Maybe I’m a Pollyanna but I believe that most people mean well. I don’t think that people go out of their way to be insensitive. But when you are going through a tough time, there are words that our loved ones and friends say that are hurtful. They are better left unsaid.
1. “Everything happens for a reason.” / “It’s for the best.”
If you’ve just been fired, have an illness, or lost a loved one, it’s hard to comprehend that in that instant there is a reason behind what is happening. It’s illogical to believe that any bad situation is for the best.
Later in life, we may find meaning in how we responded to these life events. We can often look back on life and we can see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. But if we respond to our situations in an intentional manner, we will connect the pieces no matter what.
2. “I know how you feel.”
No, you probably don’t. You might be able to attempt to put yourself in someone’s shoes but you will never know personally how they feel.
Though everyone will at some point experience a loss or a bad situation, it is an overpoweringly personal experience. You’re never accurately able to feel how someone experiences loss and when you say you can, you are diminishing their feelings.
3. “You can always…”
- “You can always…have another child.”
- “You can always… start dating again.”
When it comes to loss, it can sound like you are suggesting that a loved one is replaceable. The person experiencing the loss doesn’t want someone or something else. “You can always” implies that a substitution is right around the corner.
4. “It’s probably PMS” or “Are You PMSing?”
It may be true but for the love of all that is good, do not ask the question. Hormones are a scary thing. Best just to leave it alone. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
5. “There’s always someone worse off than you.”
Yes, you’re trying to help them see the bright side but someone who is going through a painful divorce may be in as much trauma as someone who is in bereavement. There’s no common sadness scale that applies to everyone. Not all people are sad in the same manner or to the same degree. It doesn’t help to compare one situation to another.
6. “That’s not age appropriate.”
If a 70 year old woman wants to rock leather pants and 5-inch heels, what does it matter to anyone else? Clothing doesn’t come with warning labels or age suggestions, unless you are an infant or toddler.
7. “You’re too old to do that.”
There is no expiration date on dreams.
- Julia Child was almost 40 before she even learned how to cook and she launched her television career at age 51.
- Novelist Elizabeth Jolley received a whopping 39 rejection letters in one year but was able to publish her first novel at age 56.
- Writer Mary Wesley was 71 when she published her first novel.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing as a columnist in her 40’s. Her popular Little House books weren’t written when she was a child at all. They were written and published when she was in her 60’s.
- Harlan Sanders (Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken) was 66 when he began to promote his style of fried chicken that led to his fortune.
- Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses) was one of the biggest names in American Folk Art and she didn’t start painting until she was 76. At age 88, Mademoiselle Magazine named Grandma Moses a “Young Woman of the Year.”
- Nelson Mandela was almost 76 when he was elected president of South Africa. He spent 27 years in prison and was released in 1990. Four years later, he was president.
Success can, and does, occur at any age. There’s also no rule that says success has to occur before the age of 30. Trust me. I googled it and it’s not there either.
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