Most of us are impervious to insults. Through grade school and secondary school, insults were commonplace. I've noticed that getting older provides no respite, but the insults do become less blunt and more cryptic. Learning to maintain composure when insulted is an incredible skill, but learning how to smile in the face of a personal affront is another matter altogether.
Your reaction to another's insult tells other people as much about you as it does about the person who provided the insult. Over the past few months, I have tried, with varying success, to meet every insult with a genuine smile. Here are some of the thought processes I had to conquer in order to do so.
Our Beliefs Inform Our Reaction
1. We are self-conscious
When we are genuinely irritated by an insult, it shows our own self-consciousness. Our resentment towards our own imperfections turns into resentment for the person who noticed and rudely insulted us. If we want to learn to smile at every insult, the first step is to conquer our own self-conscious beliefs.
In grade school, I had one friend who was extremely overweight for his age. Anyone who made fun of him usually ended up hurt in the nurse's office, but he reacted violently because of his own self-conscious beliefs about his weight. No matter what the other person targets to insult you, being too self-conscious is going to hamper your ability to pleasantly deal with insults.
2. Our ego is clouding our judgment
An insult from another person is an affront to our ego. Our glorified self-perceptions could hinder our ability to calmly handle an insult. When I first started to approach women that I had never met, my ego was clouding my judgment. By rejecting me, the women were reducing my own self-perception and thus making me feel worse. I couldn't react with a smile under the circumstances.
By reducing our own ego, through meditative or other practices, we can avoid taking offense to insults because they destroy our self-perception. This could be a lifelong journey, but so long as we realize our own ego might be clouding our judgment, we can think twice about our reactions.
3. Not everyone will like us
If you are being true to yourself and your beliefs, there are many people who will not like you at all. Some people just have opposing personalities, many have opposing beliefs, and sometimes there is no chemistry.
It is a good thing that not everyone will like you. It is an indicator that you are being true to yourself and espousing your beliefs. Some will love you and some will hate you. Once you internalize that not everyone is going to like you, it will become much easier to react to insults with a smile.
4. Create our own validation
Feeding off of the last point, it is easy to feel poorly when people do not like us. When other people like us, we feel validated. Otherwise, we feel like there is something wrong with us. Validation from ourselves is a much more sustainable way of living. More importantly, it will help us come to terms with other people's insults.
5. You can't empathize with others
This might seem like the hardest mental process to grasp, but you must be able to empathize with people who insult you. For someone to insult you, it requires an individual who is not in the best mental state. They may be depressed, stressed out, or have some other mental complex that is causing them to lash out at you.
Give them the benefit of the doubt and empathize with their plight. You don't have to talk about it, but realizing their insult comes from their own mental distress can help you smile and forgive the transgression.
Taking Insults in Stride
At the end of the day, taking any insult too seriously is a big mistake. Not only can it increase your blood pressure and upset you, but it can cause you to harbor resentment. These are all detrimental to your own health and may cause you to react in a silly way. Recognize that your own thoughts and perceptions inform how you react and you will be able to change your thoughts and approach every insult with a smile.