The title of this installment of Sandy Chat is credited to my friend Shari (and comedian Kevin Hart). She says this to me often to bring me back around to what I know is true – but struggle to remember! As a platinum card member of the people pleaser club in relationships, I seem to lose sight of one fact that will never change… You can’t control what other people think, feel, say, do, experience. You only have control over your own stuff. Period.
Recently I found a new level of strength within myself. I was really getting it that I didn’t have the ability to control what other people are experiencing and that I also couldn’t make it okay for them. Then, in a split second, I lost it. I had a bit of an “ah-ha” in a counseling session and then, I found myself back in that old familiar place that I am working so hard to move away from… taking responsibility for how someone else feels.
This in and of itself is painful enough, and I, being the over achiever that I am, take it to an even higher level. I take responsibility for others feelings and then double down by trying to FIX IT for them, make it okay, get things back into a comfortable state for them and for me. When we take responsibility for the outcomes others experience – we suffer. When we add to that suffering by tap dancing around to fix it up and make it easier for them, we not only make it more painful for ourselves, we enable the other person and they come to depend on us to fix things up for them. At least that’s how it feels from the fixers point of view. The dang thing is – they never actually asked us to do ANY of this! We just take it on in what we veil as an attempt to help them, and make it okay for THEM. The truth of it is, we don’t feel good about ourselves and we are attempting to gain their approval so we can feel better about OURSELVES.
This seeking won’t work – in case you haven’t noticed – because it will never be enough to fill you up if you don’t fill yourself up first.
Do you know how mountain climbing really big peaks works? It’s not like most of us think. You don’t just one day start out to climb Everest and then take a straight shot to the top. It’s a long process of starting at the base camp, climbing to the next camp up the mountain, hanging out there for a little while, then going back down to base camp. This process takes around TWO MONTHS to get all the way up to the top. Alison Levine did a great Ted Talk about this process of climbing Everest and how it applies to life. When you are climbing the mountain you have to keep coming back down because you have to get used to the altitude. Even though it’s super frustrating to seem to be climbing in the opposite direction of where you want to go, but you ARE making progress!
When we are trying to learn a new pattern or way of being like letting go of taking responsibility for how others feel or behave, it’s not like you wake up and figure out how to break your pattern and then you are done going back to your old ways. You’ll get it for a few moments, and then you’ll lose it again and revert to base camp. Then you might find your way to your healthier pattern for a whole day! Then spend a couple of days back down in your old pattern. My counselor Joy says “Growth is a jagged line”. It’s not a straight assent to the next thing. This is an easy thing for me to teach, and so hard for me to learn myself.
So I fell back into my pattern of taking responsibility for how someone felt when they seemed unhappy and distant. If a friend of mine had done this, I would have said “hey, that’s o.k.! It’s gonna happen, you are doing great! You know how to get there because you found it once already. Be kind to yourself, it’s a process.”
Was that what I said to myself when this happened? Oh hell to the no! I kicked my own butt, was extremely angry with myself, frustrated that I had lost my footing on the climb and slipped back to base camp. Scared I wouldn’t find my way back up to that higher level. This is when I realized my greatest fear, what it really is… I am scared to death to lose myself in relationship. To abandon myself and become what I think is expected of me. To be the one who is responsible for the both of us emotionally. THIS is what I most fear and I have created what I most fear, over and over again.
Good to know.
So Joy took me through a cool exercise last week, where you list out the times when you feel most like yourself, whole, real, lit up. Then think about why you feel that way about those times. These things are your “sweet spot”. Then next think about what gets you there, into your sweet spot and also what takes you away from it.
Putting this knowledge down on paper is very powerful, more so than just chasing it around in your head. It causes you to notice when you are moving toward or away from who you truly are and who you want to be. You can use this knowledge to create boundaries for yourself in limiting those things and behaviors that cause you to move away from your true self and amp up the time your spend doing and thinking in ways that move you in the direction of who you want to be.
When you spend your energy on moving yourself in the direction of who you truly are and what lights you up, you aren’t as affected by the behavior of other people. You’re in your “sweet spot” and living life fully so what others do or say is just that – what others do or say. For my money, being a victim has the opposite effect. When we are victims EVERYTHING other people say or do is what we focus on. We aren’t creating our own experience, we are REACTING to others and taking responsibility for what they experience, which is impossible. No wonder it feels so hopeless to be in victim mentality. It’s a no win position with no power to be true to yourself.
When I think I am responsible for how other people feel, I chase, I dim myself to try and make things okay for them and that is never ever going to serve my Divine purpose. Other people are not who’s doing this to me… I am the one doing this to me. That is the only responsibility I need to take on – what I’m choosing to focus on and believe.
Who’s business am I in? That is the question I will be asking myself this week. When I am feeling pain it’s a pretty sure bet that I am out of my own business and in someone else’s. How can I possibly know what is true or best for anyone other than myself? If I focus on climbing my own mountain, I won’t have time to be distracted by where anyone else is on their climb. Maybe we can help one another and learn from one another, but ultimately you are the one making YOUR climb and the only one who can determine how it goes for you.
Big reminder to myself in my recent descent back to base camp… be KIND to yourself, you’re doing great! You ARE making big progress, this is all part of the process even when you feel like you are not moving forward – you are when you are wanting to grow yourself!
Just do you Boo Boo.
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!