January 11, 2020

The Cage of “Not Offending Someone”: How to Stop Taking on other people’s Reactions.


I feel at times like I’m in a cage of needing to “avoid offending someone.”

It feels like an impossible life to live—it really has been impossible.

I try hard. I used to even abuse myself in the process of “not offending someone.” It happened anyway, and it felt horrible! I felt bad about myself constantly. How flawed am I?

Through my personal growth, I learned that people get offended by what they see I do and what they hear I say through their own filter. This doesn’t take away my responsibility, but it takes away the burden of all of the responsibility.

I started doing CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) on the feelings and thoughts around this, the pressure and expectation of always being kind, and not to offend. During a session, the facilitator said to me, “That feels like a weapon you use against yourself when you have that thought. It feels painful and impossible.” I began to realize this slowly. He was right.

It’s a common belief among many religions and non-religions: always being kind; don’t offend anyone.

I began to notice how I reacted with this belief system. What happens inside me when I need to work and write when I have this thought? When I can’t offend anyone? Immediately, my entire body stiffens and there’s pressure in my head. I feel trapped.

We truly believe the beliefs we have. Often we will die for our story. We will go to war over our story—our beliefs. It happens every day.

So as I dug into this deeper, I found a place where I could have the freedom to be me, express myself, do my work, and be as kind to others as I could be. The rest is up to them, their filter, their story, their lens. I have no control over how it is perceived.

I consider what I do and how I can be kind (a vague concept, really) and honor that part of me that needs to write, express, and believe what she does. Not to seek approval—but to seek to just be.

The pressure society (as a whole) puts on us to constantly not offend is heartbreaking. I can clearly see it and feel it. But we cannot always predict what will trigger someone, what is kind in our mind, and not-so-kind in theirs. Humans are complex that way.

The quest for perfection lies in the stories we have hidden within about ourselves. How can we raise our children in a world that isn’t constantly embedding the belief that they have to be kind at any cost? How can we live wholeheartedly, be less sweet, more authentic, and speak our truth the best that we can?

When we hold it in, it festers. When it builds up inside, it will usually come out in a less-than-kind way. Even if that is from a bottle of wine. It will come out.

How about learning to express ourselves in a way that is as kind as we can be while honoring what we need to express—with self-respect. We can! We can certainly stop taking on other people’s reactions as all our fault.

We can have self-compassion and leave their offended selves to themselves. We can own our part and be kind!

It certainly isn’t going to happen by putting impossible expectations on ourselves and others. Perfectionism will start to boil over, and deep down, we all want balance.


Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Lisa Hawkins  |  Contribution: 28,640

author: Lisa Hawkins

Image: Sai Mr./Flickr

Editor: Naomi Boshari