When somebody puts you down, it’s not usual to feel hurt and confused but to also dismiss these. This is a problem, especially when you internalise put-downs and turn them affirmations of your own self-criticism instead of drawing your line. In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I delve into put-downs, sharing examples, explaining some of the motivations for them, plus sharing tips for handling put-downs assertively. 

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Some nuggets from the episode:

  • Passive-aggression masks resentment and frustration. The person’s behaviour, body language, tone, etc., hint at their true feelings, opinions and intentions.
  • “I’m sorry that you feel that way.” No, they’re not. They’re making how you feel the problem instead of acknowledging the actual problem.
  • Put-Downs, remarks that have the intention of criticising or humiliating a person, are a subtle form of personal attack. They’re often insults coupled with supposed praise, or just straight-up rude.
  • When delivered with a smile, humour, or even a deadpan, it’s this body language and tone that’s confusing to you as the recipient.

When we are the repeated butt of someone’s jokes, brittleness, or repeated insecurity, it becomes very wearing — and it’s not funny.

  • ‘Compliments’ with comparison: Why can’t they compliment someone else without dragging you down?
  • The nostalgia put-down: I really miss the old times [where you were way more compliant]. Funny how you don’t miss the old you!
  • Chopping comments are aimed at making themselves big at your expense and controlling you.

“Before I came along you were nothing. Without me you’ll be nothing again.”

“I mean, look at yourself. Who else would want you?”

“You screwed up again. Can’t you do anything right?”

“Let me see if I can put this in simple terms that even you can understand.”

“I’m sure you put a lot of effort into your makeup, but go wash it off before someone sees you.”

  • You might be surprised by your response to a put-down. This might be because there are numerous previous incidences of it where you were unaware or dismissed it, so your response is trying to bring the reality of put-downs into your awareness.

Sometimes we gaslight ourselves in response to put-downs and other shadiness. We deny, rationalise, minimise and basically talk ourselves out of what we’re seeing, feeling and hearing.

  • Recognise a put-down when you hear it. If you have a ‘What the what….?’ moment and are wondering if they just had a dig at you with a smile, it’s probably because they did.
  • When we experience put-downs, exclusion, people belittling us, robbing our ideas and calling them ours, we are so quick to dismiss what we think and feel in those moments that we don’t hear and see what’s truly going on in that situation. Stop putting it down to paranoia or being “too sensitive”. Ask yourself: What’s going on here?
  • Express your discomfort with what was said there and then

“What did you mean by that?” Or, “What did you mean when you said _______________________?” Passive-aggressive and aggressive folk get shook by these!

  • “I hear how that sounds, and that’s not what I intended…” is waaaaay better than the bullshit of “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
  • If someone is capable of a reasonable level of empathy and they’re not inclined to avoid responsibility, they will acknowledge your position.
  • Sometimes a put-down is device someone uses to attempt to mute you but instead it becomes the catalyst that fires you up.

Some people realise that they cannot matter to you in a positive way, so they try to make themselves front and centre by trying to be remembered negatively.

  • You will handle put-downs from a place of self-esteem if your first thought isn’t to agree with it. 
  • “That’s not mine, that’s theirs, and I’m sending it right back” keeps you grounded and boundaried.
  • Once you agree with an insult, you are insulting you too.
  • Sometimes people are really bothered by how OK you are with you, especially when they are not so OK with themselves and feel that they’re ‘better’ than you. 

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