shine day 28: spark your understanding that it is never about you

It’s never about you.

You have a mother who laments your weight all of the time- no matter your size.  You can be at your thinnest and certainly, she feels, you could do better.  You could be at your heaviest, and she definitely lets you know it (because, for whatever reason, she has convinced herself that there’s no way you noticed on your own).  She says, “You would be so much happier if you just lost twenty pounds.”  The translation?  She would be so much happier if you just lost twenty pounds, but the truth is she won’t be.  Until she’s happy within herself, she’ll never be happy.

Here’s the thing.  When people choose to offer commentary about your appearance, it is never about you.  It is about them, about the thing that paralyzes them, about the story they have told themselves, about the narrative they are choosing to live regarding that issue. And because they are so consumed with that issue, they can’t help but mention it when they are with you, pinning all their insecurities, all their fears onto you.

“How can this be true?”  A thin, tall student asked me one semester, tears presssed into the corner of her eyes.  “A guy I worked with last night told me that I was too skinny.  That he could never find me attractive because of how skinny I am.   How can that be about him?  It is not about him.  It is about what is wrong with me!”

I turned to her, tenderly assessing her tears, hoping she could bring herself to hear what I was saying, to understand so that his words wouldn’t wound her so badly anymore.

“What are you too skinny for?”  I asked her.

“For him to think I am beautiful,” she answered, wondering if I had gone mad and missed her earlier explanation.

“That’s right, honey.  For HIS definition of beauty.  For HIS understanding of things.  He’s the one that has made it a rule to see beauty in just that one way.  He is the one who made this rule that he can only date one type of woman.  He is the one incapable of admiring anything outside of the beauty box of his understanding.  He is the one that feels that beauty has to have such a narrow, unrealistic definition.  Not you.  Just because he said it to you doesn’t mean you have to believe what he does.”

Her mouth formed a sudden O.  She got it.

Here is the truth:  when someone tells you that you are not enough because of your hair, your eyes, your weight, your height, she is judging you based on what she believes to be true, what she has prioritized, what insecurities she nurses.  It is not your stuff being shown to you with that comment.  It is his or her stuff.  That comment made to you isn’t insight into you?  It is insight into that person and what he or she has going on.  It is a reflection of them.

Today:  I want you to write down a list of things you have chosen to believe because someone else told you those things.  Now, I want you to go over your list and see the situation more clearly.  How is that comment really not about you at all but about the person making that comment?  Let each one of those old rules, standards, falsehoods go.

1.  What does it feel like to consider that these comments you have heard are never about you?  Can you see how that might be true in your situation?

2.  What is one comment that you are no longer going to take as true about you and instead understand it to be a reflection of the person who said it?

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18 responses to “shine day 28: spark your understanding that it is never about you”

  1. Cecile

    I made this exercize 2 years ago, or let’s say this inner job, because it was tough to identify my judgement about myself that just wasn’t MINE, but as you say, a projection of the issues of other people.
    It was about (it SEEMED to be about) how I should be as a mother, what I was doing wrong. Due to Delight’s surgery and the hard time after it, we got all the more advices from well-intented people that just did not understand why we would follow our own way and not their better one. I had a very hard time to find my place as a mother, to believe in myself. As I realized it had nothing to do with me, it felt like a liberation, I was able to breathe again, to have faith in myself, and finally find my place.

    Any advice for me as a mother beginning with “You SHOULD…” (expressed through words or through body language, tone) is to be classified as “not about me”. I can hear at the advice however, and judge by myself if it is something that can be useful or not. But I definitely won’t feel bad anymore because of such advices.

  2. Kip DeForest

    Listening to Oprah’s Lifeclass on satellite radio- she was interviewing Depok Chopra. He said, “it’s not you business what someone else thinks of you”! I love that idea! Simple but not easy!!

  3. Jamie English

    This is a hard one for me because a lot of what I have criticism-wise for me I think comes from my own head. I know I fight thoughts about how I’d be better and look better if I weighed less, wasn’t as curvy. I don’t have any clear memories coming to mind from people where those messages come from. What I do know….back in my dieting days….I would get SO MANY compliments when I had lost weight.

    I try to only think happy thoughts about others, which can sometimes be hard….and I kick myself when I make judgments. And similarly, I don’t compliment folks on their weight. If I like their hair or their outfit, sure…. But if they’ve lost weight, I don’t say a word (and that can be hard in this culture as that can be a hot topic). I did tell a friend of mine the other day that was sharing on Facebook how much weight he’d lost and how proud of himself he was….that I thought he was beautiful no matter what size and that weight is just weight….there are plenty of others things to be proud of. I am hoping that is a step in the right direction.

    1. Cecile

      Oh Jamie, I absolutely LOVE the compliment you did to your friend! I think there’s no better compliment to be done! It’s so admirable that you are aware enough to tell it to him! Thank you so much for sharing, you’re a great inspiration!

  4. Emily

    Today’s topic has been rolling around in my head all day and just won’t leave my mind. It’s hard to remember what people may have said about me because I so quickly turned it into a personal flaw that must be perfected. I feel ashamed to admit this, but I think I try so hard to be perfect that it makes me judgmental of myself. When that fails, I find it too easy to fall into the bad trap of gossiping with friends. It’s painful to unlock the memories of what may have been said about me. But for sure, I will pay closer attention to why I judge others and what issues that speaks of about myself and my insecurities. Rosie, thank you so much for sparking this important realization.

  5. Chibi Jeebs

    1. What does it feel like to consider that these comments you have heard are never about you? Can you see how that might be true in your situation?
    It’s frightening to question things you’ve believed about yourself for the better part of your life. It’s… refreshing, liberating, freeing to even consider that all of these things I’ve shackled myself with for all these years might not be true/about me.

    2. What is one comment that you are no longer going to take as true about you and instead understand it to be a reflection of the person who said it?
    I’m letting go of the needing to get 100% all the time. (I worked through a few on my blog today, but I’d like to sit down and do this a little more in depth. Some day. When I’m feeling more brave. ;) )

  6. Susannah

    1. What does it feel like to consider that these comments you have heard are never about you? Can you see how that might be true in your situation?

    Yes, very much so. I tend to get quite nervous and angry when I’m in a situation where people feel they can make all kinds of comments about me, mainly because I feel I should take all their comments into account, and it’s frustrating if their comments are in contradiction with each other. I also have the habit of behaving the way people think I’m going to behave, even if I don’t want to, and I use their comments as guides for that.
    If I could see the comments as ‘just comments’ and about them, then I could probably care a lot less, which could be very liberating!

    2. What is one comment that you are no longer going to take as true about you and instead understand it to be a reflection of the person who said it?

    Some people think I’m hard. And I’m not. I think, to be honest, they’re probably a bit scared of me, but then that really is about them.

  7. Faith

    yes i can see that these comments might not be about me but it is hard to think that way in the moment. In that moment it is embarrasing and makes me sad. I will try to quickly put that thought in my head maybe turn it around in my head “your hair looks bad today” into “she doesn’e like her own hair” I am no longer going to worry about that friend that things my butt is big.

  8. Ann Becker-Schutte

    I wrote a blog post called “Your Opinion of Me is None of My Business.” It is so freeing to recognize that many of the shoulds and oughts that we carry were originally thrust on us by others, so we can let them go.

  9. Mid-Week Balance: 5 September 2012

    [...] And finally, I could not resist this post from Rosie Molinary inviting us to explore the idea that other people’s behavior is more about their issues than it is about us. [...]

  10. How to Handle Weight Discussions with Your Kids - Mamiverse

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