“When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Ruiz
I love having no clue what I’m going to write about next because all I can do is wait patiently for the universe to teach me my next lesson – whatever it may be. Today’s lesson came in the form of a phone call from a friend. I was explaining that I was sick of doing things I thought other people wanted me to do instead of what I wanted to do. She suddenly interrupted and said, “I never asked you to do things you didn’t want to do.” It stopped my in my tracks and I shook my head smiling and gently chided, “This isn’t about you, it’s about me.” We both laughed and moved on in conversation, but as I thought about the conversation dynamic, I realized how often we take what other people are saying and make it our own whether it was meant for us or not.
It’s not all about you. I read a funny definition of paranoia online: It’s when you’re sitting in the bleachers at a football game, watching the players in a huddle, convinced they’re talking about you.
There’s a certain freedom to understanding that when other people snap, cut you off, don’t respond, or even say something unusually rude, it’s usually not about you. I have to caveat it with usually because I’m sure there’s the rare sometimes. We tend to give ourselves more social credit than is due to us. For example, I used to be physically unable to say no to a social invitation because I didn’t want to appear rude. Sounds ridiculous, right? It wasn’t until I finally understood that the happiness level at the party was not dependent upon my presence and my uniquely gifted charisma. I had imposed too much self-importance to the point of unneeded stress.
This happens every single day – whether in big-boom or little pebble sort of ways. There is a conscious choice we make to either take it personally and let our day be a little gloomier while our shoulders sag just a little more, or we can understand that the rude behavior was not aimed at us and let it roll off our back. An unanswered text, a brush-off from a boss, a sudden exit from a phone call, being cut off in traffic with an accompanied “bird,” an acquaintance in public that doesn’t recognize you. Don’t you dare say to yourself, “What did I do wrong?”…because the answer is nothing. That person is not responding to you or anything you’ve done. The goal is to get to a point that when we come across someone who’s a real crab, and we can say, “Wow, they’re having a tough day,” and leave it at that.
I think this lesson is especially hard for me because I’m a recovering people pleaser, so any amount of dissatisfaction from other people is a big no-no in my book…also I’ve been around a lot of yelling and anger that feels both deeply personal and hurtful. To lift myself above my initial hyper-sensitive reaction, I have to understand that the anger is coming from a deep place that was likely already there before I was, and that it is not being aimed at me. Note: I’m going to make a second caveat here and say that if you’re in the middle of a relationship that is either verbally or physically abusive, even though his anger is not about you, you still need to get the hell outta there and go surround yourself with some serious TLC…because his anger will eventually eat away at you until it becomes your anger too.
I realize I’m writing this on the brink of the unleashing of the next generation who is our most self-righteous and entitled generation yet, so this message can extend beyond the “don’t take it personally” to the “no really, the world does not actually revolve around you.”