So What

In the search to evolve as a person, you never know where your next growth spurt will come from.  I had one such moment today.

I was washing my hands in the bathroom at work and someone came out of another stall to do the same.  I said “Hi” to her, but she didn’t respond–and this is someone with whom I normally exchange pleasantries in the office hallways.  Suddenly, my mind began to spiral into the “Why is she mad at me?” neuroses that I struggled so much with as a kid.  I worried about it for all of 15 seconds–complete with possible scenarios to explain her aloofness–before I thought “so what?”

This was a HUGE breakthrough for me, because I used to stew over this sort of thing for hours (sometimes days, depending on the person).  I’m not sure if it was due to being raised by a mother who was into psychology so much that she encouraged us to break apart our psyches and uncover reasons for everything we said or did, or if I was born this neurotic . . . probably a little of both.  But over the last few years I’ve been unlearning that debilitating habit.  Self-reflection is good to a point, but when you start thinking that your actions cause other people’s reactions, that’s dangerous and unhealthy.

Everyone is responsible for his/her reaction to events.  Even if someone says/does something on purpose to hurt you, you don’t have to respond in that way.  It’s my belief that 90% of the time, their comments/moods aren’t even ABOUT you . . . but more about where they are in their life at that moment.  I know it’s that way for me, anyway.  You never know what’s going on in a person’s life, to make them act the way they do in any given moment, but chances are you’re merely seeing the residue of some other recent ordeal in his/her life.

That understanding is what helped get me out of the recent neurotic spiral; that I had no idea what was going on with her.  My mind still wanted to come up with a scenario (old habits are hard to break, you know), and when it rested on one, I thought “so what?”  Because that’s the other part of this equation.  Even if someone’s reaction is in direct response to something you said or did, sometimes it’s because they decided to get offended.

For instance, some people get offended by cigarette smoke.  Some get offended by people who drink.  Some get offended when they get cut off while driving down the road, or when someone fails to use a turn signal (those last examples are two of my peeves).  But that’s a personal issue.  I wholeheartedly accept that my ire over someone failing to signal a turn properly is my own issue, just as I accept that I blow it out of proportion sometimes.  I might still yell at them from the safety of my car, but I know that I don’t have to.  It’s not the other driver’s fault that I overreacted to the moment, so I refuse to blame them for my mood.  Unfortunately, many people out there don’t want to accept responsibility for their role in a situation, so they decide to say it’s the other person’s “fault” for “making” them feel whatever bad emotion they’re feeling.

That’s not to say that there aren’t times when we should be concerned with whether or not our actions/words have offended someone, because there are.  If you’ve deliberately said/done something to piss another person off, then it would be good to make amends at some point.  The same is true if you’ve inadvertently hurt someone . . . though, again, some of the responsibility falls on them for their reactions.

But back to my bathroom experience . . .

Of any of the scenarios that my mind could come up with over why this woman might have been upset at something I’d done (I can’t imagine saying “Hi” was the culprit), none of them were anything that I felt the need to apologize for.  So that helped me get to the “so what” moment.

And, clearly, I’m still thinking enough about it to write about it, but I’m glad I was able to dismiss it sooner this time.  Maybe next time I won’t even feel the need to mention it to anyone.


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