With the rise of social media, insults and unsolicited critiques are everywhere. They seem to come at us from every direction. It is more important now than ever that teens know how to handle insults, critiques, and advice. It seems that, unfortunately, far too many teens fall into one of two camps: (1) Those that believe every insult they hear about themselves, or (2) Those who don’t believe any insult they hear about themselves.
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Teens who believe every insult they hear will likely battle depression and self-doubt. They will have a difficult time believing that they are valuable and important.
Teens who refuse to believe any insult they hear about themselves are missing potential opportunities to improve themselves and benefit from the perspectives of other people.
I believe we all know those people who sway back and forth from one camp to another, but neither camp is a healthy place to stay. There is, however, a healthy middle ground where we can glean wisdom from insults and critiques while discarding the rest of it. This healthy middle ground is where we need to teach our teens to live, and I am going to share with you my best strategy for doing just that.
How To Handle Insults
It all starts with an insult!
Of course, it starts with an insult. Something that I want to make very clear about this step is that insults have very little to do with the person that they are directed to. Insults are really always about the person who is speaking them, but they are sometimes coming from a place of wanting to help. This is especially true if the person who is insulting you has overcome this perceived problem. People who have conquered a problem are overwhelmed with excitement about helping other people conquer the problem… even if you don’t see it as a problem at all.
Other people are just mean. Mean people don’t get any room in your head unless you allow them in. You don’t have to let them in.
Times when your teen should really pay attention to the “insult”: when your boss critiques you at work on your job, when your teacher critiques your studying or learning skills, when your coach critiques your sports skills, when your parent critiques your behavior, etc. These “insults” are almost always opportunities to improve. Don’t let the sting of criticism make you miss your opportunity to learn.
Is there any truth?
The first thing teens should do when they receive insults or unsolicited advice is to look for nuggets of truth and wisdom. Is there ANY truth at all whatsoever in what they are saying? These little nuggets of truth and wisdom might be valuable. Who knows? They might even be life changing! Don’t discard them without giving them at least a little consideration.
No, there is no truth whatsoever!
You dug down deep into this insult and came up empty. There is no truth whatsoever.
Either this person has completely misread the situation, made huge assumptions which weren’t true, or is just looking to project their own issues onto innocent bystanders. Whoops! I almost forget the people who give advice on topics that they have no real knowledge of. You know, like that friend who thinks you should ignore your doctor and take their health advice or that other friend who is now a self-proclaimed expert after reading that one book.
My favorite individuals in this group are the ones who make up statistics off the top of their heads. At best, 67% might actually mean two of their three closest friends, but chances are they just pulled that number out of thin air. I find these people to be amusing, but I don’t take ANYTHING they have to say seriously. Not their insults. Not their compliments.
If there’s no truth, then just LET IT GO!
I know this can be easier for some people than it is for others, but learning to let nonsense go is a necessary step in learning to be a mentally sound adult. You have taken the time to search for nuggets of truth and came up empty. This nonsense does not deserve any more time of your life. Don’t give it any more time.
Yes, I found nuggets of truth.
Separate the truth from the nonsense. Let the nonsense go while focusing on the truth and wisdom. Now, with the truth and wisdom in hand, you need to ask yourself another question:
Am I going to do anything about this?
Am I going to make any changes in my life? I am NOT a fashionista. Perhaps someone who knows more about style than me (wouldn’t take much) suggested that my hair is ugly and should be cut in a pixie cut. This person could very well be correct. Perhaps a pixie cut is the best and most flattering style for me. Will I actually go to a beautician and get the cut?
If someone calls me fat, will I start a weight loss program? If someone calls me ignorant, will I become more informed? While I recognize some truth, will I make any changes?
Nope, not gonna happen! Then just LET IT GO!
Sometimes, it is okay to say, “You’re right, but I’m not changing!” I am overweight. I should start a fitness and nutrition regimen. I’m not going to (at least not right now).
There are many things that I “should” be doing to improve my life. Some require more time, energy, or money than I have to devote to them. Others are just “bleh”. While still others are just not “me”.
I decided long before I had my first gray hair that I would grow gray naturally. I have always seen so much beauty in older women, but I realize that not everyone can recognize that beauty. Yes, I am getting a good bit of gray hairs, but the only thing that I will do about it is smile in the mirror when I see it. I’m not sorry if that bothers you, but I do feel sorry for you.
If someone doesn’t appreciate your style, but you own that style, don’t apologize for it. Rock your own style!
Yes, I see the wisdom and want to do something about it!
Then Just Do It!
You have recognized the seeds of wisdom and decided to use this as a springboard to self-improvement! Good for you! Formulate a workable plan and stick to it.
Sometimes we need someone looking in from outside of our lives to see those things that we can’t see. Like a bad odor that we become “nose blind” to until someone else points it out, our habits, perceptions, and internal dialogue can become so ingrained that we need someone else to point out that little tweaks ( or huge ones) can make an enormous difference.
I applaud your bravery.
Every step in this process requires bravery. Looking your insults squarely in the face requires bravery. Searching for wisdom within those insults requires much bravery. Making decisions requires bravery. Letting go of negativity and nonsense requires bravery. If you get to the place where you decide to embrace the wisdom and make a change in your life (even a change as small as your lipstick color or hairstyle), these decisions and changes require a lot of bravery. You are braver than you know.
For more information on teaching your teens how to handle insults, check out the resources below.