It Hurts Even When You Don’t Mean It

This is going to make me sound ungrateful and horrible, but I’m going to say it anyways, because it’s how I feel and I’m not going to hide from that.

I had a discussion/argument with my parents tonight.  The gist of it was that we were speaking in English and my mother suddenly asked us (my brother and me) to speak in Chinese.  We did for a bit, and then I kind of forgot and started speaking in English.  My father said: “How stupid are you?  You can’t even understand a simple instruction to speak to your mother in Chinese.  You don’t give me any reason to support your education if after learning Chinese for 12 years you can’t hold a simple conversation with your mother in Chinese.”

Being called stupid is a problem for me.  One of the ways my anxiety disorder expresses itself is that I worry about how intelligent other people find me.  I worry about it a lot.  I worry about the scores I get on tests.  Even when I get full marks for a particular question, I worry about whether it was phrased in the most perfect way possible.  I worry about whether what I say was appropriate to the situation.  I worry about whether it sounds insightful or lame.  I worry about…

Long story short, being called stupid, under any circumstances hurts.  I know when my father says that, he doesn’t really mean it.  I know he’s just angry and upset and he’s just venting and coping with his emotions in the only way he knows how.  I know he has his own issues and that he would never intentionally hurt me.  But he does.  Sometimes he says the most hurtful things.  Sometimes he takes things that he knows are my insecurities because I once trusted him enough to tell him, and he’ll use them against me when he’s upset.  Sometimes he’ll say things he doesn’t mean when he’s hurting.  And no matter how much I know he doesn’t mean it, no matter how much he apologises later, it still hurts.   It still makes me feel like I don’t deserve his love, or anyone else’s love.  It still makes me feel worthless and stupid and I still believe the hurtful things he says.  It hurts even when I know he doesn’t mean it.  And what’s said can’t be unsaid ever.

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8 thoughts on “It Hurts Even When You Don’t Mean It

  1. Well, his being in a situation as emotional as yours would trigger an emotional response. Sometimes, emotions get the better of one’s reason, so one will often regret what one says, be it good or bad.
    I’ve been not just called, but also labelled stupid on numerous occasions. I was once the student who had no hope if succeeding; many had believed this, parents and teachers alike. It almost killed me, and it’s still something that plagues me even today. It’s so hard to let go because I know that the scar it left in my heart is permanent. But I guess that’d be a different situation, because they weren’t angry when they called me stupid. They were making a ‘deduction’ from my academic progress.
    I think my poiint is that it’s only natural that your dad would respond like that. Maybe it isn’t totally ethical, but at the end of the day he doesn’t mean it. Sure, it hurts; that’s inevitable. But wouldn’t it hurt even more if you were put in a situation that this whole idea of “stupid” became a label, like it’s your only identity?

    • It’s not about ethics. I don’t hold it against him that he said what he did. I know why he did.
      The point I was trying to make is that these things can hurt, permanently. I don’t think I will ever believe I am intelligent, even in the face of evidence that I have more than adequate intelligence. No matter how many people tell me I’m intelligent, no matter how many IQ tests, no matter how many A*s say I’m good enough, I will never be able to fully believe I am intelligent.
      I can’t imagine how much more terrible it is to have been labelled stupid by people who did so as part of a reasoned decision, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that and sorry that you’ll be left with permanent scars from that. I should be thankful that stupid has never become my identity.

  2. Your feelings are valid regardless of anyone’s intentions. What a person means to do and what a person actually does can be different things, and their intent doesn’t erase that reality. In any act of communication, intent is not magic.

    I thought it might be nice for you to know that there are lots of people who think the same way.

    • Thanks for commenting. It’s always a bit of a tricky situation when someone does something hurtful without meaning it, because both parties feel hurt in the end (the offending party is hurt by the negative response they weren’t expecting and the offended party is hurt by the actual things said or done).

  3. My sisters do that. They are really good at honing in on insecurities and then when you are in a fight and they are really really angry, they will say them. (Otherwise, they are very good sisters)
    And even if you know they didn’t mean it at all, and even if they apologize, it sticks. And it is hiding there.

    • Yes. The worst part is that at the end of it all, both people feel bad about it. I don’t know about your sisters, but I know my father genuinely does regret saying those things, but I can’t be not-hurt when he says them, not even after he apologises.
      The thing about it is that my father is a great father, and your sisters are great sisters, and it’s just this one thing that makes it hard to know what to trust them with and how much to be ourselves around them.

  4. Hey, I might have gone to the same school as you at some point but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway that doesn’t matter. What matters is that your post moved me to the point of tears. Listen, you have every right to feel bad for what he said and you’re absolutely not being ungrateful or disrespectful for it. From your post, I can tell that your English is great and honestly learning one language well sometimes comes at the cost of sacrificing your ability in another language. I learnt both English and Chinese and honestly my Chinese is, for the lack of a better word, crap. In any case, don’t worry about it.

    • Hi! I have comments on moderation, so if you want to post your name/the name of the school, I’ll see it, but it won’t be public.

      I’m happy that my post moved you. Although my primary reason for blogging is self-expression, it’s also really important to me that my followers gain something from all this, too.

      Thank you for your support and your validation of my emotional reaction to my experiences.

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