We’ve all been there. We have seen it in movies, like The Karate Kid. Someone decides to strike out at you for a multitude of reasons. You may have made a mistake, I mean we are all human. The attacker may need to feel superior, they are having a bad day, they didn’t do something correctly and instead of taking on the responsibility they place blame on someone else. Whatever the reason you have been attacked.
When we have been attacked the typical response one hears is “Don’t take anything personally.” Yes, this is generally good advice, personal attacks feel very, personal. Sometimes hearing this phrase doesn’t help. Depending on who you are you may even feel guilt, shame, or a host of many negative thoughts race in your mind.
And yet while we remind ourselves that the actions taken against us are a reflection of the attacker’s character, and not ours, we are still angry, hurt, confused, and maybe on some level, even feel like attacking back. But we also know two things: attacking back may provide some short term relief, but our attack will probably just incite a war, and we don’t want to be that person.
So just what can we do instead of attacking back. When you are being attacked don’t give the attacker any fuel. Instead, here are some things you can do.
Ask. is this really about you, or is something else going on with the attacker that you may not know.
Accept your Anger. Anger is a normal response after someone has been attacked. It’s what is supposed to happen, and anger makes us human because it usually indicates that things matter to you. If your actions, beliefs, values, and character didn’t matter to you, if how you are perceived didn’t matter to you then you wouldn’t get angry. So you have to recognize that the anger is ok and a very healthy reaction to feel. Anger, when harnessed, is also a very useful emotion. It can propel positive action, which is exactly what you are going to use it for here. Please understand anger can also propel negative action, so make sure you are using your anger to fuel positive action.
Confront the Shame. On some level, we all feel a sense of shame when attacked. But when the attack is personal, especially if it comes from a place of contempt (moral superiority) it is meant to cause shame. Especially if the attack is public, this can be extraordinarily damaging. Yet shame is also something that we all must confront. We all have things that we wish would stop defining us. Shame, simply put, can make you keep hiding. So, confront it. Ask yourself why you feel bad about what the attacker is saying about you. You need to face the shame head-on, so you can learn that it doesn’t control you. Cause the negative thoughts will race in your head, so learning how to control them so they don’t control you is vital.
Detach From Need. We all would like to be seen as smart, kind, honest, loving, whatever. And so we put energy, time, and dedication into creating that image. Yet at any point, this can be called into question, and often unfairly when we are being attacked. And so, above everything else, you must know who you are. And you must be able to let go of the need to be seen in any way, but how you except yourself. And this doesn’t mean you don’t care of course you do, which is why you put effort into doing things that you believe are right, just, and good. What it does mean is that you recognize what you have control over and detach from what you don’t. Consequently, the more you are driven by a need to be liked, the more you mold your image to other peoples’ perception of who you should be. And the further you move from who you really are. If you are going to play to an audience make it your own.
Revisit Your Values. When your values, beliefs, actions or character are called into question, the intent is to cause you to question them. The attacker is trying to rattle you, cause you shame, pain, and rejection. And ultimately, the intent is to get you to act against your values. And if you do, you not only have been betrayed by others, but you have now betrayed your own values. Instead, what having your values called into question really should do is cause you to solidify them. It should cause you to recommit yourself, to become stronger in what you believe, and ultimately, much less likely to be shaken from your values.
Develop Good Character Proof. Knowing your values is one thing, but having proof is another. Developing proof is about connecting your values to tangible acts that you can point to as evidence, so when you need proof from another’s opinion you have it. What proof gives you is a backbone, because beliefs are only as good as the acts they inspire. So when someone attacks you and calls who you are into question, you can point to all of the things that you have done and will continue to do and you won’t need to fight back, because your acts speak for you, and you have nothing to prove to anyone else. You can tangibly see who you really are.
Repeat. Some attacks sting more than others, especially the ones that either come from close to home. And sometimes, you need to review the steps above, and yes, sometimes you will need to repeat them. In fact, anytime you feel attacked, you can repeat them.
Not taking things personally is good advice. And it’s something that we can all be reminded of from time to time. But maybe when personally attacked, we need to expand the advice to, Don’t take things personally, and don’t take on the attack. Instead, use it as good fuel. Fuel to inspire you to be better, and to prove the attacker wrong.