When was the last time you offered to do something for someone and they turned you down? Or maybe hinted they didn’t like the way the gift was offered, in tone or substance? Or perhaps questioned your motives for even wanting to do it in the first place? How did you respond?

I recently had an experience like this. I offered to throw a party for a loved one and he didn’t like the venue I’d selected – my home. He wanted to have it somewhere else. I got irritated. I started to have all kinds of judgmental thoughts about me, about him, and about the situation itself! Was my home not good enough? Who gets to select the venue, anyway?! Is he rejecting me personally? You wouldn’t believe how upset I got!

Now, before you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, let’s take a look at this. You know that old saying, a cigar is never just a cigar? This is a perfect example. Offering to give a party, and at my home, was a very personal expression of my love for this person. I wanted to celebrate him with family in the comfort of my home. So, when he suggested it was too small for comfort, I took it personally. I thought he was rejecting me, my love, and my very value.

This might seem like a stretch, but we do it every day. We take what someone says and create a story around it, without even knowing we’re doing it. We get all upset and make judgments about ourselves, them and the situation. We take their comments or actions personally. It happens in a heartbeat.

What to do, what to do? How do we not take things personally? How do we distinguish between us and them?

The first inclination I had that I was taking this personally was my irritation. This is a direct communication from my survival brain that I had been hijacked by one of the saboteurs that lives in that part of my brain. In this case, I’m pretty sure it was the pleaser saboteur, with some victim saboteur mixed in just for fun. The pleaser uses doing favors for others as a way to feel worthy and valuable. If the favor is rejected in any way, it reacts negatively.

The truth is, anyone with a pleaser saboteur has a natural gift and desire to serve others. This is a wonderful quality. The problem emerges when that gift is hijacked by the survival brain and misused. I think that is what happened in this case.

So, realizing this, I did what I know to do, and what I coach others to do. I used my mental fitness training to get into my sage brain and see the situation more clearly. I also checked things out with a trusted professional so I could work through my issues, because as it turned out, this wasn’t about the venue. This was about wanting reassurance that if I was upset with this person, he wouldn’t walk away. He would be there for the conversation.

Once I had come down off the cliff and was in a calm, clear place, I contacted my loved one and had a conversation about just that. Could we be snarky with each other, taking responsibility for our own snarkiness, and still be okay? The answer was yes. And, by the way, we changed the venue to one with more room, because that was not the issue after all.

In this situation, I had taken his response personally. In truth, what he thought and felt was about him, and what I thought and felt was about me. Both are valid, and neither tells the whole story. We need to take the time to unpack what’s really happening to reach a mutual and comfortable solution.

How often does this happen? How about every day, in big and small ways? How can you move through it? By increasing your self-awareness and your mental fitness skills so you can lessen your stress and increase your happiness. I would be happy to support you in this. Please feel free to reach out to me at Andrea@AndreaBeaulieu.com. And in the meantime, please stay safe and be well.