Our house sits at the end of a long, straight country road in a semi-rural area.
Every morning on my way out for the day, I pass one of our neighbors who walks the road after her child boards the school bus. I can see her from a half mile away walking towards my end of the road (and I know she can see me too).
I get ready to offer the same smile and wave that I extend at our passing each morning.
But, as is the case every morning, it is not reciprocated.
My neighbor does not even glance my direction or acknowledge my existence. I know she hasn’t simply missed my passing. I am the only other human being within a mile radius. Yet to her, I might as well not exist at all.
For the longest time, it drove me crazy wondering why she pretended I was not there. What in the world could I have possibly done to make her act this way? Isn’t it simple common courtesy to smile back and give a neighborly wave? What had I done to deserve this chilly reception every morning?
Eventually, I made peace with our odd morning ritual because I came to accept that, like most things in life, it is not always about me.
Just to be clear, I am not a self-absorbed type of person by any means. But like anyone else, I sometimes find myself internalizing events of the day and taking things…well, personally.
Taking things personally does not make you a narcissist. But it might keep you from living your full potential in life.
The term “narcissistic” is thrown around a bit too liberally in our society these days. Lately, it is used just as often to discredit the opinion of someone who thinks differently from us as it is to describe anyone with a selfie-stick.
I don’t think that most people are narcissists, but I do think we can get caught up in worrying about what other people think to the point that we stop living our lives authentically. To live a joyful life, accept that things are not always about you.
If scientists are ever able to pinpoint the exact center of the universe, odds are, you are not it. Here are the top five times when things are almost never about you and what you can do about it to live a more joyful life:
1. When you aren’t noticed.
Sometimes you might feel invisible. But this feeling is actually a fear–a fear that you don’t matter, or a fear that you don’t belong. Combat this destroyer of your self-esteem by remembering that the other person might have something bigger going on that is monopolizing their energy right now.
Most people are too busy thinking about what’s going on in their world to have the time to worry about someone else’s. If you are simply feeling lonely, make plans with a friend–and be sure to choose an activity that gives you both plenty of time to connect with each other and share what’s going on in your lives.
2. When you’re wondering what you did to make someone else act a certain way.
Your friend didn’t return your call or answer your email. Now you are racking your brain to figure out why they are ignoring you. But chances are, it’s because of something going on in their life, and has nothing to do with you.
And even if they are, in fact, ignoring you on purpose--that’s still about them. Let it go. It’s their job as a mature individual to communicate what’s bothering them, not yours to try to read their mind or pry it out of them.
3. When other people can’t accept when you have to offer.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that what you have to offer is what someone else wants or needs right now. Just like someone else can’t tell you what’s right for you, it’s not your job to decide what other people need either. Keep sharing what you have to offer with the world, and be confident that the right people will pick up what you’re putting down at the right time.
4. When someone won’t acknowledge you or give you credit.
It never feels good to be taken for granted, but remind yourself that someone else’s inability to sing your praises does not minimize your contributions or achievements. And it certainly does not mean that you need to work harder to win them over. Stand up straight and keep going.
Defining your value and worth by someone else’s actions, and seeking validation of such, is the very definition of people-pleasing. This is the opposite of living authentically and will only serve to rob you of the joy of being who you really are.
5. When someone is rude or critical.
People who criticize you or try to cut you down are only projecting their own envy, failures, vulnerabilities and fears onto you. Tune it out. When you put yourself “out there” in life, expect this to happen, and never let it stop you from pursuing your dreams.
Now that you know the most common events that we waste energy on while we really want to be living life to its full potential, change your thinking patterns and start reminding yourself that not everything is about you!
Your turn: Which one of these events is the toughest for you? How do you lift yourself up and remind yourself that it’s not about you?
About the Author:
Kristi Richert is a professional coach and consultant who is loving life and (still) smiling at her neighbors in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Get to know her at www.RichertCoaching.com, and take her free online course to get going in the direction of your dreams!
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