Please Note: My sister has worked hard over the past five years and has done very well to be better at this… as in not be “mean.”
If I don’t have a post next week, you’ll know that this one caused me to no longer have the ability to write… since I’ll be dead. Making this claim, I apparently have a death wish…or my wife is posting this because she wants the life insurance – Christmas is coming. But the fact is, if you want to experience the meanest, most vile things ever said, go into the brain of a woman and listen to how she talks to herself. That’s some scary stuff right there. There are men who fit this category as well, but from my experience, women are gifted at being mean to themselves. This meanness is often encouraged by the mirror, social media, moms/mother-in-laws, or a judgemental person real or imagined.
A woman’s meanness does not mean they’re worse as a gender. In fact, their meanness to themselves can make them the nicest people you meet. After all, women are the thoughtful gender while men are regularly told we suck at that, which usually stems from our easygoingness and not caring enough about what others think or feel. What it does mean is I am hesitant to make this post whereas last week I had no problem claiming that men are the stubborn gender.
One of the biggest downsides to a woman’s meanness to themselves is any hint of a criticism and she’s ready to defend herself, which is why a lot of jokes are at a man’s expense; think Marge Simpson versus Homer. In all honesty, I would say 95% of the fights my wife and I have had over our fourteen years together have started because of something I’ve said or done out of innocence/ignorance/trying to be funny and she somehow saw as an attack on her (some women may even take this post as an attack on them when it is meant to be fact sharing). For instance, being in her way is a major trigger – she hates that. Meanwhile, if she’s in my way (which happens more than I’m in her way), I patiently deal with it. From my experience in the therapy office, this is a regular problem for a lot of couples: Women are so hard on themselves, they often assume the worst and that others will be mean to them, so they’re ready to defend themselves, which often follows the “the best defence is a good offence” approach or shutting down.
I should point out that any meanness to others is less about women being heartless and more likely one of the following
- They’re so tired from all they do, it just happens like being hungry can make people hangry.
- It’s an attempt to feel like others understand them (“If I’m hurt, I’ll hurt you, so you’ll understand how I feel”)
- Retaliation (“Only I get to be mean to me!”)
- It’s a pursuit of fairness (“If you hurt me, I need to hurt you to make things fair”)
- It’s like collateral damage as they’re so down on themselves they can’t help but bring others down.
The fact that women are mean to themselves can leads to several key relationship dynamics:
- Women’s meanness to themselves will sometimes spill out in the way they treat their sons, extended family, and/or strangers.
- Women’s meanness will often spill out in the way they treat their daughters and daughters-in-law. Notice that sons are in the “sometimes” category. Daughter are more likely to be seen as an extension of themselves leading to treating them like the woman treats herself.
- Women’s meanness will ALMOST ALWAYS spill out in the way they treat their spouse; this usually begins whenever the honeymoon phase is over. This is the usually the case UNLESS the spouse’s meanness to her is even greater. From my experience working with middle to upper class people, there are a handful of guys who are ridiculously mean, but they’re not the norm. This guy is like the school bully; he’s the rare kid who’s a total jerk and not the norm. The problem is this jerk guy often finds the girl who is so mean to herself, she takes whatever he does to her since he’s just saying what she’s already thinking: “I suck, so why should I be treated better?”
(Please note: the following story is from my perspective while my wife likely has a different version) Recently my wife was feeling very down on herself and I pointed out how earlier in the day I said she’s incredible at finding games and activities to play with the kids. She’s so good at being mean to herself, however, she had twisted my compliment to being “You need to be good with the kids because you’re not good at anything else” – ouch. I then pointed out that last week she brought a meal she made to a couple because the wife had gone through surgery and my wife downplayed it to be nothing. Nothing? When I pointed out that she did that while having a six month old and a two and a half year old, she continued to say it was nothing. I next pointed out that last year we delivered a meal to friends who live an hour away after their second baby was born, friends where the mom is someone my wife thinks is one of the greatest moms in the world, and then I added this “amazing” mom didn’t do anything for my wife. She countered that it wasn’t meant to be something this friend should do in return. I agreed, but then was clear that my point was here’s someone you think is amazing and you did something she didn’t do, so maybe you’re not so bad. My wife’s response? She downplayed it to mean nothing. At that point, I had to back off. Sometimes you just have to let someone have their emotion no matter how much you disagree with it.
What’s frustrating is if this was one of her friends saying those things about themselves, she would’ve been the first to try to correct their negative thinking. Yet there we were. She’s the exception. She’d never be that mean to any of her friends, but to herself, it’s somehow acceptable. Even when we discuss things in her past that I help her see were fine and she agrees they were fine, she still “feels” guilty even though she knows she did nothing wrong. Is she crazy? Not at all. This is the danger of being the gender that is very “feeling” oriented (common female comment): “But it feels that way.”
Is this me complaining about my wife? Absolutely not. This is me complaining about women in general (that sounds so much better). Ladies, please stop being so mean to yourselves. There is very little benefit to it. I should know; I used to be incredibly mean to myself. It was awful. I still struggle to disagree with my inner voice that says I’m stupid, but it’s a battle I need to keep fighting. The great thing is the more I fight these thoughts, the less frequently they happen because my brain is slowly starting to accept the idea that I’m not stupid. Ultimately, this is the same fight that everyone needs to do – say no to the negative voice, give yourself a compliment, and then distract yourself.
So do I have any other advice for women? Absolutely, but I’m guessing they won’t like it. Similarly, men won’t like the advice I’d want to give to them, but let’s start with them to be safe: Men need to be more like women. They should try to have a higher standard for how they present themselves. They should try to be thoughtful and do little things for those around them, and they should try to share their heart with people as a way to find deeper connection instead of hiding behind sports, beer, and/or pot. If being more like women is my advice to guys, guess what my advice is to women? Women, need to be more like men. For instance, they need to try not to take things so seriously and let themselves laugh at things rather than feel offended. They need to try not to have impossible standards for themselves, and not worry so much about what others think. Men and women are different, but our differences can help us grow to be better people while being a wonderful balance… or drive us apart.
By accepting this lesson that women are hard on themselves, women can hopefully feel affirmed that what they experience is normal and help them work towards being nicer to themselves. By understanding that women are hard on themselves, men can hopefully feel affirmed that their wife’s/mom’s/co-worker’s meanness is most likely a sign that she’s super mean to herself and allow the guy to not take what’s being said as personally, to have more patience for her, and maybe even a little compassion.
This week may you consider how you can treat yourself fairly.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)