It’s Not About You

Yesterday, I was commiserating with a friend about a few challenges we we’re both dealing with. After a few minutes of a shared pity party, we realized it was pointless to continue feeling sorry for ourselves, so I blithely said, “Well, you know that trite phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

I laughed and smiled at her afterwards, but she looked like she’d taken a huge bite out of a sour lemon instead of a drink of lemonade. She said vehemently, “I hate that quote!” Uh…not exactly the reaction  I was expecting. It turns out that a former boss used that phrase against her, saying she wasn’t positive and proactive enough. Just recalling the memory brought up other negative memories for her.

My innocent remark sparked a series of negative reactions from her. The lesson? It’s not about you.

We bring with us every experience we’ve had since we were born, and the beliefs those experiences shaped, into every interaction we have with people. Our brain has almost instantaneous access to all of our memories and the ones with the most emotion attached to them are at the top of the heap. When someone snaps at you or doesn’t react the way you expect, it’s usually because of a past experience or a belief you had no way of knowing about.

The next time someone startles you with a reaction that you weren’t expecting, keep your cool, and remember that it’s not about you. Don’t take it personally. And, when you unexpectedly blurt out a negative comment or make a rash statement, have compassion for yourself. Take note of what was said that “got you,” and work to heal the memory and let it go. So, the next time someone brings up that old “hot button,” you can laugh and move forward.

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