When I began doing personal development work one of the most helpful things that I learned from Stacey Martino* was “it’s not about you”. It’s not about you is a kind of mantra that I keep close at hand at work all day, everyday so that I can rely on it when I need it. And trust me, with the work we do, we need it a lot.
We need this kind of mantra a lot because people are often upset when they are in our presence. There are a lot of emotions and difficult conversations that are had and it can be very easy to take things personally. In other words, it is very easy to make it all about me. She’s upset with me, he talked down to me, she doesn’t trust me, he doesn’t believe me, she thinks I’m an idiot, he thinks I’m incompetent, she’s not doing what I asked to spite me, he’s being difficult with me and so on. And while I’m 100% behind taking personal responsibility for my thoughts and actions, I am also just as sure that these thoughts are unnecessary because it is never about you.
Stacey once told me that when someone is upset about something it is most often because they are coming from a place of fear or uncertainty. This can make them say or do things that are not in line with their best and most authentic self which can lead to bad behavior. Being on the receiving end of that behavior can be painful, demoralizing and soul sucking. IF YOU LET IT. If you internalize all of the bad behavior directed at you it will hurt you. It will land. It will make you want to quit.
You don’t need to let this happen. You don’t. The reason you don’t is because it is not about you. Someone can be complaining to you, about you and it is still not about you. Read that one again if you work at the front desk. Yeah, I know how hard that is.
It is not about you because their reaction in the moment has everything to do with them. It may be their physical body that is causing them pain or suffering, they may be in emotional pain or grieving, they may be having financial hardships which has set them into overwhelm or it may have to do with their internal wiring. Our internal wiring is a set of invisible rules that we live by. How things SHOULD go, how things SHOULD be, what people SHOULD say, how much things SHOULD cost, how long things SHOULD take, how people SHOULD act. If you do not fit into their SHOULDS then a reaction happens. You did not act or do something in their invisible rule book according to the rules. And so they are upset or annoyed, frustrated or rude.
Instead of taking all of their behavior and internalizing it, I find it most helpful to just think to myself, it’s not about me. If it’s not about me, then what is it about? The best way to find out is to stay open and curious and ask them if they would like to share what is troubling them. Sometimes the answer will surprise you. It is in these moments that a real relationship is formed. A lot of times there is actually something I can do to help the situation. At other times it is enough to just listen and offer compassion and understanding.
Am I asking you to be a verbal punching bag and just take it? No I am absolutely not. I have very little tolerance for blatant verbal abuse. What I am asking is that you see things in a different way to empower you. As a verbal punching bag you have no power. As the person who is there to serve and to help, you have all the power. By not making it about you, you are taking all of the power you were previously giving to that other person and taking it back.
Your challenge for the week is to write this on a sticky note and put it near your computer:
“It’s not about you”
Challenge yourself to commit to this for just one week. Every time someone is curt, rude, upset, angry, sad, troubled, impatient with you. Look at that sticky note. Say those words to yourself. Take a deep breath and grab hold of all the baggage that the person gave you and put it on the floor next to you. Refuse to hold on to it. It isn’t yours. Put it down. Put it down so that you are not weighed down and brought down by it. Now look at your hands. Your hands are now free to help.
This is life changing work we do. You got this.