A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.
This week, I found myself annoyed at someone about something they did, or rather, something they didn’t do. The thing about this was that the person would have had no idea that I expected them to do this thing and I had no authority that would require them to do it. Just an expectation that they should behave in a particular way.
As I worked through being irritated and annoyed at them, I realised I was blaming them for me feeling bad, when in reality, they’d done nothing wrong. I was being completely unreasonable, and I eventually figured out that dwelling on this was a waste of my mental space and that I should get on with doing my thing.
Like magic, I got an email covering exactly this topic from the Bold Self Love podcast, which I don’t listen to but I do flip through the transcript if it sounds interesting. The title of this week’s episode was “When Others Disappoint You”, which seemed to be about the feelings I had been processing. And, indeed, it was about exactly that.
The message was that when someone does something, it’s a neutral event but we choose to interpret it in a certain way and it’s our interpretation that causes our negative feelings. We then blame the person because we think their actions caused the feelings rather than recognising that it was our interpretation of their actions causing the feelings. If we’d had a different thought about the event, we could have ended up feeling completely differently about it.
The post goes on to say that we create instruction manuals for people, which are our expectations about how we think they should act and behave and then, when they don’t behave like we think they should, we get upset. The person has no idea we have these expectations and, even if they did know, we don’t get to write their instruction manual—they do. They get to choose how they behave and we get to choose how we behave and we get to choose the meaning we give to everything that happens. For example, hypothetically, my sister didn’t return my call as soon as she got my message. If my “sister manual” includes an expectation that she’ll call me back asap I’m always going to be disappointed if she takes three days to get back to me. If I release this expectation of her and accept she’ll get back to me in her own time, however, I’m not going to be annoyed if I don’t hear from her for a few days.
As I was reading this I realised it applied perfectly to the expectation that I’d had of the person whose behaviour had upset me and that it was up to me to change my thoughts about this, not up to them to change their behaviour. They’re allowed to do their thing, just as I’m allowed to do mine—indeed I can only do mine— so I need to get on with it and forget about what other people are (or aren’t) doing.
Along similar lines, an email from Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, had a nice take on how to deal with people who put you down.
It can be challenging to deal honorably with others when they come off as judgmental, offensive, or belligerent. So when you find those pesky defenses and negatively charged emotions rising up within you, I want you to remember one simple maneuver that may just keep you sane—reframe it.
When a photographer takes a picture, what he or she includes in the frame makes a big difference. A portrait focuses solely on the face of a particular individual. Similarly, when we find ourselves focused on the actions of one person, that’s all we see. So if they treat us poorly, it fills our view and consumes our attention.
However, if the photographer were to pull back and frame a bigger picture, the person originally photographed would not seem as important in light of the overall scene. When you learn to pull back and reframe a negative interaction, it can make all the difference. You may have a judgmental in-law, but your spouse loves you. Your marriage is good. Your kids are happy. There’s a bigger picture, and you are not enslaved to seeing only one person’s opinion on your life. Same goes for a bossy boss, a complaining coworker, or a negative naysayer on social media.
Reframing your perspective in the midst of conflict could very well help you stay cool, calm, and collected. Remember, keep the negativity of others in its proper place. If there’s truth in it, acknowledge and learn from it—but don’t react to it. The quickest way to do this is to simply reframe it in light of the bigger picture and know their opinion is not the only one that matters.
Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path.
If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like it.
This reminded me of last week’s Bold Self Love podcast on self-care, which observed that our brains “like to avoid pain, they like to seek pleasure, and they like to conserve energy, so they’re kind of lazy” so they’re always telling jus to do things that make us feel better. But they want us to feel better right now, which is why our brains encourage us to not exercise, or to over-eat, or to drink too much alcohol, because it will make us feel better in the moment. And she says what we need to do is become aware of when our brain is telling us this and to “replace these thoughts with new thoughts that will lead to new results”.
Along similar lines, an article by Lisa Grace Byrne on integrating self-care into your life rather than it being a thing that you do.
I especially liked this line: “You eat all day, and every meal is an opportunity to support your body, mood and mind toward vitality and wellness” because it’s so obvious when you think about it. Every time you eat something you’re making a choice as to whether you will nourish your body (and mind) or potentially harming it. Every meal is an opportunity to care for yourself.
I love this!
Some other things that got my attention this week were
A piece that really spoke to me that a friend posted on Facebook about having been a smart kid and having been praised for this, but then growing up and not feeling so smart any more
This resonated with me this week as I was reflecting on my school subject choices, the expectations people had had of me at school, where that had led me to, and how my life might have been different if I had followed the dream I’d had in primary school rather than the path well-meaning adults set me on. (Coincidentally, I did an online career quiz recently and my top career result from this was the same thing I had wanted to be in primary school and early high school, before my “smart kid” got sent in another direction entirely.)
What is the likelihood that your 22-year-old self could optimally choose the career that is best for you at 40 years old? Or 30 years old? Or even 25 years old? Consider how much you have learned about yourself since that time. There is a lot of change and growth that happens during life. There is no reason to believe that your life’s work should be easily determined when you graduate.
Given that your first choice is likely to be wrong, the best thing you can do is get started. The faster you learn from being wrong, the sooner you can discover what is right. For complex situations like relationships or entrepreneurship, you literally have to start before you feel ready because it’s not possible for anyone to be truly ready. The best way to learn is to start practising.