Monthly Musing – October 2016 – It’s all about you

“And then you’ll never guess what she said to me …!” [insert indignant tone of voice]

It’s been fascinating watching my girls grow up and seeing them go through exactly the same situations as I remember from when I was their ages. The insecurities, the interactions with friends, the learning how to cope in social situations … I find myself telling them “it’s not always all about you, you know!”, but actually, the more I think about it, it is. It’s about all of us and it’s a very complicated situation.

We are constantly worrying about what people think of us, whether we’re wearing the right things or saying or doing the right things – when in reality nobody is thinking about us at all because they’re worrying about the same things themselves! We are
simultaneously inwardly-focussed and outwardly-focussed and that can be quite exhausting. It becomes easy to take someone else’s words or actions personally because we hear or see them in relation to how we are feeling ourselves, and that’s something that I still very often struggle with however much I try not to let it affect me. This is why the internet in particular can be such a dangerous place because text has no tone of voice and we hear the written words in our heads in any tone that we choose.

It’s at these times that I have to remind myself of something that I learnt on one of the meditation courses I attended: “Don’t see intentions in other people’s actions”. In other words, don’t assume that the other person has spoken or behaved in a particular way just to upset you. They have actually said or done whatever they did because of how they are feeling, and it’s not about you at all. They might be worried, or frightened, feeling insecure themselves or they might be ill. People who are poorly often speak in a way that offends the people who are caring for them and if we only listened without taking the words personally we would hear the despair and frustration behind words that are often not intended to hurt at all.

So here comes the complicated bit. Conversation with someone else often isn’t about us – and at the same time it is all about us. How we wear the words and choose to interpret them is entirely our choice. No one else can make us happy or unhappy. No one else can make us laugh or cry unless we choose to let them. It’s always down to us and how we are feeling at the time we hear the words. It’s a tough lesson to learn. It takes practice, years and years of it sometimes, and even then we don’t always get it right, but knowing that it’s all about you – and not all about you – is liberating. It’s something that I wish I’d known through my super-self-conscious teenage years but better late than never. I just tell my girls about it now – and hope that they hear the words in the way they are intended!

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14 Responses

  1. bystromila says:

    Thank you, that's my soul's voice 🙂

  2. muskaan says:

    So very true! Once we are happy with ourself, nothing or nobody can affect us untowardly. We are human and do need peer-validation at times, but being comfortable in one’s skin males it less potent, and better to manage.
    During the early years of our marriage, my DH had told me "don't focus on the words, look at the actions" of the concerned individual. And "you can't change others, but you can change yourself, your reactions, your actions, ….." These 2 mantras have guided my life since.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Gosh your last post was so helpful to me and felt as if it was meant for me at the moment – thank you!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very wise words! A phrase I use a lot at work (I'm a teacher) is "Assume positive intent" – the kids are always too quick to jump to the wrong conclusion about each other's actions and see fault where there often is none.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I don't think it's just kids that do that and it's never easy, but if we can teach children from being young that there are always two sides to any story then it might help to avoid lots of upset in later years. Here's hoping, anyway! xx

  5. JOAN says:

    It took me far too many years to figure this out. Having grown up in a very violent home where nothing I did was ever right, I was full of insecurities that plagued me through 1 marriage that ended in divorce, then well into a second marriage before the light came on. Good on you for making this "all about you, not about you" thing available for them to soak in. I'm sure it will help them at some point.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It's such a big lesson, but once the light does come on then it's liberating. I'm so glad that the light came on for you 🙂 xx

  6. Unknown says:

    So true Christine. I have 2 teenage boys (one 12 and on 17 and autistic) so your post hit home in a big way. My 12 year old is starting at secondary school soon now we're back in the UK and I'll definitely be talking to him about this before he goes (kids can be so cruel) so hopefully he'll remember it when he's there. xxx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I like the comment above about "assume positive intent" – it will work very well as a mantra! I hope everything goes well with your boys now that you're back home and that the new school isn't too much of a trial for you all xx

  7. Angel Jem says:

    My attitude determines the power I give others over me… I learned that the hard way this March, when I let another's attitude to me make me feel ill. Getting out from that poisonous classroom was the best thing I did. And looking back, I know it wasn't my issue, I was just the nearest thing to kick.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      If only we could live our lives in hindsight we would make much better decisions – and you'd have left the classroom earlier! xx

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