Growing up, I watched a dear person in my life hold back from saying her piece and instead carry unexpressed energy in her body. She repeatedly considered, “What if I did things differently? What if I had spoken up?” As a result, I decided I would always say my piece and never let anyone treat me badly. I would not hold things in and be walked all over. I would be proactive and direct.

Fast forward a few decades. Now, I am considering that this is not always the highest road.

It’s a revelation for me. I’m learning I would be proactive and directthat there may be a time to not retort to a hurtful comment, especially when the person lashing out is not able to hear or digest the response. My aim is rather to feel the awakened pain within without running away from it. To transform my ego in the process, and thus strengthen myself. And to send love and compassion back to the person who did the hurting. If we were all living in balance and truth, we would not feel the need to hurt or judge or break people down rather than build them up.

For example, the other day someone said something that implied I was stupid. I felt struck as if by a dart; I was stunned as it stung. That thoughtless comment sent me whirling back to the source of the sting, to another time and place when I was very little. As I came back to the moment, a sarcastic retort came to mind—while another, wiser voice within urged me to be quiet and to simply take it. The tug-of-war began. My ego became defensive and aggressive, but the wiser voice insisted that I take a step back and allow myself to feel the emotion within.

So I did just that. I walked away, went to a comforting space, and took out my writing portfolio for some validation, which made me smile. And then I let myself cry.

I looked in the mirror and told myself I was great. That in some areas I might be considered “stupid,” yes, but that it was in fact a gift from G‑d. For if I was versed in everything, I wouldn’t be as clear on the direction of my mission in this world. When I calmed down, I began to see how the person who said the comment in question may have an inferiority complex of his own, and that it was actually irrelevant if he found me stupid.

This is not easy work for me. I have a fierce ego, and a need to be right and appreciated. For the most part I don’t laugh easily at the presence of my flaws, and I am a perfectionist. I bask in external validation. What an ego!

But my aim is to love myself unconditionally, so much so that I can take whatever comes at me from the outside. My aim is to laugh at myself more. So that if a dart should come my way, like the one that once pierced my insides, it will have no place to stick, My aim is to love myself unconditionallyand will fall to the floor weakly. The dart can in fact serve as a gift, a reminder to love myself more and a reminder to focus on being the best unique me I can be.

On a greater level, if more of us have the intention to love ourselves and be the best partner, friend, relative, community member and nation member we can be, then if anyone or anything seeks to undermine us, we will be enlightened and strong and amazing and untouchable. And the dart will fall to the floor.

Disclaimer: There are times when it is absolutely necessary and appropriate to speak up. For example, if someone says something hurtful about someone vulnerable or unable to speak up for himself, or does something that can lead to adverse safety or health consequences. Or if you are confident that your carefully chosen words could make a difference to the way the person does things going forward.