What Therapists Know... and Want Their Friends, Families, and Clients to Know too!


In a recent series of articles about friends breaking up, I said that sometimes it feels like people are giving us clues about who we are and our value/worth. But actually they are telling us who they are. I'd like to expand on that.

People are rarely telling you who YOU are but are frequently telling you who THEY are.

For example, If you share excitedly with a friend about an idea or wonderful thought and they dismiss you or roll their eyes, it is very possible that is has nothing to do with you. It's more likely that they are just cynical, jaded, or condescending types. As women, if someone shoots down our ideas we are quick to re-examine them. It’s not altogether a bad idea to re-examine, but don't abandon your ideas or excitement just because a particular friend is negative. Think about it. Is that friend pretty negative in general? Or do they see themselves as the only one with the innovative ideas? They could also just be expressing envy or a competitive nature.

Don’t let other people define your worth or the quality of your work.

Regarding our work, whether we’re talking about baked goods we’ve prepared for a church event or a design project at the office, we shouldn’t internalize what comes out of other people's mouths. Sometimes the other person is just having a really bad day and they're emoting bad vibes and harsh words. That truly has nothing to do with us. I didn't create it and I don't need to fix it. (This article isn't about being married to one of these types, but the advice given may help anyway.) Don't personalize it!

A work-related example

Let's look at a work/committee related scenario. You're doing committee work (paid or volunteer) and the chairperson is dominant, negative, and bossy. They're very critical of most people's ideas and generous with the harsh comments. They may have a friend or two on the committee that they defer to so it seems that you and maybe one other person are being singled out for the abuse. (Yes, that kind of behavior can be considered emotionally or psychologically abusive.)

It's not about you…It’s about them.

This person is exhibiting their leadership style. They're telling you who they are and exposing themselves, their skill level, and a deep disrespect for people. It doesn't matter that they have a few "pets" that escape their bad behavior. I'd feel guilty and embarrassed if I was the team member being favored while someone else was being disrespected. That's not okay on any level!

What to do if you’re being mistreated.

If your position on the committee is that of a volunteer, you need to strongly consider resigning your position. You do not have to submit to that kind of behavior. Scripture is very clear about fearof man...it's a snare. (Proverbs 29:25)

If this is a work-related position and you are committed to staying at the job, then you really need to hear this again: It's not about you. The chairperson or leader is telling you who he or she is and how they feel about people in general, which is completely intolerable. Trying to get this person's approval or wanting them to see the light that you indeed are valuable will drag you into a vortex of self-defeating, self-justifying behaviors...which would mean you're letting them define you.

Next month we'll explore more about what people are communicating about themselves, but I want to leave you on an encouraging note.

We can't ever let any human being define us!  

People can give us feedback and direction and some folks in our lives are in a position to give uscorrection. Yes, that is true. But we can only trust The Lord to define our value and worth. He delights to do that and does it so well! God sets a standard for us and we dare not let any human being raise that bar to a standard above what God requires. That's called perfectionism. It's also called legalism or being under the Law which is the opposite of His empowering Grace. 

Beware of perfectionists who demand more of you than God does! That's worse than a double bind because it's not humanly possible to achieve.

Next month, we’ll talk about some strategies for dealing with people who think they can define our worth. I will say this for now, if you don't have to be in a relationship with this person, it's probably best to exit quickly and with as much grace as possible.

How do you prevent others from defining your worth?


Susanne Ciancio, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She has been serving the Christian community as a professional Christian counselor in Essex county and the surrounding area since 1986. Beyond her private practice in West Orange, NJ she is involved in teaching, consulting, and pastoral supervision in various churches in the area. Click here for Susanne's website. 

EDITORS NOTE: While Susanne can’t answer specific counseling-related questions, she welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what kinds of topics you’d like to see addressed here at Circles of Faith. Click here to contact us.

photo credit: canonsnapper via photopin cc

Enjoy what you read? Share it with others...