Get Over Your Bad Self. It’s Not About You.

We are self-absorbed.

He wasn’t very responsive over lunch. What’s gotten into him?
I’ve been so sick. I expected her to show more concern. How insensitive.
She’s kept away from my family. I feel judged.
I won’t say what I really feel because he would think less of me.

Let’s get over our bad self, shall we?

Our life is all about us, but their lives are not. Remember, as soon as we step outside our door and start interfacing with others, we have two people talking about the same thing from their own perspective, experiences, biases. Let’s look at the way this autobiographical listening plays out when we feel slighted or offended.

He only mumbled during lunch? Maybe he had a headache.  Maybe your illness is too much for her because it replays her mother’s battle with cancer. Or she’d wanted to show more support but has been sick herself. What if some bad news had come her way? Think about the things that get a rise out of you or cause you to withdraw. These triggers tap buried wounds, insecurity, or pride which often feed one another. Though I’ve attracted my share over the years, I don’t do very well around needy people, those with fragile egos.  I need to be more compassionate toward those whose wounds from childhood drive them to behave in ways that exasperate me.

A few years ago, someone returned my kindness with a persistent cold shoulder. My husband saw that she felt she didn’t measure up to me. She later confessed her sense of inadequacy under my shadow. I was baffled. Who ever said she had to mother like me? We are mothers in our own way, give our child what no one else can. She was 35 and still hadn’t picked a lane on who she was. Every time we talked things out the drawn-out wrestling found me wiping the emotional vomit of her past off my face. With final words of peace and sincere well-wishing, I had to make a clean break for the sake of my health and sanity. There is probably some delusional confidence to this, but I try not to take things personally. When this woman looked at me, it was through a movie screen where I was just one character among thousands traipsing across the screen – many from her past. And the star of the film was assuredly not me, but her grand self.

To recognize we’re part of a bigger drama doesn’t justify our wrong. You well may have offended Jenny. But even though you really owe her an apology, her response will likely still trace back to dormant issues – because Terry next to her would’ve laughed off your quip. In issues that spring from abandonment or abuse, the debt remains greater than perpetrator or victim usually can handle. But understanding that the person we care for acted out of the dysfunction and poor parenting he, she inherited releases the steam valve so we don’t keep cooking in our anger. I am not talking about exonerating those who commit heinous crimes.

So, what about what people think of you? Oh, you swear they will think funny of you for what you did, said, or wore? You really have to keep in good standing with John? Do you think your classmates or coworkers will remember your project five years from now? Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less (C.S. Lewis). And trust me. You are on people’s minds a lot less than you think you are. Know why?

They’re busy worrying about what others think of them.

177 thoughts on “Get Over Your Bad Self. It’s Not About You.

  1. Excellent ending and a good reminder to us all. I have learned that worrying about what other people think adversely affects my ability to practice active listening. I know that intellectually, but for me, acting on this knowledge is incredibly difficult and contrary to my introspective tendencies. It takes work, yet I know this work has to be done.
    I also loved your line, “We are mothers in our own way.” I could write a book based on those few words alone.
    Thank you for liking my poem!

    • I love the impact on active listening you point out. Right. Bc we get so preoccupied with ourself. The self-centeredness hijacks relationships. Thanks for the insight and letting me know what parts spoke to you. Thanks for the follow, G. You enrich our discussions.


  2. Excellent thoughts here on seeing ourselves realistically and not putting all our needs in how others react to us. Freedom comes when we know who we are and we love others, not expecting them to fix up. It’s a tough one!

  3. “understanding that our parents or lover acted out of the dysfunction and poor parenting he, she inherited releases the steam valve so we don’t keep cooking in our anger. I’m not talking about exonerating those who commit heinous crimes.”

    It should release the steam valve but if so, why should it not release the steam valve for those committing heinous crimes? If you had the identical DNA and cellular makeup of Charles Manson, and had the same influences on your life, would you not act the same way as Manson did? There are still good reasons for locking up serial murderers but maybe we need to reconsider the blame game?

    • I’m not sure why I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around the need to reconsider the blame game. Are you saying that logically we should exonerate the killers?

      My humble opinion: whether it be from mutant DNA, mutant home influences, or anything under the sun, justice calls upon serial killers. There obviously is a line we ought not cross in the extent to which we act out our dysfunctions. Killers & co. were a footnote in this post, the broader point being that WE are not the focal point in or the reason for the drama being played out in our friend’s or parent’s head, though we feel mistreated and take it personally.

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  5. Great piece! To the core and full of honesty and insight in the workings of humans and our peculiar minds that believe it sees ‘reality’ the ‘right’ way and not through the map we carry between our ears. And. Thank you much for the follow!

  6. Such good points. We definitely need to remember not to take everything personally. I once read about a survey on rudeness which said that when others are rude, people judge their character; but when they themselves are being rude to others, they attribute that behavior to momentary circumstances. Like if someone cuts them off in traffic, that person is a jerk; but if they’re the ones to cut someone else off, it’s because they were running late to work on the day of an important 9am staff meeting. I found that so interesting and it came to mind when I read your insightful line which said: “Our life is all about us, but their lives are not.” Great post!

  7. Hell to the yes!
    Love this: ”You are on people’s minds a lot less than you think you are. Know why?

    They’re busy worrying about what others think of them.”

  8. Probably the summary says it all:
    Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less (C.S. Lewis). And trust me. You are on people’s minds a lot less than you think you are. Know why?

    They’re busy worrying about what others think of them.

  9. Am I glad I stopped by! If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were peering over my shoulder into my most recent interactions. Namely, the example where the young lady felt she didn’t measure up to you. People impose their insecurities onto you because your strength reminds them or their weakness(es). In my situation I had to make an executive decision to exit stage right because no amount of assurance–or logic–will suffice when a person feels inadequate. Excellent points made overall in this post.

    • SiGh. WasSup with these WOmen??!

      “your strength reminds them or their weakness(es).”

      Very well put. LOVE that executive decision. You said it. With one of them, the more I naively tried logic, the more viciously I got entangled in the crazy back-and-forth. Her issues had grown cancerous way before she’d even met me so I was up against something beyond the love or reason I could show her. Thx for the visit and the commiserating. Hope it’s bluer skies for you. =)


  10. Brilliant! This post echoes my thoughts on these matters. Something that changed things for me was the third of the 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: Take nothing personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others do and say is a projection of their own dream When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim/of needless suffering. Bam! I must have read it at the right time and place because it really sank in, big time.

  11. Hi,

    I believe most of us have had a past that we’re not too proud of. But how long can we play the victim role? Everyone is recovering from something. The key is finding out what you’re recovering from. Abandonment, pride, drugs and even self-centeredness (the real enemy) can be overcome.

    Each morning during prayer I ask God to remind me that my life isn’t about me. It’s about serving Him and others. That’s where my peace comes from.

    Thanks for the reminder.


  12. I really like the message of this post and it is so true. I am trying to think about myself less in relation to people, because oftentimes the way people respond to me in the world has a lot to do with them than me. I also think that if we focus on ourselves less, we may begin to understand others more 🙂

    • Love the closing thought “that if we focus on ourselves less, we may begin to understand others more”. A strong sign of (emotional, physical, spiritual) imbalance is when we have trouble hearing voices other than our own. Appreciate the feedback.

  13. I really like this message. It is about being close enough to someone to have real dialog – in other words, what is going on in their lives? It takes proximity in care and conversation. I struggle with adhd so I completely understand trying to give back time and attention to others on social media and I know many will not understand my blips, especially when they have been supportive as I do try to be as well. But then there is that question… that question that might start off egocentric (whats up with them) and unravels into hmmm… let me think about this, did I offend? Did I really neglect? So it is not all bad if it makes us pay attention more.

  14. The mental acrobatics written with so much precision, care and concern moves the reader to think reflectively. You write so well and so much talent you have. Anand Bose from Kerala

    • I appreciate the commendation, Anand, though perhaps it was a little too generous. I ended up tweaking it in a few places, thanks to the opportunity you gave me for a reread. Hope you are well over there. =)

  15. I just finished the book “The Highly Sensitive Person.” And I understood completely when it talked about people who sense so much more than the general public wanting to take anti-anxiety drugs because it becomes too much for them over time. They take in too much. This post speaks to that–many of us walk around so very worried about what others are ruminating on–and in the end, it rarely matters.

    • That’s interesting that you mention the drugs bc there really if often a neurological component to it. In the end, we can’t walk around with our nerves inside out. No relationship can withstand that. It calls for a centering, a grounding in oneself outside the validity of others., though I believe divine validation is utmost and what truly frees us.

      • I’m with you on the last point. I think for some people that divine bit is hard to reach because of the noise inside themselves. But I always hope they reach it.

  16. We walk around self-absorbed… as you say. Getting over ourselves would make so much more room for caring enough for others, that which could possibly and eventually, even scratch the surface of understanding the love that overrides religious and nationalistic fanaticism that has historically kept humans, so called, warring. And the beat goes on, as we witness the daily shenanigans of so the called leaders, in contest as to who has the biggest and bestest, that can reach the furthest !

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