J.A. Stinger

Words Can Inspire The World

Emotional Toughness—How Haters & Hurt Feelings Can Be GOOD for Us

Yesterday I reposted an old blog addressing how I feel PC and EC (Emotional Correctness) has gone more than a little crazy and often has done more to alienate people than to bind them. The thread had some really wonderful and thoughtful commentary. Not everyone wholly agreed on everything but everyone seemed to strive to be thoughtful and kind. THANK YOU, btw.

But some of the commentary about aggression and hurt feelings got me thinking about how we have become as a culture. Are we becoming too sheltered? Is it doing more harm than good?

Bear with me a moment.

I LOVE air conditioning. I live in Texas, so in the summer, I probably love AC more than my husband. I also love Costco, because….

I really like being able to drive everywhere instead of walking or saddling up a horse. Indoor plumbing? Huge fan. But often I wonder how soft these conveniences have made me (since I think about a possible zombie apocalypse more than is probably healthy).

If life as I knew it imploded tomorrow, how would I fare? With no power, no Internet, no running water? With no AC and it is 110 degrees and 90% humidity? Since I don’t have to swing an ax daily for fuel if I want to eat? I have writer hands. How will those fare?

Not well.

The hard truth is we don’t grow without being uncomfortable. We don’t get tough without friction. And I wonder if this being comfortable has permeated too much of our lives, down to our “feelings.” I have to say after working well over a decade with other writers, the single biggest hurdle we have to overcome is our feelings.

We must get rhino skin.

Let Me Illustrate

There was once an interesting experiment. In the middle of the desert, scientists constructed a bio-dome. Inside, life would be a “perfect” world where it was always an ambient 76 degrees.

The trees would get all the sun they needed, all the water, all the nutrients. There were no storms, no pests, no diseases, and no overcrowding, and no weeds. Surely, with these perfect conditions the trees would thrive, right?


Eventually the scientists noticed that the trees in the bio-dome grew slower and were smaller than trees in the “real” world. They also never grew above a certain height. They had very shallow root systems. Overall, they looked…unhealthy.

How could this be?

Since they were scientists they did what scientists do. They went back over the data. What had gone wrong? They’d given the trees all they needed to thrive…or had they?

Eventually, they realized that in the hard cruel world, trees weren’t all evenly spaced for enough room, so they had to grow taller to compete for sun. Since water wasn’t delivered daily and there were even periods of drought, the trees were forced to grow deeper roots. Deeper roots could reach the water table. Deeper roots clung on when winds were high.

Speaking of high winds. Storms broke off weaker branches, forced the trees to get tougher bark, to increase the diameter of branches. Pests and diseases? The unprotected trees survived them and became resistant to them. Weeds? They had to learn to successfully compete or coexist.

What does this say about us?

We NEED Push-Back to Grow

I do weight training and sadly, the pink one-pound dumbbells are pretty much useless for anything that doesn’t involve me breaking a pinky toe. In order to get stronger, I need resistance. Resistance causes pain.


Yesterday was leg day, which means I am likely going to have a pronounced hobble that will pass…just in time for the next leg day. But I do this because it makes me lean and strong and healthy .

I know that my body must endure resistance to become stronger and faster, but truthfully? So do my feelings.

Now, please understand. I believe we should always be respectful and as a species it is just good for everyone if we are not acting like a bunch of insensitive asshats. Manners are what separates us from animals.

And proper grammar .

But at the same time? Not everyone got the “nice” memo and if we go around creating a holodeck where no one ever disagrees or makes us feel uncomfortable or criticizes, we are ill-prepared for reality.

Getting our feelings hurt can actually be quite useful if channeled properly. I loved how the children’s movie Inside Out addressed how our culture has gone cray-cray about never feeling sad. Sadness has a very useful purpose. It is human and necessary.

Same with hurt feelings.

Believe it or not? Dealing with obnoxious people is GREAT training in mental toughness. 

But, there are some added benefits, which we will explore.

Hurt Feeling Signal Areas of Weakness

Years ago, if someone said something that hurt or angered me, I got super defensive. I had a million reasons to justify or excuse whatever I’d done or written and….

Drama, drama, drama.

Now? Not as much. If something really stings? Really angers me? I am old enough to have learned that often that is because there might be some truth to what the other person is saying. Not always, but I do at least now stop to explore WHY it made me feel the way I did.

This is especially important for being a writer. I have met a number of folks who were excellent writers, but who came absolutely unhinged if I didn’t tell them their writing was the best thing since kitten videos. Since they couldn’t ever get over the hurt feelings, they couldn’t learn.

What might at first be perceived as a “hater” could be my next greatest teacher.

Hurt Feeling Build Discernment

People have a right to their opinion, but guess what?

People have a right to be wrong.

When we exercise we can tell the difference between “good” pain and “bad” pain. Some folks don’t want to work out at all because they don’t want ANY pain. That isn’t healthy. But working out and ignoring ALL pain is just dumb and a good way to end up injured.

Same with emotions.

When we put ourselves out there in a book or a blog or a conversation? The world often will answer back. Over time we have to learn not to take every single opinion to heart. Some people are just plain wrong.

If we brood too much over one thoughtless review? That is a formula to OD on brownie batter and quit.

Hurt Feelings Can Propel Greatness

I imagine most of you didn’t get a parade from friends and family when you decided to become a writer. For years I was an approval addict. If I mentioned wanting to be a writer, the second someone made a face, I changed my mind.

That was…DUMB. And a huge reason I didn’t become a writer far sooner.

I had to learn to harness those hurt feelings to propel me forward. What once made me quit, now makes me work harder and longer.

Action speaks louder than words, and those naysayers often can be the very fuel that keeps us pressing.

The guy from church who laughed at me wanting to become a writer? Who told me I had a better chance of being hit by lightning than making a living as an author? Let’s just say proving him wrong has been most satisfying. Also, I think his nasty comments did more to fuel me through the dark nights of my soul than all my cheerleaders.

I no longer let people like him dictate my choices. Instead, I was grateful because he finally showed me the sickness of my approval addiction. I learned that I didn’t need 100% consensus to do something great.

In the end, storms SUCK. None of us like pain or drought or suffering or struggle, but it is part of life and the more we embrace it for what it can give us? The better off we are. Sheltering ourselves all the time, while comfortable for the moment, might not be the best long-term plan.

Though I am not giving up my AC.

Or Costco.

Or driving.

Oh stop judging me. I’ll worry about it after the apocalypse.

What are your thoughts? We talked about think skin yesterday. Have you ever been guilty? I know I have. My writing would have improved far earlier had I been doing far less defending and a lot more listening.  Have your haters fueled you more than your cheerleaders? Yeah, terrible to admit but it is human nature.

Have you ever tried to work with someone but dancing around their feelings just made them too exhausting to be around? Have you gotten better about listening to your feelings in regards to weeding out toxic people? Have toxic people taught you some priceless lessons?

Do you think social media has become dangerous especially for younger generations? That people are creating an imaginary reality that leaves them ill-prepared for the outside world?

I love hearing from you!