Owning Our Triggers – When do they Become Our Responsibility?

This is a very interesting concept which I think about a LOT. I believe when you start to ‘think like an athlete’ you tend to monitor your thoughts to ensure only the true and authentic ones are wielding power, so in day-to-day thought processes I am always one who tries to weed out the thoughts and reactions I may have to things that I believe are ego-based from more authentic thoughts and reactions in order to spend my energy wisely. If I find myself reacting to something that has been said or written, I am the first one to ask myself ‘why do you think you are reacting to this Leah?’ In going through these thought processes, I have become particularly aware of certain ‘triggers’ that I seem to have.

Last week I was reading the piece circulating about the plus size woman who was discussing how she felt the expression of ‘I’m proud of you’ was patronising and offensive. Whilst she is entirely within her right to have her own reactions to these terms, and clearly many people related with her experiences, it made me wonder – at what point is our reaction to a term or a phrase simply a trigger of our own, and if so, when do we take ownership of that trigger as a way of understanding our reaction to it?

I’ll throw an example of my own into the mix – I have a very very VERY strong dislike for the term ‘fat’, or any of its term-friends such as ‘fattie’. Can’t handle it. It makes me shiver. Reading pieces that throw the terms around like they’re going out of fashion put me in the corner in the foetal position. But do I find the pieces themselves offensive? Well it depends on their intention and motivation. Because I don’t read anything that is shaming in intention, the chances are that what I am reading is coming from a fellow body-love advocate who is discussing experiences or thoughts related to being larger, and they are simply comfortable with ‘fat’. So no, I don’t find them offensive. I just simply know that my reaction is based on my own issues with the term – its my personal trigger and I take responsibility for it. Then I move on. On the other hand, I am very comfortable with the term ‘plus-size’, which other people find offensive.

So when does it become our responsibility to know our triggers and pay heed to the intention behind things so that we don’t become a society who is offended by everything? It’s here that I draw the line and try to limit the discussion to non-PTSD triggers, or panic attack triggers. I’m talking about the ones that see us get to the end of a conversation or article thinking ‘why is it I feel offended by this?”

Lets go back to the ‘please don’t tell me you’re proud of me’ example. I got to the end of the piece thinking, ‘well what CAN people say when it comes to expressing praise for another person’s efforts?’ Is all praise patronising, or is it how some of us are interpreting it?

Funnily enough after recently seeing a friend’s Parkrun image on her Facebook, I was tempted to message her and say ‘you have a running posture that people could only dream of’ and sounding out if she has ever thought about entering events as I know she loves running but I have never seen her doing events beyond this first Parkrun. Reading that article stopped me from hitting ‘send’ on my message. Did I dodge a bullet, or did someone miss out on feeling complimented?

The thing is, many people still like praise, and need praise as a motivator – and there is nothing wrong with that. So what CAN we say? Or if terms of approval or praise are a bit sensitive for you, at what point in time do you just own that sensitivity and realise the person meant well?

We had a discussion about this in the BPA Facebook group, with some members mentioning that they love hearing their partners or children express how proud they are of them at the end of a race or event. Other members preferred situation specific praise like ‘wow your lifting/running/rowing/insert-activity-here has really progressed’. I must admit I don’t tell people that I am proud of them unless they have intimately shared their journey with me, I tend to say ‘you must be very proud of yourself’, or ‘you must be so pleased’. And on a personal level, I don’t mind praise, but I don’t ‘fuel the fire’ from it, if that makes sense. If I’m happy with the job that I just did then I’m satisfied.

As you may all know by now, I like to be part of the solution, so lets have a discussion about what people can say when they want to express praise for your efforts. Because lets remember, you might be doing things that people are secretly dreaming of doing, so chances are they are going to think you’re pretty awesome. But if they can’t say they are proud of you, what CAN they say? Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments, and I will put them all together for publishing if we get enough 🙂

9 thoughts on “Owning Our Triggers – When do they Become Our Responsibility?

  1. How about “I’m so happy for you that you”…did whatever? I was in a program where people did pretty intense work around a lot of issues and when they were done, we would offer a “connecting message”. We weren’t to say “I’m so proud of you” for the very reasons you listed above.

    You could also turn it around to link their efforts to the positive effect it has on you, like, “Watching you compete makes me want to do it too – you are inspiring to me” or “It made me happy to see you enjoying yourself so much” or “Watching you take care of yourself encourages me to do the same”. And of course being authentic in what you say.

    1. Thankyou so much for sharing these suggestions Blannie they are awesome – I am a big fan of the one where you turn it into what it inspires you to do. Love it.

  2. I think there’s a difference between complimenting someone on their running posture and saying you are proud of them for running, which can be offered in a condescending way. That being said, it is hard to compliment people and hard to accept compliments because words are imperfect representations of our feelings and intentions. Are you proud of me because I completed a race and, yay, completing a race is hard (I don’t race, so taking a bit of creative license here), or are you proud of me for leaving my presumably sedentary and “unhealthy” lifestyle and entering into the society approved active and “healthy” lifestyle, all predicated on my conformation or lack thereof to body standards? Why am I proud of myself? It can be hard to know. If it is the latter the pride may become contingent on success, which tends to mean weight loss, and that is problematic. For what it’s worth, I hate people saying they are proud of me in any area of my life. Don’t presume that I care about your feelings about me (yeah, I’m a bit of a contrarian). But, I try not to get too snippy and accept compliments under the most positive interpretation of their giver’s intention. I also try to give compliments, although I do stay away from “I’m proud of you” except with my kids.

    1. It really is such a grey area isn’t it Jenny? And so individual also. I must say I am exactly the same as you – I only tell my daughter I am proud of her.

    1. You’re welcome Hannah, I enjoyed reading your piece, loved the honesty of it and am sure it will resonate with many people.

  3. Personally I think admiring a runner’s form in the manner you wanted to is high praise! I would love to get a compliment like that.

    But I’m not a big fan of being someone’s inspiration (or hearing that I am, rather). “I’m proud of you” from a coach or partner? Great! From someone without any investment in my performance? Weird.

    But it is a fine line, and I try to forgive more than get offended. Unless someone straight-up tells me that they’re using me as an inspiration to get to the gym and lose weight or something.

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