One of my favourite episodes of the IT Crowd is the one where Moss has to deal with a group of bullies on a park bench. Eventually, after some role playing of likely scenarios with his colleague (a technique that also helped him learn how to buy sandwiches), and a surprising turn of events where he finds himself in possession of a weapon, he overcomes the fear of those bullies picking on him.
I can relate to dear old Moss. There are some people in my life who, possibly due to their own insecurities, like to ever so subtly undermine my confidence. It's sometimes only after years of silently suffering and tears in the toilet that I realise it is not ok to feel this way. And what's more, it's not just happening to me. Others have noticed it too, or also been victim to the behaviour and are just better than me at responding.
I do think I need to take responsibility for enabling people to treat me badly. At this age, I have *almost* mastered surrounding myself with positive, affirming people. But we can't control who we interact with all the time. Sometimes we just have to find ways to live with somebody.
I am grateful, in a weird way, to these difficult people, as their behaviour allows me to grow. Sometimes there are hard-to-hear truths to be found amongst the put downs, even if the delivery leaves a lot to be desired. It takes courage to accept one's shortcomings with grace, and it requires a certain wisdom to differentiate between what is useful feedback and what is, well, just plain meanness. It also is a reminder for me to find more constructive ways to voice my frustrations with others, knowing that being constructive and encouraging is more effective in changing people's behaviour and getting the outcome we want than criticism or aggression.
Like Moss, I use role play, although mainly inside my head, to rehearse ways to respond to the mean stuff that show greater respect for myself and that name the behaviour as inappropriate. Some people say you have to kill the other person with kindness, others say it's best to ignore. Many are able to model assertiveness with ease. And then there's always those who are able to employ the clever use of humour to disarm or surprise the other person.
Whichever way I respond, the trick is to do so in the moment, and not a week later when the perfect comeback finally occurs to me. On the rare occasions that I do respond assertively, creatively and respectfully, I feel good - just like Moss at the end of the episode as he confidently strides past those bullies on the bench in the park. I, however, am not brandishing a gun!