Most people who know me can tell you that I am fairly sensitive/thin skinned. Over the years I’ve gotten better about it, but every now and then, a negative interaction will leave me feeling pretty bad. Whether it’s something a stranger says in passing, a friend acting a certain way, etc, sometimes it’s enough to make me question the way I view myself.
Recently, I had a very negative interaction that send me into a bit of an emotional spiral. Most people have a few topics that when touched, can push them into such a negative mindset. It might be weight, parenting style, money, family, work ethic, career, personal history, etc. Without going into the details of what happened, which seems counterproductive to progress, I’ll just say that the interaction involved a topic I get defensive about.
My point in using this in a blog post isn’t to tell everyone “I was personally victimized by Regina George.” Unfortunately, sometimes people are mean, we disagree with others, or something happens that we don’t like- that’s just the way things work, and you can only control how you handle it. I also know there are others who are sensitive out there, and this was a teachable moment for me that could benefit others.
When you feel yourself on the brink of an emotional spiral, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it true? We only catch glimpses into each other’s lives, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made some inaccurate judgments about people in the past. Depending on the time of day you see me or how I’m feeling in that moment (hungry, tired, rushed, over-caffeinated, etc), you might think I am a certain type of person based on that snapshot. But that doesn’t always mean it’s true.
- Does it matter? It may feel like a big deal now, but in the grand scheme of things, does it matter? Yes, I was angry and upset after my ‘thing,’ but you know what? When compared to the big picture, it’s barely even a speck.
- Does it even have anything to do with me? This can mean either “is it any of my business?” (think 99% of confrontations on reality t.v.- it’s people getting involved in something that has nothing to do with them. Great for television, not so great for real life) or “is this because of something else?” Other people have bad days and are going through things we can’t see (see #1), so if you’re getting some negativity that feels unwarranted, it may have nothing to do with you. This is where a bit of empathy comes in handy.
- Is it worth ruining your whole day over? My situation happened very early, around 6 a.m. I still had an entire whole day ahead of me, which easily could have been overshadowed by this one incident. Although it may sound grim, we never know how many days we have left, so my answer to this question is always “NO!” But, it helps to ask when in that downward spiral.
- Find something positive to focus on instead. There’s always a silver lining, even if you have to start with the basic stuff like “I’m alive and I’m healthy,” or “Someone drew me this picture for no reason other than to do something nice/silly.”
You may not always have the instantaneous “Whoa my frown has turned upside down!” result. I’ve found it takes a bit of work, but after working at this for a while now, I’m getting a little better at it. Turning a negative moment in the day into a growth opportunity helps me be a bit more patient with myself and others- after having an initial “GAH my internal thought bubble is just scribbles” reaction, finding the time to think “Okay, that sucked, but what can I learn from it?” makes it better.