I totally thought I was being hilarious. Turns out I was being an asshole. It’s a very strange experience when you realize that the You that’s in your head is not the same You that’s being experienced by others.
While it’s not a major theme in my life, I have, on occasion, received feedback from those who are close to me that I can be flippant and insensitive, that my humour can be cutting and people end up hurt. This hasn’t happened in a long time but then suddenly it was EVERYWHERE. I wrote more apology emails two weeks ago than I have in the past several years.
I’m identified with being great with people. Because mostly I am. I pay attention, I listen, I care, I’m sensitive to the subtle cues of others and can feel what’s happening for people quite deeply.
But that’s when our own shadow can sneak up and take a chomp out of our asses isn’t it!?
When we start to see ourselves in a particular way, good or bad, and become fixated on that image of ourselves, we stop being able to clearly see the parts of ourselves that aren’t that.
After mocking my mother and hurting her feelings then acting rigid and controlling with my ex and escalating a situation that needed diffusion and finally behaving like a self-absorbed bitch with my cousin who actually needed some loving support, I finally came face to face with myself. It wasn’t because I knew what I was doing and it wasn’t because I got really extreme feedback. But I could see in how others were interacting with me that I just wasn’t being great with them at all.
I tell this to my God-Sister, all confused in that ‘I’m-having-a-revelation-about-myself-and-it’s-grossing-me-out’ kind of way.
She’s all ‘What’s up with that?’
And I’m all ‘I don’t know, it’s like I’ve become some entitled, superior bitch’
And she’s says with a surprising amount of neutrality ‘yeah, you’re totally acting like that.’
And I’m all horrified so I say ‘have I always been like that?!’
And she’s like ‘no’.
So then I felt a bit better.
But only a little bit better. Because despite the fact that most of us are really critical of ourselves inside we also really hope and want to believe that we’re good people.
Am I right?
I figure this is why very few of us ask for candid feedback about our foibles. It hurts to hear. It disrupts the nice image we’re trying to build of ourselves. But holy goodness this is very important to check, not only for our own sake, but for all the poor folks who have to deal with us.
The way I was acting was not how I felt inside. I chock the whole thing up to having too much on my plate, which isn’t an excuse by the way. When under stress, we each have our own unique versions of nasty little gremlins that come out to play and the people who are the closest to us know those gremlins the best.
What’s been great about this experience is that I got to see how my ‘holding it all together’ was really not working very well. When under stress, my capacity to hold and care for and be present and kind with the people I care the most about starts to disintegrate rapidly. That’s not how I want to live. So not only do I have to check my behavior with others, I have to check the way I’m living my life such that I have more space to make sure that I’m grounded and nourished and…y’know…sane.
So here’s my challenge for all you readers…Go ask the people you’re closest to about the unique ways in which you can be an asshole. Ask them how you can be better for them. Take this a step further and ask them how you can be better to yourself such that you may be able to show up more fully for them.
It’s amazing just how blind we can be to ourselves and the way we hurt ourselves and others. People we really love and trust can be a safe reflection for the uglier and yet sweetly human parts of how we are. Owning what a shit I’d been wasn’t as hard as feeling the impact it had had on others- that large or small- I’d caused pain. That sucked. It can be tough to take responsibility for those ways, but on the other side is a lot more intimacy and trust and forgiveness and self-respect.