enough of the pie. Instead, just focus on the positive and constructive feedback you receive from people who are trying to help you win.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt

You were probably taught “sticks and stones may break my bones / but words can never hurt me”. Not true. Words can cut you to the core. The wounds can take much longer to heal.

Choose carefully which words you let in. You’re going to have a lot of words thrown at you—sticks, stones, and all sorts of challenges to your pedigree. The only way they can insult you is if you let them.

Choose carefully the words you use, too. None of us are perfect. We’re all trying to be better.

Question: How do you shrug off insults? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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