Over the last few months I've had conversations with various lovely, independent, dynamic women, who all struggle with mother-in-laws troubles. Interestingly enough, all these women are in stable, happy marriages, yet have mother-in-laws who dislike them for who they are. A quick Google search shows how common this problem is and, as anyone who has lived with the subtle put-downs and snubs of a family member will know, it's hurtful and destructive.
Talking to these women reminded me of a fabulous article I read, by Wayne Elsey, called, This is Why I Appreciate You... You matter! While in high school, the author was told by a teacher that he would never amount to anything. The article is about the lasting impact and hurt that comment caused him. The gist of the story is that words matter and what we say, can and does, impact the people around us. It's a lovely article, you can read it here.
Many of the coping mechanisms we use to deal with criticism and put-downs are directed at minimizing the impact of the hurtful words that have been said. Unfortunately, when we try to talk ourselves out of how we are feeling, we inadvertently tell ourselves that our feelings are unimportant, that we don't matter. This is where we go wrong, our feelings are important, and they do matter. We matter.
In Wayne Elsey's article, another teacher heard what had been said. She sat down with him and said, 'You matter to me and you can do anything you set your mind to.' Powerful words that struck home and changed the course of his life. Chances are, an unkind mother-in-law is not going to magically transform into a benevolent fairy god-mother who adores you, but that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do!
Freedom doesn't come from getting rid of either the difficult family member or our own feelings. It comes from staying who we are, despite what life throws at us. We cannot change other people. We cannot make people who truly dislike us, like us. In fact, it's not our job to.
Our job is take responsibility for our own actions and reactions. We CAN choose how to respond. It's within our power, to speak gently to ourselves when we are hurt. Words do matter, how we speak to ourselves as much as how we speak to others. It's good to remember, you are important and you do matter!
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I'm a Personal Development Life Coach who specialises in L.I.F.E (Living Into your Fullest Expression). Based in Richards Bay, on the East Coast of South Africa, I live with my long-suffering husband, (his description!), two much-loved dogs and care for my elderly father who has Alzheimer's.
Read more about me here.