I have a bit of a rant for you all today. This rant is about the choices and decisions we make regarding the attitudes and actions of others.
You see, friends, I have a lot of passion towards the topic of self-actualization. What is self-actualization you may be asking? Essentially, self-actualization is a psychology term coined by a theorist by the name of Goldstein , but was refined by another theorist by the name of Maslow. A quick Wikipedia search leads me to this definition
“the motive to realize one’s full potential. Expressing one’s creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society are examples of self-actualization.”
Research shows when a person is living their life in a way which does not match their capabilities, then they are unhappy, and have not truly reached their full potential.
So, what does self-actualization have to do with other people? Well, when we let other people determine how we feel about ourselves, then we are essentially giving in, and allowing those people to control and run our life. Thus, we’ll never truly be happy because when we choose to let other’s words and actions dictate how we feel, then this is ultimately incongruent with our goal in achieving happiness.
When I have this conversation with my clients, I often hear them asking, “How am I supposed to just feel differently about something someone said to me that hurt my feelings. If it were that simple, I’d already be doing it.”
I hear you. I understand where you’re coming from. When I was younger, I was picked on ALL the time in school and rarely had any friends. I became consumed with the fact that I had no friends and thought everyone hated me. Thus, I became isolated and chose to not make any attempts to get to know others or spend time socializing out of my fear of rejection. The thing is, I actually DID want to be liked and I DID want to have friends. But my choice to spend time alone instead of taking that risk of rejection ultimately led me to being alone and not having any friends – the very thing I didn’t want to happen.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you feel you are a bit overweight and want to shed a few pounds. In order to do this, you want to be able to go to the gym and lift weights and workout to reach your goals. However, you have a huge fear of what everyone will think of you. Perhaps you have thoughts like, They’ll think I’m too fat to be lifting weights. Or, All of these people are staring at me because I don’t know how to use this machine. In the end, these thoughts cause you to quit your membership, which leads you to feeling bad about yourself because you feel you are unable to reach your goals. This leads you to giving up on your goals because you feel you have no way to achieve them. Thus, you end up in the same position you were in the first place, wanting to lose weight and go to the gym to reach your goals. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
So how exactly do you stop worrying about the attitudes and actions of others? Here are my tips for being able to get the most out of YOUR life because, after all, it is YOUR life!
– When you begin worrying about how someone thinks of you, ask yourself these questions: Have I done anything to this person for he/she to not like me? No. Okay, well, have I done everything I can to make this situation right with this person? (If yes) Then perhaps this is their problem. Maybe they’re having an off day. (If no) What can I do to make this right? (If it’s in your power to make the situation better, then explore if that’s something you want to pursue.)
– Remind yourself you can’t control other people and how they feel. You can only control you. Ask yourself how you want to feel at the end of the day. Most people don’t want to feel unhappy, sad, angry or frustrated. Are there any other ways to look at this situation or person and be able to feel a more positive emotion.
– Remind yourself some people are “glass half-empty” people. No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be able to change their viewpoint. The next question for yourself will be, How much energy do I want to use in working with this person? People only change when THEY want to change.
– Don’t be a pushover. When we let our emotions get the best of us, we are essentially giving the catalyst (the person/situation) power over us. We’re letting this person or situation dictate how we feel. Take back that power and internalize it so you are in control of your emotions.
– Think about the consequences. Sometimes, our emotions can get us into trouble, especially if we react and lash out or respond too quickly. Think the situation through. Ask yourself, How will I benefit? What will happen if I do XYZ?
– Take a breath. Again, sometimes we get wrapped up in our emotions, especially in the heat of the moment. There’s no reason to react to a person or situation quickly unless it’s an emergency. You can take all the time you need to be able to form an appropriate response or reaction to someone. Often, time and distance will give you a better perspective and allow you to be better prepared in your response. There’s power in patience.
– “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt said this quote and I have always loved it. You choose how you feel about something. If someone says something mean to me, I chalk it up to them having a bad day or I tell myself, they don’t know me and what I’m about. I know what they say only has merit if I let it.
– Lastly, ask yourself if what the other person is saying is true? Perhaps they honestly do mean to help you with something and are trying to give you some constructive feedback. Were they honest in their message? Did they say they were trying to tell you this because they love you or want to help you? There’s nothing wrong with getting some feedback from others time to time. Think about what they said and ask yourself if there IS something you need to change. For example, maybe your mother mentioned something about your recent weight gain NOT because she thinks you look bad, but because she cares about you and loves you and wants you to be healthy.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts on this topic. If you have ever found yourself doubting or questioning someone else’s thoughts toward you, then I hope this is helpful.
Have a great day!