Blogger | Teacher
Have you ever said something that you didn’t realize hurt someone’s feelings? Have you ever commented on your weight, your looks, or put yourself down in front of your children? In the heat of an argument, have you ever let slip offhand comments or thoughts that ended up making the fight worse than it was before?
Sometimes we say things we don’t mean, or we don’t consider the way our words may affect someone else. When we talk about our flaws or look down on ourselves in front of others, we don’t always think about how those comments could be hurting them, too. While many self-esteem issues come from an internal place, they are also commonly built up or exacerbated by external comments and factors.
It’s okay if you have said or done these things – many times, we don’t even realize what we’re doing, or don’t think about how these comments or habits may be affecting other people. But it’s always good to be aware of them for the future so that you can improve your word choice to make your thoughts more positive or helpful for both yourself and the people around you.
You’re being too much right now.
One of my least favorite things someone has ever told me is “Hey, you’re being too much right now.” Other versions include “You’re being a lot,” “You’re too loud,” or “You need to tone it down.” While none of these offhand comments are outwardly or obviously rude – and most often, they aren’t said with bad intentions – they can cause a lot of self-esteem issues or internal anxieties for the person you are speaking to.
People can get a bit loud or overwhelmingly energetic sometimes – whether it’s because they’re excited, they’re under the influence of caffeine or alcohol, or because they’re simply loud by nature. Children often get a little too loud, too, and it’s normal to be overwhelmed by someone who is practically yelling at you or to feel like the volume and energy are not appropriate for the place you are at.
However, telling someone they are “too much” can make them feel as though there is something wrong with them – that their personalities are too overbearing or intense to handle. It will make them feel as if they should silence themselves are dim down who they are, which can have an incredibly negative impact on their self-esteem and personal relationships. It can also embarrass them if you say these kinds of comments around other people, such as their friends or family members.
If you feel as though someone may need to settle down a little or is being too loud, leaning over to tell them quietly, “Would you mind being a little quieter?” or “I think we may need to be quieter” is a more positive way of toning down the situation. Creating hand signals may also be good for someone who is loud by nature – this way they understand that they are being a little overwhelming, but won’t feel embarrassed or called out.
I need to lose weight – I’m looking a little chubby.
Offhand comments about body weight or looks can be huge triggers for people who experience body dysmorphia or have a lot of anxiety about their body. Even if the comments are about yourself and aren’t directed at anyone else, you’d be surprised to find that many people still take them personally – especially when they are about weight.
One thing to consider when commenting on a person’s weight, even your own, is how negative it can seem to someone who is overweight. If you are upset by the fact that you’ve gained weight or are carrying more flab than normal, it can make someone who deals with weight-related body dysmorphia feel as though being overweight/chubby/fat is an incredibly negative thing.
As someone who has carried extra weight their whole life and struggles to lose weight, I’ve often been told off by others for commenting on my looks, with the common sentiments of “You’re beautiful” or “You look great!” used as a rebuttal. However, the same people will then turn around and look at themselves and say, “Ahh, I should really lose weight. I’ve been gaining it recently and I’m starting to look chubby.” Oftentimes, these people are smaller than I am, and therefore the sentiment becomes contradictory. To them, it’s okay for me to be chubby, but it’s not okay for them to gain weight.
When it comes to weight or commentary about your body, it’s honestly better not to say these things at all. While it’s okay to want to rant or complain about how you’ve been feeling, comments about looks or body weight that are negative in nature are incredibly unhelpful for both your personal self-esteem and the self-esteem of the people around you.
Instead, make your comment about personal goals – “I’m working to run a mile” or “I want to be able to lift 100 lbs.” These comments are still about improvements to your health, but they will not be hurtful to yourself or the people you’re speaking to.
These offhand comments are ones I find to be particularly negative for children for similar reasons as the ones about body weight and looks. Calorie counting comments usually have to do with diets and being more healthy, and they are an attempt to be more aware of the foods you are putting into your body. By nature, this seems like it should be positive, right?
While it’s great to think about your diet and to eat foods that are good for you, not only is calorie counting not always the best option for health reasons (sometimes calorie counting can even be a bad dietary choice), but it also once again promotes the idea that gaining weight is a terrible thing. You should take care of your body always, but gaining weight doesn’t have to be portrayed as the worst thing that can happen to you.
When I was growing up, I had a relative that went out of her way to eat low-calorie foods. When we would go to the store together, she would rave about finding a zero-calorie snack, and would always tell me about how happy she was to find a “healthy” option. She counted the calories in everything and was very vocal about it.
The two big problems with this mentality were that 1) I was a child that didn’t really need to know the calories in everything, and 2) calling “zero-calorie” options the “healthy” option isn’t totally accurate. Many times, zero-calorie foods use substitutes and chemicals that aren’t great for your body either – fewer calories doesn’t always mean better for you.
Ultimately, comments like this ended up skewing my relationship with food, and to this day I still tend to overanalyze calories and limit myself because I don’t want to indulge in something that is too “unhealthy.” It’s okay to promote healthy foods to children, and it’s great to make them aware of the foods they put into their bodies, but be careful that your comments don’t make food and calories seem like the ultimate enemy or it could damage their relationship with food and their bodies for a long time.
The silent treatment
While not usually considered to be “offhand comments” of any sort, a lack of communication can speak just as loudly as anything said directly.
It’s completely okay to need time away from someone, or simply a break from a conversation. If you’re under a lot of stress or feel particularly overwhelmed or hurt by a situation, you should take the time you need to deal with any thoughts and emotions you may have.
Again, all of this is totally okay. However, what’s also important is how you deal with those needs so that you don’t inadvertently hurt the people around you. Don’t simply go silent and refuse to communicate with someone. Not only is this disrespectful to them as a person, but it can also leave them feeling confused, vulnerable, and hurt. They may experience self-esteem issues that make them feel as though their personality is annoying, they’re unlikable, or they’re not good enough.
While it seems silly that someone can overthink something as simple as someone’s silence, it’s difficult for some people to not let their anxieties get the better of them. Your silence could heighten any negative ideas they may have about themselves, and this could unintentionally hurt them.
It’s okay to need a break or to need time away – it’s just important that you make that clear to others. If you’re in an argument, simply tell the other person, “I need a minute to think, can we continue talking when I know what I want to say?” Or if you need a break from people in general and a friend has messaged you, just tell them “Hey, sorry if I don’t reply, I just need a little time to myself but I’ll get back to you when I can!”
I know this can feel awkward or abnormal to say, but it is a positive way to give yourself space to breathe while also respecting someone else’s feelings and needs. Communication is important for any relationship, and improving your communication skills with the people around you will create a positive impact on everyone’s lives.
Do you know of more offhand comments that can cause self-esteem issues? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
About Draven Jackson
Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.
To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.
Growing up my mom would say things like can you be any slower? It always made me feel like I was stupid. Even today I can still hear her words and feel like I should be faster or smarter.
I suffered as a child with offhand comments to the gist of I was at the wrong place at the wrong time (like I would really know that or it was even true, which it wasn’t, and could change it!), did or didn’t do things in the correct order to that person’s liking, interfered with a parent’s “other” priorities, etc. This happened frequently and I made sure that my kids would never suffer that after I learned how ridiculous it was as an adult but it caused me a lot of rejected feelings growing up!
It’s so important to be conscious of how we speak to or communicate with children. I was yelled at a lot, so I’m always afraid of being in trouble as an adult.
I have battled with self esteem my whole life over my looks and weight. I was 52 years old and lost 154 lbs. Thinking it would help with my self esteem and make me see myself in a better light. I’m battling the seeing me as I was and not who I am now. I have a long ways to go to to battle my self esteem issues but not giving up on the battle.
Amazing article. All very true points. Thanks for sharing
Excellent article and a reminder to choose your words carefully when in earshot of children.
What a great article, very good advice. Words can hurt, choose what you say carefully.
When I was 12 years old, I’d been taking ballet lessons for several years. One day a visiting ballet teacher said that I needed to lose a few pounds. That started a lifelong series of yo-yo diets. It took me years to overcome this. I was 5’4″ and kept my weight at 95 lbs.