Sometimes it doesn’t take much.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: for some reason or another, you’re having a really good day; life just feels a little lighter than usual, and so you’re happily going about your life. Maybe you just had a really good night’s sleep, which makes you feel like one of those cartoon princesses with birds and cute forest critters gathering at the sound of your singing.
Maybe you’ve just really crushed it at the gym, and feel like literally nothing can stop you. Maybe you’re just having one of those mornings where everything just seems to fall into alignment, and no mishaps are countering your plans. Maybe you have a new outfit or a new haircut that’s bringing just a little more spring in your step—just because we’re into self-growth doesn’t mean we can’t also thoroughly enjoy the more superficial things, right?
And then it happens: someone rains on your freakin’ parade.
Sometimes it’s overt, other times much subtler, but the result it often the same: we’re left feeling a bit stunned, slightly sullied, and often wondering what exactly happened.
IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU. NO, REALLY, IT’S YOU.
In situations like these, our first response tends to be purely defensive: armour comes on, imaginary weapons are at the ready, and part of us really hopes to find a weak spot on which to strike.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this is how a lot of conflict—among “friends”, family members and colleagues—gets going, and only escalades with every single choice to buy into the hurt.
Yes, the choice to buy into the hurt.
I know this may be hard to swallow. After all, we feel like we’re being attacked—surely it’s the other’s fault, right? How can we be held responsible for feeling hurt? How can this be a choice?
Every time a situation like this arises, it’s helpful to distinguish what belongs to us, from what doesn’t. And the only thing that truly belongs to us is our reaction to whatever is thrown in our direction.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Criticism—and I’m not talking about well constructed feedback here, although it may come under that guise, and you have to be wise about what’s being sent your way—typically entirely comes from the other person: the lens through which they see the world, their life experience, their fears and their struggles.
Not much to do with us, right?
Furthermore, criticism is often a defense that is used when people feel hurt or threatened. And while it’s a pretty natural—I’d venture out to say animal—reaction, it doesn’t mean that we have to go there. As I said earlier, it’s a choice: just because it’s primitive doesn’t mean that it’s inescapable.
By recognizing what simply doesn’t belong to us, and acting on the only thing that does—our reaction—we get to choose joy. Over and over and over again, because we recognize that no one truly has the power to suck it out of us!