It’s Just Not Fair
Have you ever said those words to yourself? Maybe a relationship you cared about ended without warning? Maybe you lost a job or didn’t get a promotion? Or maybe you just had some bad luck and despite your hard work something failed miserably?
We can struggle during these times and we tell ourselves that it shouldn’t have happened to us because we tried really hard, or we are a nice person and we had the best intentions, or even that we just felt like we finally deserve a break!
However, the real challenge starts when we make that next leap in our mind. We move from the unfairness of it all to deciding it means something about us as a result.
Have you ever done that?
I’ll give you an example of one of my favorite ways I have of torturing myself.
There is a particular rabbit hole I go down sometimes when it comes to some aspects of my business. Since you are reading this blog you know that I utilize the internet to market aspects of my virtual therapist practice such as a weekly blog and sending out emails to subscribers.
Although there are certainly many ways in which I can gauge the level of engagement with my posts and publications, typically I will look to see how many people viewed my content to see if it resonated. On any given day this can be an anxiety driven task as the reaction to content can be unpredictable. This makes perfect sense, of course, as anyone knows we all have both varying moods and emotions that may draw us to read a particular type of post one day and not the next. Or we may be extremely busy and not find the time to read and reflect on some content we had previously enjoyed. Or, as it happens to me all of the time, I can feel bombarded by content and reject many of it just so I can clear my head. The important point here is that often times my level of engagement with something doesn’t mean anything about the specific person who wrote a piece and is usually saying far more about my mood at any given time. I have a finite amount of time in my day and some things will make it in and some things just won’t.
So back to the rabbit hole. Although I know all of the above reasons for my own choices in engaging with material I come across, when I perceive the level of engagement with my material to be less than I had expected, I take the “meaning leap”.
The “meaning leap” for me is the self dialog that says “that means _________ about me”. For example, if I had 5 less engagements on this last blog I wrote, that now means I:
- Am a lousy writer
- Don’t know what I’m doing
- Am doomed to fail
- (and my favorite) I should never ever write and post another thing
You see I take the event that has happened and I make my own meaning out of it. There is a neutral event that I am involved with and I internalize it and produce all the reasons this event happened to me.
And guess what, I typically decide it means something horrible about me and therefore the result is my very own failure.
The point I’m trying to make is that we can choose this meaning we make from events and situations. We can choose, as I have illustrated in my example that we are failures based on a random list of criteria we have created in our own minds, or we can choose something different.
What if these events mean nothing?
What if we all have talents and skills along with vulnerabilities and challenges? What if we randomly succeed at times and fail at others? If we can somehow unhook from what we now believe about ourselves as a result of one event and instead try to learn a lesson and move on, would we be better able to manage life’s everyday challenges?
I recently finished reading City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert and without giving away the story, there is a strong theme running through the entire book of how we judge ourselves and others based on our own internal set of rules. These internal rules can be created by our upbringing, society and how and where we live our lives. Towards the end of the book there is an exchange between two of the characters who have spent most of their lives feeling as if their flaws made them failures:
“If you’re a coward-and let’s just say that you are, for the sake of argument-it means nothing. My Aunt Peg, she’s an alcoholic…and do you know what that means? It means nothing…Alcoholism just happened to her, Frank. Things happen to people.” Elizabeth Gilbert
If I want to learn how to write a better blog or be a better therapist I need to continue to learn and continue to try. I must take my lessons from “mistakes” and apply new knowledge to each task I take on. I must challenge myself and continue to surround myself with like minded people who support and encourage me.
If I decide today that a mistake or an unsuccessful event means I shouldn’t try any longer, the true failure is in that decision, not the event. I get to decide whether or not it “means” something about me and my life.
What will you choose to believe today?