So I read this thing and it's giving me lightbulbs: It's Important to Remember that Reassurance is a Form of Persuasion
I’d think of that [sales] job and what it taught me about persuasion later when others would get frustrated that their first attempt at reassurance didn’t magically “fix” my mood.
When they were effectively trying to persuade me to feel better and took personal offense to the reality that to persuade someone you will likely have to overcome their objections.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t want to feel better. Or that it’s impossible. Instead, it’s the way that reassurance typically functions, like all attempts to persuade someone else of something. You don’t start out at agreeing; you need to be persuaded.
That’s not a sign that there’s something wrong with the person you’re trying to help. That’s how reassurance is.
True, there are times when a person can be so distraught that they’re obstinate, really sticking to their self-hatred, their illogical worries. It happens. Fear and insecurity don’t play by the rules.
But I’ve found it’s much more common that people will provide a partner one reassuring comment and then give up when it doesn’t instantly make their partner happy, or worse when their partner argues, providing evidence that contradicts what they just said. Never realizing of course, how they’ve approached it feels like this conversation to the person they’re trying to help:
“Because I said so.”
This is probably the first post written by this author with which I've pretty vehemently disagreed -- not exactly with its central premise, which is that providing reassurance to people is at least partially about overcoming obstacles in persuading them to feel differently about themselves, that's totally true.
Instead I'm coming down pretty firmly on the side of the author's partners who are all "I can’t make you feel good about yourself." I can't hold myself responsible for another person's sense of self-worth and also I don't see that as fundamentally possible in a healthy way, like, I'd never want someone's sense of their own self-worth to be dependent on my opinion of them or my goodwill toward them. And this isn't an excuse to be insensitive to people's needs/expectations/etc, or to be a jerk about someone's appearance or personal habits or whatever, nor is this me trying to weasel out of giving people compliments or praise (I'm not often great at Words of Affirmation
but I do like offering praise and compliments when they're genuine!) I just -- my sense of self-worth is my
responsibility to myself
, and given my brainweasels it's a pretty big one, I'm absolutely not the person you should be relying on for your sense of self-worth too!
But I'm looking back at the piece and especially the end, which I quoted above, and find myself frustrated with the whole notion that a person expressing self-doubt or -recrimination necessarily benefits the most from reassurance. When I am expressing self-doubt and self-hate, what I need most from the people to whom I am expressing it is to feel seen
: "Oh, you're really feeling some kinda way about yourself regarding this" + some invitation to dig a little deeper and maybe eventually problem-solve, i.e. "What did you learn that you can take with you as a lesson for the future?" -- but only after I've gotten all the way through the feeling and out the other side! -- works a whoooooooole lot better for me than someone trying to convince me that I don't/shouldn't feel however it is I'm feeling, which is what "Feel better, because I said so" basically amounts to.
(Like, I think of an acquaintance of mine who regularly posts self-negative diatribes about how much of a failure she is on FB, and despite her saying things like "And don't try to tell me I'm wrong, I know I'm not," etc., her comments section typically fills up with people who are attempting to offer her reassurance by ... telling her she's wrong, demonstrating for her all the things that are good about herself and why she shouldn't feel the way she does, etc., in ways that always struck me as misguided at best. She's literally said not to do the thing y'all are doing so you're doing it why? Reality-checking her distorted perception of herself is something she already knows how to ignore/distrust? Anyway, tangent.)
And on top of that, I will almost always resent feeling like I've somehow manipulated someone into offering me reassurance about my moral worth by expressing self-doubt/-hate/-recrimination. I'm beginning to realize that feeling manipulative is a pretty big emotional landmine for me, and when I think I'm asking for one thing, but get a response that indicates a different question I didn't explicitly ask may be the one to which the askee is responding, I feel like I've been manipulative and emotionally dishonest. I don't know what, if anything, I can/should do about this, except to have recognized it and get better about being explicit when I'm requesting emotional labor from someone.
So this was a really good conversation to have had with Beau, because we've been having some conversations about my negative self-talk lately, and this article was key to realizing what wasn't quite sitting right with me about those conversations, because yeah, he totally does the thing where he tries for reassurance first and being able to sit with him and say "oh actually what I needed/was expecting from sharing x with you was y" has been hella useful, especially because it meant that I could apologize for it in a meaningful way and not one that feels even moar