Can Someone Really Make You Feel Bad?: How responsible are you for your own feelings?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt


The above quote is one I refer to often when working with people. The problem is never coming from the other person, but we continuously give away our power by putting the responsibility on someone else.


It is difficult to believe that the pain we can feel when interacting with another person is actually coming from us, but it is. It doesn’t matter what the action, if you feel an emotional reaction to it, know that it comes from you.  Let’s do a short exercise just for the sake of clearing up this point.


For a minute, imagine the last person you became upset with. Got them in your head? Now, imagine that you are in an altercation with this person and they call you a “purple unicorn”.


They keep calling you a “purple unicorn” over and over again. Would it upset you being called a “purple unicorn”? My guess would be no. I have yet to run into a person who says being called a ‘purple unicorn’ feels damaging in some way.


Most people admit they would think that the other person was crazy because they know they are not a purple unicorn. I imagine you would say something close to that.  In this example of another person calling you a “purple unicorn” you can see that the behavior is clearly about them.


Their actions are coming from them and it has no effect on you because you know you are not a “purple unicorn”.


But let’s change things around a bit. Let us change the name “purple unicorn” to something else. What if we changed it to “jerk”, “bitch”, “incompetent”, “selfish”, or any other name that gives us a little sting? Now we might be looking at a different story. We all have names we react to, but have you ever thought about why you react to them?


We react to “negative” things people say or do because it triggers a belief we already have about ourselves. “P.U. ” doesn’t affect you because you know you are not one, but other names do affect you because it is an idea we secretly harbor about ourselves.  People can only supply a stimulus; how we react to this stimulus reflects a lot about our belief system. 


Many people will respond by saying, “Well my partner doesn’t call me names. I am angry because he doesn’t do ______________(fill in the blank with what upsets you).


Some say they are upset because of the cheating, or lack of sex, or lack of attention.  One often times looks at their partner and quickly evaluates them on how well they are doing as a partner by whether or not they give that person want they think they want.  Very rarely does an individual take a second look and ask the important questions. Questions like: “Why do I believe I need my husband to listen to me (tell me I’m beautiful, tell me what a good job I’m doing, etc)?”, “Do I really need him to talk to me?”, “What would my day be like if I didn’t have the expectation that he should talk to me?”, Would I be happier without this thought?”.



When we refuse to take a deeper look we are left powerless and unhappy. We are letting our happiness ride on a factor we have no control over, someone else’s behavior.


If we begin to question, really question, why we think we need that other’s attention we can return to our only place of power- ourselves. Why do I need my partner to give me attention? If we truly look at this and want a real answer, we will get it.


Often times we don’t want a real answer. Often times we just want to be right. Many people answer angrily and says something like “because she’s my wife and she should be having sex with me 3 times a week”, or “I’m not crazy for wanting my husband to show me love” or fill in your choice answer that makes you look right.  Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”


When we truly want an answer to questions like “Why do I really need my partner’s attention?” we’ll start to get answers like: “Because I believe if someone doesn’t recognize my worth it’s not there”, or “I don’t feel lovable if someone does not show me attention”, or “I am putting my own desire for something over my partner’s desire to not do something. I am acting out of fear of not having enough and not from a place of love”.


It can seem impossible at times when we are hurt to start asking these questions with the hopes to get real answers. It is tempting to make ourselves “right”. When we are upset we feel like this is our only option if we want to heal. But being “right” rarely helps anyone. After the short-lived high wears off we are usually left with an uneasy feeling of isolation.


2 thoughts on “Can Someone Really Make You Feel Bad?: How responsible are you for your own feelings?

  1. saima abdul jaleel


    1. Tara Post author


      To answer your comment I want to refer to an older reply I made because I believe it may be applicable to your situation.

      We often can feel as if our value is dependent on another’s attentions or approval. Many of us have the belief that if another notices us, thinks we are smart, funny, pretty, etc., then we have value. And, if we don’t receive the attention we are hoping to get then our value is diminished. What we over look is that another’s attentions, compliments or behavior is about them and not our value. 

      If you walk into a room that has the most beautiful flower arrangement ever created and you do not see it does it mean the flower arrangement loses its beauty? Would it mean the flowers are not beautiful? The flower arrangement’s beauty is not affected if you do not see it. If you do not see the beauty of the flower arrangement you are the one who is affected, not the flowers. You don’t experience the joy of seeing fresh cut flowers but the flowers are left unaltered. The same is true when we do not see the beauty in another being. 

      If someone does not see the beauty in you it does not diminish your beauty or value. If someone does not pursue you it does not mean you are not worthy of admiration.  Fear of not getting married can be connected to this same idea. 

      Most people get married because they believe it is going to provide them with something. Some believe it will provide a sense of safety, others feel they can escape loneliness if they can find a spouse, others feel their partner will provide them the feeling of love and make them feel cherished. 

      When you feel the fear of never getting married creeping in from time to time, take note of the thought. Try to notice the other thoughts that are attached to the fear. What is it you think getting married is going to provide you? Start questioning these thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is my thought about ____________ true?”. 

      Is it true that marriage will make me feel love?  Do you know people who are married that don’t feel loved? Does getting married mean that you will not be lonely? 

      What you are ultimately looking for cannot be found in any relationship no matter how good, strong or seemingly perfect. Happiness does not come from a relationship. That does not mean that you can’t be very happy in a relationship, but it is not coming from the other person. When we enter into a union with another with the hope that they will complete us or give us something we feel we need, we set ourselves up for disappointment. 

      What helps me is remembering that my partner cannot make me happy and it is not their responsibility to make me happy. This mindset helps free you from the idea that you need someone else or that your happiness is dependent on their behavior. When you don’t need someone you are free to love them. When you don’t need someone to be a certain way you are free to love them. Love wants nothing. Love needs nothing. 

      I am not sure if this answers your question. Feel free to ask for clarification. 



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