Saturday, January 10, 2015

"It's Not You, It's Me."

An old episode of Seinfeld was devoted to this phrase: joking about how people use it to break up with someone, even when "it" is, in fact, very much "them." It's funny, and it's become a popular meme.

Still, there's a certain profundity in those five words. One of the most helpful insights my mom ever gave me was this: the way people act, the things they say and do, are mostly about them. Not you.

It seems basic and fundamental, yet it's hard to believe. When someone hurts us, often our first instinct is to feel offended; to ask ourselves what we did to provoke a certain reaction; to blame ourselves and to look inward at who we are, what we did, or what we could or should have done to generate a different outcome or response.

But every one of us comes with a series of life experiences, issues, baggage, and modes of operating that inform the way we interact with other people. All of that originates from internal places--not external ones.

I'm grateful for this insight, because it lets me enjoy and appreciate a lot of different personalities without feeling the need to manipulate outcomes and internalize people's behaviors and reactions. For that reason, I almost never feel offended.

When I do, though, those five words help me remember that my reaction says more about me than it does about the other person. It's an opportunity for insight and learning, and that's how I try to use it.


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