I’ve carried a lot of mental and emotional weight over the years. It mostly goes internally for me, and I use it against myself as the reason I’m not a better wife or mom or friend or person. Blame wasn’t usually my go-to. Shame was more of my game.
Then I became a mom to older kids. The ones who argue, talk-back, don’t want to listen, are always right, think I’m ruining their life because I won’t let them watch TV all day or buy them a phone, and the list goes on. I’ve believed they were disrespectful, aggressive, out to get me, and that it was personal. My blame game became STRONG. If only they would listen, if only they weren’t so loud, if only they could see my side, etc.
The thing is, whatever beliefs we have about ”the other person,” we directly mirror back to them in our actions. Think about a spouse who comes home late from work without letting you know, after you‘ve asked LOADS of times for him to give you heads up. You may believe that he just doesn’t care about you and what you ask. You may feel resentful, disrespected, or unloved. And when you feel that way, your behavior coincides with those emotions. All of our actions and behavior are driven straight from how we’re feeling. And our feelings are created internally from our thoughts and beliefs of our loved ones and what they should or shouldn’t do, or who they should or shouldn’t be.
So, what do you do when you feel resentful, disrespected, or unloved? For me, I shut-down. I‘m a withdrawer. I play the anger scenario out in my mind, knowing I’ll never blow up externally (so I just do it internally.) I don’t talk, I don’t ask about his day, I don’t try to connect to him on any level. Maybe you’re the same, or maybe it looks different—perhaps you yell and argue, maybe you pretend it’s fine and it will somehow work itself out, but you’re still secretly upset.
And what happens after all that? You acted like you didn’t care about him. Crazy right? We are mirroring our exact belief back to them in our behavior. Now, you might be thinking he deserves it. And maybe he does. Or you might be thinking— holy crap, I’m doing the exact same thing I’m accusing him of doing? No matter which way you’re leaning, ask yourself this: what would love do in this situation? Love for him, AND love for me. Love doesn’t mean keeping quiet and letting people get off the hook, nor does it mean being rude and berating another human being. But one of the best questions I ask myself is, “what would love look like in this situation?” Who do YOU want to be? Not because you want to manipulate them into change or to be different or because they deserve it, but because it feels good to you to be that person. Love feels SO GOOD.
Here’s another powerful question I ask myself, “What else might be true here?” Children may have acted disrespectful, or they may be having a hard day. Your spouse may have forgotten to call you because he got tied up in something really important. You friend didn’t text back because her kids got ahold of her phone and she just didn’t see the message. Your mom asked how much you weigh because she’s struggling with her body image, not yours.
The beautiful thing about owning our story, is that we can give everyone else back their story too. Other people’s behavior is never about you. It’s about what is going on for them on the inside. They are insecure, afraid, anxious, worried you don’t like them, dealing with their own drama, overwhelmed, sad, etc. So we know that kids, husband, MIL, co-worker, their actions and behaviors are their own, and always mean something about what is going on for them on the inside. It allows us to feel how we want to feel, and show up how we want to show up... in a way that feels good to us, because that’s who we are.
You may not be able to change other people, I think we can all agree on some level that we know that’s true. But I’m a firm believer that we can influence other people. Imagine if instead of being stand-off-ish to your husband when he doesn’t call, you instead let him know you’re glad he’s ok, ask about his day, and hold his hand on the couch? What if instead of yelling and sending your kid to his room, you instead you gave them a hug and said, “Hey, I know something is wrong and I really want to talk to you about it. I’ll come find you when I feel a bit calmer and we can talk.” When you show up with love, you connect. You can still make requests; make requests as much as you need to in order to help take care of your needs. But you’re giving them space to be human, giving yourself space to listen to understand, and feeling a thousand times better because you’re feeling love, compassion, and understanding, instead of disrespected, unloved, and resentful.
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