When your shell gets busted

Why, oh why, do we worry what people think about us? Why does it matter that someone seems to speak badly of us, in spite of our best efforts to please? Or appear to ignore us when we’ve gone the distance for them? That hurts.

Have you met someone who seems to easily blow right past these kinds of things? They cavalierly throw their head back, shake their fist at the sky in blind anger and say they don’t care at all what people think of them. You can watch the back of their head whilst they walk away.

I don’t believe ‘em.

I think they do care; I’m pretty sure they care a lot. But I think their mojo is that they’ve learned to manage their own perceptions of other people’s actions.

How do they do that?

Here’s the deal: It’s not what people think about you that matters. It’s what you think people think about you.

Yup. It’s more about you and less about them.

Don’t you just hate that?

So how do we get there? How do we know what’s for real so we can move past it?

Acknowledge the pain.

If you feel hurt, then you are hurt. That’s really okay. Our feelings are an indicator of what needs our attention. Just because someone says they “didn’t mean it that way” doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Your feelings are your experience. No one else can tell you you’re not feeling something or shouldn’t feel something (my personal favorite).

You are the sole authority on what and how you feel.

BUT you can’t get stuck here. If you step out of the mud for a minute, then you’ll realize that you can actually decide what you believe about the source of that pain.

Boom. Read on.

Challenge your perceptions.

You don’t have to take everything that is said or done to you at face value. Just because words were formed and projected into the air towards you doesn’t mean they 1) were well thought out 2) contain any factual truth and 3) really have anything to do with you.

Put your muddy finger on the pause button for a second and ask yourself, “What else could be going on here? What could I be missing? Where’s the remote?”

This can take some of the emotional edge off of frustrating events.

Maybe you just heard it the wrong way (clarification never hurts).

Maybe they’re a jerk and treat everyone that way (then in this particular case it’s not about you at all, yay!).

Maybe, like Wonder Woman, you just don’t have all the information about who you really are, but they see it and they don’t like it and want to throw lightning at you (anybody else love that movie?!).

Get creative but come up with something that’s less about you being a horrible person and more about you being the victor in your own life story.

Call it denial if you want. In this case it might be the best way to move on from people who may have nothing invested in you anyway. Plus you will also be able to go on and have a great day.

Recognize that we all have different ways of perceiving the world.

I think social media has more than proven this point. With all of the ways we can now share our unique perspectives along with our food choices, you really have no way to know where people are truly coming from.

Unless you ask them, of course. And even then, you still won’t have the complete picture because you’re not in their head.

Inasmuch as you have your own undeniable experience, other people are having theirs, too.

Dang it.

Someone who hurts you is responding based on their own perceptions of the world. Their own upbringing, their own personal models of how to relate to people, and their own feelings of inadequacy.

Just like you.

It’s not that people always have it in for you. For most people, it’s just that they’re scared, too. Don’t underestimate the power of fear. It makes people do some pretty stupid things.

I say this all the time, but don’t be afraid to run interference on your emotions.

Instead of letting your mind run away with all the reasons someone doesn’t like you, challenge those reasons and design a different perspective for yourself.


It is what it is


We all like to throw this one around. If something doesn’t go our way, we shrug our shoulders and say, “Yep, it is what it is, y’all.”

But how can we make “it is what it is” work for us?

In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) “it is what it is” has a more clinical name: radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance means accepting your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you approve of those circumstances or even expect them to never change.

But where you are now is where you are now.

You can’t control what you can’t control.

DBT was initially developed for people with borderline personality disorder. Clients with this disorder struggle with extreme emotional dysregulation. They can’t even think of moving forward because they are completely ruled by their past and their emotional response to it. It’s a very difficult place to be and hard to change.

Radical acceptance is a critical part of a plan to help these clients simply manage their emotional selves.

We can all benefit from radical acceptance.

You can’t really move forward and take meaningful action until you acknowledge that things are the way they are, for whatever reason they are.

The serenity prayer is based on this idea. Having the courage to accept what you can’t change is very powerful. Because it allows you to leave a lot of junk behind you.

Sounds simple but it’s hard, I know. Practicing radical acceptance is a deliberate and purposeful action.

Once you do that, though, you can look ahead and really weigh your options. Now that you know and accept what you can’t control about your life, you can decide what, in fact, you do have control over, and what you can change.

Radical acceptance creates a line in the sand that you can step over.

It engages you in your options instead of looking back and wallowing in things that may never change.