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Why You Feel Worse than Other People Do


Many dysregulated eaters are very good at feeling bad. In an exhausting effort to avoid hurting people, they often make themselves miserable. I only wish they’d be as fearful of hurting themselves as they are of causing pain to others. Two client examples: 

Cal decided to leave his job as board president of a local non-profit and was dreading telling his board of directors. He’d discussed his desire to leave (for healthy reasons) in many therapy sessions and the deadline of his two-year term was fast approaching. To say he agonized over writing his resignation letter is no exaggeration. He feared letting down the agency, whose mission he was passionate about, and that board members would be upset with him for moving on. This led him to procrastinate resigning and setting himself up for not giving as much notice as he could have.

Then there’s Renata who couldn’t bring herself to tell her hairdresser Jenna she’d found another salon closer to home. Each time she picked up the phone to call Jenna, she panicked that she’d feel rejected or angry, though it made sense to find a nearby salon. Renata literally felt she couldn’t bear causing such enormous pain to Jenna and, at one point, decided to continue going to Jenna’s salon merely to avoid having to be hurtful.

My sense was that Cal’s board might be caught off guard by his leaving but would be grateful he’d done so much for the agency. I told him that if anyone stopped being his friend because he decided to move on, they weren’t a real friend to begin with, and I suggested he stop thinking about the issue as huge and scary and, instead, whittle it down to having some concerns about passing negative reactions and nothing more.

I told Renata that Jenna might not be as sensitive to professional rejection as she might think. In fact, most professionals are used to losing clients. I certainly have and know it’s part of the job. The problem is that Renata was taught to always be nice and suffer hurt rather than hurt others. It never occurred to her that Jenna might take her changing hairdressers in stride. 

How often do you torture yourself over taking actions that might hurt or upset others or spend way too much time struggling to decide whether and how to be honest with people? Maybe you were rejected or retaliated against when you shared your true feelings as a child and you’re stuck in recall. The truth is that most adults can tolerate being bit hurt and a bit unhappy. You’re the one who finds it intolerable and are projecting your feelings onto others. Practice being honest at the risk of hurting others. The more you do it, the easier it’ll get and the more proud you’ll feel.