During an argument with a friend last year, I said, “You make me feel so unvalued” to which he replied, “I can’t make you feel unvalued!”. At the time I thought he was just being arrogant by refusing to take ownership for being a selfish, insensitive louse, but… turned out that he had a valid point.
Saying “You make me feel…” is a victim statement. It means you are assuming no responsibility for yourself. It means that you are casting away your adult reasoning skills, your ability to think rationally, your right to evaluate information and make intelligent conclusions. It means you aren’t in control of anything – not even yourself.
Friday night, a friend commented on my outfit and said, “You make all the girls jealous.” There is a whole camp of girls who have bitter reactions to seeing my midriff or me dancing in my tiny tennis skirts. I want to be compassionate when I hear stuff like that because I know that comes from a place of hurt, but inside I’m rolling my eyes.
I can’t make anyone feel anything. I don’t have that kind of of power. All I can do is trigger a reaction in you. It is 100% up to you to determine what that reaction will be.
A few weeks ago, I attended a tango milonga. A very skilled dancer was there wearing a skirt with a very high slit. She looked gorgeous! So I watched her dance – and then my eyebrows shot up. As she moved, the slit granted the room a brief view of the crotch of her leotard as she danced. And I had a reaction to that.
At first I thought, “WHOA, that is a bit much”. But before I could start stirring up judgements and self-righteous positions on appropriate dress for dancing, my mind immediately turned it back to me… I asked myself, “Okay, so would I wear something like that?”. I decided probably not… it was more risqué than I was okay with right now. I knew I couldn’t pull that look off with the confidence it needed.
When I looked back at her, I found that my reaction was different this time. I could appreciate her confidence and her boldness in wearing something so eye-catching. She looked fabulous. What she wore was perfect for her. She pulled it off beautifully.
Her outfit could have left me feeling shame (my outfit looked frumpy in comparison), or I could have felt offended, jealous or disgusted. Instead, I took it as an invitation to look at myself, to evaluate what my reaction to her REALLY meant. Part of me envied her confidence and boldness (note to self: keep working on courage and confidence!). Part of me envied how beautifully she moved (note to self: keep working on my dancing!). Part of me simply envied how beautiful she is as a woman (I got inspired to fancy myself up a bit more next time).
Those were my reactions. They were all statements for myself. None of them were judgements towards her. She didn’t make me feel anything. But she triggered some areas for me to work on. In a way, she brought some motivation my way and helped direct my attention to things that are probably holding me back in some way.
Similar to my post on harsh words, everything in life is neutral; it’s how we react that determines whether it serves us or hurts us. We can either glare and gossip or we can ask the person for their expertise in getting what they have. We can accept the person as a motivation to address the part of us that is causing us such negative reactions. If you want to know how I stay thin or keep my abs so flat, just ask. I’ll tell you some things that could seriously change your life and your body.
Every reaction is an invitation to look inward. I find that “sticky reactions” – the ones that I can’t shake off easily – and the more potent they are, are always triggers for something in me that needs a deep level of healing. Sometimes they represent something I’m missing in my life, or something I’m neglecting in myself. Sometimes they are reflections of something I’m doing that I’m not proud of or happy about. My friend who “made” me feel unvalued? That was about me not valuing myself and my generosity.
I love that at age 40, I’ve finally matured enough to begin changing how I react to triggers. I owe some of that to Bryon Katie’s work and some of it to unraveling my own knots of judgment. Having greater comfort in my own skin allows me to feel fine with other people doing whatever suits them. And it totally empowers me knowing that my judgements are never about the other person. They are always, undoubtedly, 100% about me.
Karen Kaye – 2014