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Jane Hutcheon

broadcaster/journalist/author

13 Nov
2019

Dear Jane: This is What It's Like to Feel Belittled Personal Event deliberate life

Jane Hutcheon

Event Start: 3 weeks ago

Dear Jane,

Far too many people have attempted to belittle me. I emphasise the term ‘attempted’ because in those situations I work very hard to ensure they don’t succeed - at least where my sense of self-worth and dignity are concerned.

Sometimes this can be immensely tiring.

Belittling actions occur on a spectrum - from a simple smirk to laughter and pointing. Then there are demeaning comments (often presented as statements or polite) to overt insults.

They hurt - they all hurt. 

How does it feel? Like a slight tightening in the chest, a bristle at the back of the neck, a quickening of the heart and breath.  In other words, the body prepares for a flight-or-fight response.  Meanwhile, I gauge the situation and consider whether to ignore or react.

Which option I choose depends on the event and the strength of my resolve. I haven’t cried in public because I am fiercely determined that my personhood is always carried through and communicated. However, I have shed countless tears in private and cried myself to sleep too many times. All too often I feel like I am in a battle, and it’s a matter of survival that a chink in the armour isn’t revealed and exploited.

At other times, belittling behaviours can occur through ignorance.   If that’s the case (and it’s not always possible to ascertain), then I will engage with the person or people because I consider that to be my job.  It’s my job as a parent, to inform and correct stereotypes or misinformation so that my child is less likely to be belittled.

I do get battle-weary. On those occasions I nurture myself through art, my family and a good dose of mindless TV comedy (Frasier, Big Bang Theory, Michael MacIntyre).

Jane, I hope this gives you a sense of what it’s like to feel belittled.

All the very best,

Debra Keenahan

(image used with the kind permisson of Robert Brindley: https://brindleyimages.com.au/)

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