One of the hardest life lessons I’ve had to learn, is understanding that people’s behavior towards us rarely has anything to do with us. Sounds silly I know, but we all go through life with the lens of our own perspective. That perspective is shaped and informed by years of experiences, hardships, struggles and joys. No two people have the exact same experiences throughout life so not all of us have the same perspective as one another.
When someone does something to disrespect you or belittle you, or says something that seems rude or mean-spirited, it’s seemingly impossible not to be offended by it or to take it personally. When it’s directed at you, of course you’re going to take it personally. The thing that’s super hard to remember, especially for me, is that that person’s behavior is shaped by their life experience or whatever may be going on in their life. So the way they’re acting toward us, doesn’t really have anything to do with us. It’s coming from somewhere within themselves. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to treat people poorly just because we’ve all had some crappy life experiences. We all have a choice in how we choose to direct the pain we might be feeling or that has accumulated over the years. It’s just a thing worth remembering to try and minimize the pain we might feel at the hands of another person.
Growing up a person with a disability, I’ve had a lot of things directed at me. Questions, insults, skepticism. When you’re dealing with something that society doesn’t understand in a very direct way and when people address it with you in a very direct way, it’s hard not to take that personally. It’s harder than usual to try and remember that their behavior is no reflection of who we are as people when society itself deems us as inferior people.
Self-esteem has been one of my biggest struggles from birth and continues to be so. Sometimes I’m not sure if I have any more confidence now than I did when I was in high school. I still care way too much what people think of me. I still take things I shouldn’t way too personally. I let people’s behavior get to me because internally, I’m worried they’re right. That they’re pointing out something that’s wrong with me or that they somehow see all my flaws and will judge me for them. I let them make me feel inferior with my full consent. I’ve always wanted people to accept me because I thought being born with a disability, that that automatically disqualified me from being accepted by people. The thing that I have to remember is that if someone doesn’t like me or thinks less of me, that’s on them, not me. The people who love and accept me for me..flaws and all…are the only people I want around me anyway. One of the earliest blogs I wrote here was very much about that idea. Viola Davis said in an interview with Oprah, that by listening to the insults or put-downs of other people, we are giving them power. And why would we want to give someone who doesn’t love and care about us that kind of power? Having everyone like you doesn’t mean you’re a perfect person. If you stand up for yourself and what’s right and stay true to who you are, sometimes that’s going to alienate people. And because we all see life through our own lens, it’s pretty damn impossible that everyone is going to like you because we all have stuff going on internally. Anyone can find a reason to not like someone else even if they were “perfect”.
One of the things I will say I like about myself is I consider myself to be pretty self aware. Because of that, I’m pretty damn aware of all of my flaws. I know I can be hypocritical and judgmental. I’m way too hard on myself. I give other people way too much power over me. I’m not really open to other opinions when it comes to politics. I can be overdramatic. I get too upset at people when I drive because of the 2 car accidents I’ve been in. I live way too much in my head. I live a lot of my life based on fear and worry. So the reality is, if someone wants to take a dig at me because of something I’ve said or done…chances are I’ve already done it myself. Chances are I already know it’s something I need to work on. I really have the power in the situation because I’m already examining myself on a daily basis (which let me tell you, can be absolutely exhausting).
It’s really hard not to let people make us feel bad. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully be able to do it. It’s normal to care what people think of us and to not want people to think poorly of us. It’s normal to be upset when someone is mean or puts you down. I think the important thing though, is to never let that stuff take away from our value as human beings. Just because someone acts a certain way towards us or says something, doesn’t mean they’re right. It doesn’t mean we somehow become lesser at the hands of their words. The only person who needs to know who we are is ourselves and those around us who love and care about us. Anyone else is just doing a walk-on role on the set of the film that is our life 🙂