Some of you may be aware of the fact that I am a raging introvert.
Yes, I can socialize and I am pretty outgoing.
But you folks exhaust me!
I bring that up because it is a great example of the cycle of explantation/justification I have been in this year.
Person: You are such a social butterfly! You know everyone and everyone knows you!
Me: I guess it seems that way, but we live in a small town, and really, I am more introverted than you may think. I've just known everyone here for over a decade.
Person:No, you are definitely not an introvert.
Me: I really and truly am. It isn't about being outgoing, it is about where I get my energy.
Person: Seriously, I don't see me.
Me: (Pulls research and data from every source I can compile on a cell phone whilst walking down the street) LISTEN HERE, I will explain it to you...
I feel like I am on a constant merry-go-round of people telling me who I am and my telling them they have got it wrong. While this is annoying on it's own, I have found that it gets more complicated. I start to get into my head (which is pretty typical of me all the time) and start making fairly educated guesses (aka. assumptions) about what people must be thinking of me too. Then, I spend way too much time trying to justify myself to all the imaginary critics watching me in my personal arena.
A few events brought this cycle to the forefront of my attention recently. First off, the whole ulcer situation. Nothing like pain to make you reevaluate how you are handling you life. Then, I listened to some Rachel Hollis (just band that wagon you guys, okay?) podcasts, and one in particular really resonated with me. By resonated, I mean her words were the equivalent of a baseball bat whacking my skull a few times. What finally brought all of it together was this little photo essay that occured one Sunday last month.
It all started with my judgey ass cat, Cecily. She is a great cat and an excellent mouser most days. But, she gets really bent out of shape when I don't get her food at the moment she has requested it.
She will be all noisy and do all the cat things that cats do to let you know they have needs you aren't fulfilling.
On this particular day, I had just gotten home from playing piano for Praise Team, and I was sitting in my car worrying about a million problems I felt like I had right then. I look up from my phone (all the problems live on my phone, something to think about), and the cat is staring me down with her judgey cat face.
I responded in kind.
Cecily was undeterred by my response.
Clearly I got on the defensive.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
I was unimpressed. How dare my cat judge me?
She dared. My cat totally dared.
And I realized something.
Everyone. Judges. ME.
Even my cat judges me.
However, my cat does not have the ability to get inside my car and do anything about her judgement. So, she has to sit in front of me and be a total tool, getting her dirty cat paws all over my car, and staring at me like I've gone and eaten a baby or something. (I don't eat babies for the record.)
She makes a mess on the outside of my car.
She disturbs me.
But she can't get in unless I let her in.
If I move the car, she has to jump off or be hurt.
And all I have to do is go to the car wash and it was like she was never there.
This forced me to think about how I have responded to other folks judgements of me, both real and anticipated (aka quite possibly imagined).
Why in the hell do I let people get in?
If they haven't said something directly to me that is negative, then I am just making an assumption anyhow. Why let it in when I don't eve know it's true?
If they have said something mean to me, then I can move them out of the "friend" file and into the "jerk face that we treat decently because Jesus said so" file. Easy.
They can't get in if I don't allow them in.
Their words are not forever branded on me. Particularly if I put down the emotional tattoo gun and just let their vitriol wash away.
One of the most beautiful lessons of 2018 for me has been to truly see that I am not the sum of other folks opinions.
They have them and I can't control that.
They may be right and they may be wrong.
But those opinions don't belong to me.
It's like dealing with my judgmental cat. If I put the car in drive, they won't be able to keep up anyhow.
And there is a car wash just down the street from me.
So, 2018, thank you.
Thank you for teaching me a lesson I will probably need to continue to learn for the rest of my life. I am grateful. I am stronger. I will use this to make myself a better person.