“Harmless gossip with a girlfriend can do wonders for a woman’s mood and a University of Michigan study says they have an answer why: feeling emotionally close to a friend increases levels of the hormone progesterone, helping to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress.” – Science 2.0
I once had a friend say, “I’ve never talked about you behind your back” I didn’t disagree with them but I knew they were probably lying. If they weren’t talking about me they were certainly talking about someone else. And, not only is that just fine, it is likely healthy for your other relationships.
There is a difference between gossip and betrayal. If you spend your time sharing information with people that may cause the person you’re gossiping about challenges in their life, that’s not healthy and it’s not okay. I understand that the line between gossip and betrayal can be thin. However, the idea that no one will ever talk about you behind your back is delusional. I do find comfort in knowing that most people don’t really think about me enough to gossip about me. We mostly gossip about people in our sphere of influence (close friends and family) or celebrities. There is really no in-between.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”- Carl Jung
It can be painful to know that people are gossiping about you but one should remember that what we gossip about says everything about our values and what’s important to us and nothing about the person we are gossiping about. I’ve talked about this before on the blog. For example, someone said to me, “John (not the real name) is always on vacation, when does he work?” and I thought to myself, the person gossiping probably needs a vacation.
If I’m observing your life, I’m going to naturally focus in on the parts that reflect what’s important to me. I will then make comparisons and gossip about where we differ or where I’m jealous of you (it’s always about the person speaking). We make sense of ourselves and our lives by finding where we fit in context of a larger social circle.
Even when it’s hurtful, I know it’s not about me. Like, when people say I’m selfish for not having children, I know that the person speaking is likely feeling one of two ways: 1) they get a lot of satisfaction and joy from having children and/or wanting children 2) they wonder what their life would be like if they didn’t have children. Again, your opinions on me say everything about you.
Sometimes it’s beneficial to the relationship to get some of the feelings out with someone else first. If I hurt your feelings and you vent to your partner about me, it may take some of the edge off when we talk about what happened at a later time. The challenge with this comes when we don’t talk about how I hurt you (I can’t read your mind) and resentments build. It’s best to try and talk about it directly with the person at some point even though it’s hard.
It helps to be confident in who you are and know what’s important to you at this point in your life. This way, if you hear about people gossiping about you, you will be able to see that it’s not about you. Humans love to make things personal and a majority of the time it isn’t. It can be hard to accept my insignificance in the world. Although, I find it quite comforting.
“In small towns, news travels at the speed of boredom.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón