To me this was an alien conversation. Of course I was hurt, they had been hurtful towards me – surely that was as black and white as black and white could be?
According to X, whether I was hurt or not by someone was something I could decide.
I simply couldn’t fathom that I could control the way someone made me feel. For me if I experienced kindness, I felt good and if I experienced selfish or mean behavior, I felt crummy.
J seemed convinced it was possible (and I trusted her opinion) so I started to look in to what was to me a bit of a far fetched concept . As I started to explore the theory, I discovered that this magical power was not only real - but was also apparently achievable by anyone.
I set to work on “developing my relationship with myself”. I started yoga, I read self help books, I practiced daily gratitude and I consciously stopped any negative thinking, turning all unproductive thoughts into positives.
It was hard, and at times I would roll my eyes at myself when I felt I was being chirpy to an delusional level; but as time passed it became less forced. In fact I got so caught up in my new (genuinely) happier way of living, I forgot that I used to exist with another mindset.
(if you are thinking of starting yoga I would highly recommend checking out Yoga with Adrienne, and the book Self Compassion really helped me gain a new level of respect and understanding towards myself and others.)
But then... (*insert dramatic & slightly sad music here*)
One day someone acted in a way that shook me, and it made me feel really, really sad. I felt things that I hadn’t felt for a while, but then (without meaning to) I paused and something magic happened.
I remember crying at the unjustness of it, and then as I reached for another tissue I thought:
“it’s ok that they have done this. I feel sad, and I feel let down – but that doesn’t need to impact who I am as a person. It doesn’t need to take over my day and what I had planned to accomplish.”
I had been treated unfairly, and for a second I wanted to find a way (any possible way) to make the “meanie” aware of what they had done. I felt desperate for them to know they’d hurt me, I felt that if they did it would justify the bad feelings I was having. Then it dawned on me, I didn’t need to justify feeling hurt. I also realized I could sit with my feelings, and I did not have to act on them. I could feel sad, but I didn’t have to be sad. I didn’t have to let this situation hurt me.
Whoa... I wasn’t going to let it hurt me? Dammit. "X" was right those years ago!
This was so liberating, not only had this moment of clarity felt like a victory, but as I got on with my day I discovered that my sadness lifted far sooner than I expected. I was still hurt by the actions I had experienced, but I also knew I was ok, and that the world wasn’t going to stop turning just because I hadn’t embarked on a mission to avenge this cruel and unreasonable behavior. Previously such a mission would have felt vital in order for me to take back control. However what I can see now is that by not dwelling on it I wasn’t letting it take up my precious energy, I was surrendering and this was truly taking control.
Since then I have experienced numerous moments when I have been actively responsible for my own happiness, and for how I let external factors hurt me. Yes I care about being a good person, and yes I care what people think about me – but I am not going to waste energy on trying to convince others of something purely as a way to justify my feelings or have control.
It has had an effect on how I view others too – by not being so reactive to others behavior I am less inclined to want to sway how they treat me. I no longer think that if I act in a certain way it will mean that people will treat me differently. Instead, rather than adjusting my behavior in an attempt to impact that of others, I simply make sure I identify and remain true to my own boundaries.
For example, I have a friend who has always been late for our dates. I’m not talking 10 minutes, I am talking half an hour or more. This used to drive me nuts, I’d take it personally and would try to think of things I could do to encourage them to be more considerate towards me. Recently we arranged to meet for brunch, and I decided it was an ideal opportunity to be true to myself and look after my happiness. I stuck to my boundaries and when they were 40 minutes late I didn’t kick up a fuss, but explained I’d set aside the hour for brunch as planned so as we now only had 20 minutes left we’d need to just grab coffee rather than eat together. I respected my time and I didn’t allow any external behavior diminish that respect. I also no longer require someone else to validate the respect I hold for myself, which means I am able to be more present in the time I spend with them – everybody wins!
I do still speak up when I feel hurt, so if someone I love acts in a way that doesn’t sit well with me I tell them and we work it out. The difference is that I actively do so from a place of love, respect and wanting us to have the best relationship possible; as opposed to from a place of fear or insecurity.
The way I see it our energy is like a currency - we are far better investing it in something positive rather than “spending it” on than anything that makes us feel bad. Not only does this make for stronger and deeper connections (with ourselves and with others), but it also frees up so much time and energy for better things.
Things like writing this post, and taking the time to thank you for reading it.
As an aside – the positive thinking really is tough at times. One day I was driving and a stone hit my windscreen. I swore, but then caught myself and forced myself to say (out loud) “at least it’s a small chip and not a crack, that can be fixed. It’s ok!”
Then a crack started to appear, and grow at a fairly rapid rate. This time it took a little more force but I said (again out loud, and in a super chirpy voice) “at least the screen can be replaced, I am safe, it was a stone and not a brick. That is so lucky – someone is really looking out for me!”
This was one of the moments when I was rolling my eyes at myself, but it really did help. Not only that, but I laugh when I think back to it – I guess in a way that little stone was the gift that keeps on giving!
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