It is often said that to be offended is a choice. I don’t know that I subscribe to that philosophy, but what I have learned is that when feeling offended is a frequent occurrence in your social interactions with others, it can be indicative of a personal issue that requires some sorting out.
Generally speaking, to be offended is to feel negative emotions based on the words or actions of another person. We all will feel offended by the actions of someone at one point or another. It can be a healthy reaction to boundary violations. However, hypersensitivity or the state of feeling slighted by the tiniest of things can wreak havoc on our emotional health and jeopardize personal and professional relationships. What one finds offensive can vary drastically from person to person, but signs of hypersensitivity may include assuming the worst and giving a friend the silent treatment over an unanswered text message or wanting to quit a job because of constructive criticism on a job evaluation.
“It comes down to their expectations of the way people should act or respond,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Marissa Nelson in a conversation with MadameNoire. “I find in my work that when people are highly offended, they have their own ideas of how people should respond to them, how people should act to them in certain situations, how people should react in certain situations. And if that doesn’t happen, they feel slighted.”
There’s no shame in admitting that someone in your life hurt your feelings, but before getting bent out of shape and assuming that the person had malicious intent, here are five things that you can do instead.
Assume the best
You are right to have your guard up. There are people in this world who don’t mean you well at all. At the same time, there just as many people, if not more, who love you and only want the best for you. When someone’s words or actions hurt your feelings, pause to truly question the intent. If you can’t say with complete certainty that the person intentionally tried to hurt you, assume the best and let it go.
Do a self-check
After questioning the true intent of the offender, ask yourself what it was about their actions that bothered you so much. Did they make you feel small and insignificant? Did they make you feel devalued? Once you’ve identified the reason, reflect on whether or not the negative feelings that were triggered by the experience were a direct result of the person’s actions or if they simply hit a sore spot due to buried insecurities or past experiences.
Adjust your mindset
People who are constantly offended tend to have a more negative outlook on life. They often expect that negative things will come to them and as a result, their perception is sometimes skewed to assume the worst of situations and people. It can be tough to break free from a negative mindset but starting the day with positive affirmations and choosing to feed your mind with literature, television shows, and podcasts that are pleasant in nature can help you to set the tone for each day.
Serious trauma from the past can have a significant influence on your present relationships. While you can definitely try to work through these things on your own, there are times when the guidance of a therapist is needed. If you’ve tried everything that you know to do to adjust your thinking and your relationships continue to suffer due to hypersensitivity, reach out to a therapist. Therapy for Black Girls is a good place to start.