Further to last weeks post let’s talk about mistake making. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure none of us like to make mistakes. It usually feels pretty awful and often for so many different reasons. More often than not the consequence is letting someone else down or letting ourselves down. Many of us have a hard time facing ourselves when we err – the guilt, the shame, the remorse, the frustration.
Now I’m not saying that one is to skip away in merry delight after doing or saying something regrettable, but beating ourselves up and punishing ourselves to no end is not advisable either. It’s okay to feel badly, especially if we’ve hurt someone or hurt ourselves. From there though, we have the choice to turn things around – to look at the situation and figure out what happened that led to the disgraceful. Why did I let myself say something mean and hurtful? Why did I let myself do or say something to compromise my values and standards? Why did I abandon my ability and responsibility to make constructive and healthy choices with my words and actions? And most importantly, what can I do in the future to prevent this from happening again? Often mistakes can be very valuable learning tools… if we are willing to take the time and energy to face them, face ourselves, and chose what we are going to do or say differently next time.
Next time, when in a heated discussion with a sibling or a spouse and I notice myself getting hot and uncomfortable in my chest, my belly, or my head I am going to take a break and go for a walk, change the subject, or go into another room and do something different. Maybe I don’t have to see this debate to the end, and maybe, just maybe I don’t have to be right – especially if the only viable alternative is saying or doing something hurtful out of frustration and anger. Respect, trust, and loving connection to both others and ourselves takes work, sometimes hard work. And in my bias, I say it’s worth it.
There’s an idea out there in the psychology world that we create, to a large extent, how people treat us, and recently I’ve been finding myself thinking and philosophizing about this idea more than usual. Now obviously if we are rude and mean to someone most likely they will respond to us with anger or resentment… nothing profound there. And, sometimes friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers will be overtly rude to us for no apparent reason… I’m not saying we necessarily caused them to treat us in this way… sometimes people are just having bad days and they decide to take it out on the next innocent person who unknowingly crosses their path.
I’m talking here about something a little more subtle and below the surface where there is always so much more going on. I’m talking about things like being talked down to by our partners; like feeling as though we’re always the one taking responsibility for coming up with ‘the plan’ when with friends; like we don’t get included in social get togethers very often; Like our parents don’t trust us to make good decisions… I could go on but I think you get the point. It’s kind of a hard and painful concept to really look at and reflect on. Could it really be true that I’m largely responsible for setting up how others treat me? Perhaps, and often most likely unintentionally, but the truth is that we play a pretty major role in shaping how others approach us… especially those with whom we have closer relationships.
Think about this: Are there certain friends who you would never cancel plans on, but would on others? Are there certain people who you would call the day of to make plans and others you only plan with a week or two in advance? Are there some family members who you feel you can be straightforward and honest with and others you often skirt around or avoid the issue with? Are there some friends you trust with your most personal secrets and others you would never go to in confidence? What have they done to influence how you approach them?
This idea can be really challenging, or even upsetting for some – especially if we often find ourselves being treated poorly in our relationships and instead of the blaming others for their wrong doings and pointing the finger 100% outwards. We might have to take some pretty major responsibility and look inward, or at least partly inward and share some of that responsibility. The good, if not GREAT news is that we are NOT helpless victims. If we have the ability to play a major role in how others treat us for worse, then we can recast those roles and create opportunities for others to treat us how we actually want to be treated!
I’m not saying it’s easy, or that we will always be successful, but it’s a start: An empowering start.