Strangers who are mean to me are basically kicking a puppy

I like to think I’m a pretty nice person. I try to find the positive side of just about everything. It is known that I have a penchant for loving terrible things. It’s part of my charm, according to Katie. I love dogs and cats and babies and even adult humans, though the consensus seems to be that adult humans are the root of all the problems.

And yet…

Strangers scream obscenities and call me a fat ass across a busy parking lot because my husband stopped to let me out of the car in front of the grocery store.

Strangers in a movie theater call me horrible names and repeatedly tell me I need to be put in my place because I politely asked them to quiet down in a movie theater.

Strangers on the internet call me names and judge me without knowing anything about me.

Friends say things to me or about me that are hurtful. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. Sometimes to my face and sometimes behind my back.

Adult humans are constantly breaking my heart.

But I’ve survived heartache before. When your heart is openly exposed on your sleeve, it tends to take a beating. Mine is no exception. But I’ve learned to manage the bruises.

And with that, I wanted to show you guys my process. Because I know I’m not alone in experiencing hurt. I know that many of you deal with so much more than a few spiteful strangers proverbially spitting on you. And I wanted to share how I deal. And how I continue to stay positive despite the bullies and meanies that I occasionally engage with. It’s a process, to say the least — and one that’s not without a pity party for one. But it works for me.

Survive

The first step for me starts while I’m dealing with the initial incident. My body takes over, so my brain busies itself by running simulations to help choose the safest route for getting out of a given situation. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always listen to my brain. Sometimes fight wins in the fight or flight response, and I yell back. In the most recent conflict, I panicked and froze and eventually took flight instead of going for a fight. I’m not mad about it.

Calm myself down

The rush of adrenaline that spikes, when someone is verbally accosting me, can take its toll on my ability to think. I try not to do anything while I’m in this phase. Instead, I’ll sit in my car or away from others and work things out in my head to remind myself that I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m away from the conflict. Sometimes I’ll call Brian, or I’ll tell you guys about it in my Instagram stories.

Get angry

Once I’ve calmed myself enough to rationally think about whatever it was that happened, I usually get angry.

I start thinking things over in my head. Replaying the situation on repeat, wishing I had said X, Y, or Z. Trying to understand how someone could say whatever it was they said, especially if it was a stranger who knows absolutely nothing about me. I may even hide in my car or house and scream at the top of my lungs to let the emotions building up inside of me out. Anger is something I understand. But taking that anger out on another person, especially one you know little to nothing about? I can’t fathom how anyone can do or say cruel things to strangers.

Allow myself to be sad

It takes me time to get over the hurt. For long-term heartbreak, it can be weeks or months or even years. For a slew of slurs? It may take hours or days. For me, it’s kind of a grieving process. I don’t know what exactly I’m grieving when someone verbally assaults me, but it gives me time to let the insults wash through me. The more hurtful, the longer it takes. My eyes live on the verge of tears, but we already know I’m a pretty regular crier as it stands. Brian already calls it my superpower – just like the Hulk, but instead of being always angry, I’m always ready to cry.

Limit social media

If you notice me going dark on social media, it’s likely because I’m taking time for myself. I’m allowing my heart to recuperate without adding the stress and expectation of social media. There’s no contract that says I have to be “on” all the time, and when I turn myself “off” I can recharge in a way that doesn’t add to my anxieties. I think we all need a little bit more of this, honestly.

Power up

I have a Power-Up playlist on YouTube that re-energizes me when I need a pick-me-up. It has empowering songs, like “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. It has happy songs like, “Can’t Fight the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. And it has songs that just bring me personal joy, like “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. It’s a fun collection of party pop, alterna-rock, Disney songs, and musical numbers that makes me ridiculously happy. I also use this to rev myself up before a show. It’s amazing what music can do.

Remember the good in humans

You guys are pretty much the best, did you know that? If you’re reading this, you’re probably already on my list of favorite people. My village lifts me up so hard. You remind me that for as many mean people in this world, there are a hundred or even a thousand times as many kind, generous souls ready and willing to share and spread joy. To love. To pass good vibes on to everyone around you. Keep doing that. Because the world needs more people like you.

How do you stay positive when people are mean? What are some of your coping mechanisms for heartache? Let me know in the comments, because I’m always looking for new ways to stay positive.

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