You and Your Stupid Plaid Hair

Baffling headline, huh? As an insult, it’s even more than baffling—it’s irrelevant. Unless you’ve been experimenting with a truly radical colorist, you know without question that you don’t have plaid hair. So for me to ridicule you over something that you know, bone deep, isn’t true, doesn’t hurt even a little, does it? It might even make you laugh.

plaid hair, maggie mcreynolds blogBut what if I were to be so unkind as to say that you’re fat? Or that you’re not trying hard enough? Or that you’re clumsy, or a procrastinator, or that some of the people you think are your friends don’t actually like you?

Does any of the above make your face flush? Get your adrenaline pumping? Maybe make your stomach give a little flip?

That isn’t because any of those things are true. It’s because you’re afraid they might be true—and because of what you are making any of those things mean. And in that tiny space between “What if she’s right?” and “Oh, God, I’m such a loser!” is a tender, vulnerable sore spot where bullies, frenemies, and even loved ones can poke you.

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boot on man's head, maggie mcreynolds blog

I Feel Your Pain

Um, no thanks.

I don’t want you to feel my pain. I don’t want to feel your pain. And, in fact, we shouldn’t, because if we start feeling each other’s pain, processing the other’s emotions in the mistaken idea we are being of help, we are both lost.

Point of clarification: there’s a big difference between being present for someone in trouble and taking on their pain. Being present doesn’t mean being cold and unemotional. It doesn’t mean withholding support or tenderness. It doesn’t mean not feeling sad when someone you care about is hurting.

But your sadness is yours, and their pain is theirs, and understanding the distinction is crucial. When you make someone who is already suffering responsible for your sadness, you’re asking them to comfort you and make you feel okay. No fair. Not their job.

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