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Minimizing Messages

We all have internal beliefs. Messages that run on a loop in the background, often without us being aware of them. They color our responses to the muck life throws at us. Do we laugh or attack? Dismiss or dig deeper?

But where do they come from?

When my mom was growing up, her family lived on a farm. Apparently, my grandmother preferred they wear their shoes at all times, even in the house.

As someone who currently lives in NYC where people’s dogs (and sometimes people) poop on the sidewalk, I don’t understand why anyone wants people wearing their shoes indoors. But I digress.

My mother tells that whenever they would clip a toe on a chair or stub it somehow, my grandmother would dismissively respond, “If you had shoes on, that wouldn’t have happened.”

It was said so often, it became a joke.

Burn your finger on the stove? If you had shoes on, that wouldn’t have happened.

Boyfriend breaks up with you? If you had shoes on, that wouldn’t have happened.

The phrase persisted into my childhood, available for use no matter the circumstance.

When I was growing up, my mother would always say, “It’ll be better by the time you’re married.”

Cut your finger? It’ll be better by the time you’re married.

Have a fever or the flu? It’ll be better by the time you’re married.

When I played with my brother, who was often a little rough considering I was almost three years younger and a girl, he would tell me to “Tough it out”.

Playing flag football with the older boys in the neighborhood and get the wind knocked out of me? Tough it out.

Get pelted in the leg by a tennis ball thrown out of frustration? Tough it out.

This never caught on as a catchphrase, but the sentiment has stayed with me. My internal messaging for both physical and emotional pain is to “tough it out”. In hindsight, I know my brother wanted me to “tough it out” so he didn’t get in trouble for being too rough. We both received this message growing up, he just verbalized it to protect his own butt.

As I’ve settled into adult life, a phrase I often catch myself saying is, “No one is going to die” or “No one died”.

This is likely a variation on the “tough it out” theme.

I made a mistake at work, but no one died.

Something came up and I couldn’t attend a function I had planned to, but no one is going to die if I don’t show up.

All of these phrases seem to minimize the pain in the moment.

Or to balance it?

Yes, you cut your finger, but it’s not the end of the world. If you had shoes on, that wouldn’t have happened. It’ll be better by the time you’re married. Tough it out. No one died.

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