What happens when we internalize mean comments from other people?

Jason Brien.

     How often has someone said something like to this to you? Perhaps a friend, family member or work colleague has made a similar statement to you in the past. Perhaps you remember when you were a child and your parents told you to hurry up and go and get dressed. So, you went into your bedroom and you got dressed in what YOU believed to be your best outfit. To you it didn’t matter if the colours didn’t match or whether you were wearing a costume that you were given for Halloween last year. So, you proudly enter the living room and showcase your outfit to your parents only to hear them say “How silly, go and change your clothes. You can’t wear that to the doctors”, or something to this effect.

     After so many years this statement from your parents can still play in your mind whenever you stand in front of the mirror examining your clothes before you go out. This constant chatter in your head that judges you and tells you that your clothes look silly. It’s the same as when you go to the beach or the gym and you suddenly become self-conscious and recall all the times someone has called you fat. Or ugly. Or any other mean comment that hurt your feelings and you still hold onto after all this time.

     These are what are known as introjections. Introjections are statements, either good, bad, or neutral, that others say to us, which we then internalize and make our own. When we are not conscious or aware of the nature of introjections, we can assimilate everyday statements from others so permanently into our personality that we eventually forget where the statement originally came from. They become ‘facts’ about our self.

     In saying this though, not all introjections are bad. Positive statements from others can help us feel better about ourselves when we are feeling down. Remembering when someone told you that you looked beautiful can help give you a boost of confidence when you are feeling down. Like everything though, introjections should be used in moderation. Relying too much on introjections can falsely boost or lower ones perception of themselves beyond healthy limits.

So, what to do now?  

     A major part of self-development is becoming aware of the introjects that you have internalized over your life time and learning how to consciously choose which introjects you want to keep or reject. Ultimately, negative introjections should be sent back to where they belong…… with the person who originally made the statement. If someone calls you stupid or ugly that’s their belief. That’s their perception of you based upon their upbringing, their beliefs, their introjects, their projections, their education, their level of empathy, or their level of caring. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with you. What is stupid? What is ugly? They are simply abstract descriptors. That’s all they are. They have no physical manifestation in reality.

     Ultimately, holding onto introjections of this nature will always do you more harm than good so they should be rejected outright. With other introjections, decide for yourself whether they are valid and whether they can serve you well or not. Being told that we are a certain gender is initially an introjection. We blindly assimilate this statement (introjection) from others into our self-identity until we learn biology or sex education and we then have the capacity to say to ourselves “ahhhhhh, so that’s why I’m a boy/girl”.

     Until one becomes more aware and conscious of introjections, it is fair to say that a large part of their perception of themselves, their self-identity, will be based upon assimilated introjections. Understanding and mastering introjections will help you to navigate through life with more confidence and will significantly boost your resiliency during difficult times. Hey, you never know...... it might even help you when it comes time to make that speech in front of everyone.