Updated: Feb 3, 2022
One of the most important life skills that anyone can learn at any age is the ability to recognize and take responsibility for our own thoughts and feelings, instead of blaming the people or circumstances around us.
For example, let’s say someone at work tells me that my pants make my thighs look big. She “hurt my feelings”, and I spend hours ruminating over what she said, and fuming at her for ruining my day. I’m blaming her for the fact that I spent the rest of my day berating myself for my weight, and second-guessing my wardrobe choices for the foreseeable future. But the truth is that she didn’t hurt my feelings at all. I did that all by myself.
What really happened is that my coworker said something that was more about her than it was about me. I immediately labeled her words as unkind and intentionally hurtful. I had a flood of resentful thoughts about what she said. Then I repeated those painful thoughts to myself over and over, which trashed my self-esteem and kept me stuck in a rotten mood. I ruined my own day, as a direct consequence of my own thinking.
Here’s how I could have chosen to react instead: My coworker says something judgmental about what I’m wearing. I think to myself, “I wonder what’s going on with her that she felt it necessary to say that to me? It probably means her new diet isn’t going well.” I shrug it off and get on with my day, never giving it a second thought.
Taking responsibility for our own feelings is important for this reason: if the way we feel is someone else’s fault, then we have no control and we have to wait for the other person to change before we can feel better. Putting expectations on other people’s behavior is a guaranteed recipe for frustration and resentment when they fail to comply. But when we understand that the way we feel is a direct result of what we say to ourselves about the world around us, we are the ones in control of our own experience and we get to decide how we want to feel.
No one else can “make you” feel anything. Your own thinking does that. No one else can “ruin your day”. Your own thinking does that. And no one else can “hurt your feelings”. You do that when you say hurtful things to yourself inside your own head, long after whoever triggered you has wandered off and forgotten about it.
Blaming others for how we feel turns us into emotional hostages to their behavior. We can’t feel better until THEY start acting different. Since people rarely change their behavior without an urgent and compelling reason, that leaves us with only one realistic option. We cannot control what other people think or do, but we can control what WE think and do ourselves. Choosing to take your power back will change everything about how you experience your life.
Old habits and thought patterns can be sneaky and hard to change. If you want help creating a more empowered way of thinking and being in the world, click the button below to schedule your free consultation and let's get to work designing the road map to your new life.
Written by Natalie Fayman, CPC, ACC, ELI-MP, COR.E Dynamics Wellbeing Specialist