Do you sometimes feel like there is a conspiracy and the whole world is picking on you? Your friends, family, colleagues, even strangers? You know they are really talking about you even though they are making general statements. Who do they think they’re kidding? Strangers even seem to be going out of their way to make your day difficult. You’ve been bumped with shopping carts AND cut off on the road by inconsiderate people. Sound a little familiar? Here is the question — is everyone REALLY out to get you, or is it your own baggage that makes you perceive that everyone has an agenda with your name on it?
Is it possible that people are just carrying on with their lives, and the things that are happening are just — happening? Perhaps people really ARE speaking in generalities, but you are taking it personally?
Here’s a scenario: Glen is driving home from work in his sleek, low-to-the ground sports car. He’s had an incredibly bad day and cannot wait to get home and relax. He is almost near his exit and needs to merge from the middle lane to get to the off ramp. He puts on his signal, sees an opening and starts to go for it when the person behind him jumps right in. Glen is livid! He calls the person a few well-chosen names and stews about it the rest of the way home. Glen knows the person behind him did it on purpose.
In reality, the person behind Glen did not notice his signal. He was not sure how to reach his destination and asked his wife for directions. At the last minute, she realized that their exit was fast approaching and told him to get over right away. He was not out to “get” Glen. He never even saw him. Boy, talk about two different perceptions of the same situation.
Ironically, this week has not been a good one for Glen. Earlier this week, a deer darted out from the woods as he was driving along, bounced off the top of his car, spun around and returned to the woods from where it came. Just yesterday as he was pulling into his driveway after a long day, he heard that all-too-familiar sound of pavement scraping the bottom of his beautiful car. Glen was not having a wonderful week. Funny though, in these instances, Glen was not pleased at what occurred but he did not blame the deer or the pavement or swear that they were out to “get” him. If someone had even suggested such an idea to Glen, he might have even considered them a little silly. It never occurred to him to take these situations personally, yet he was completely convinced that the other driver was. Is the answer because it was a person and not a thing? Probably. If so, Glen could work on changing his perspective.
What might a change in perspective accomplish for Glen? For starters, he would not be in a bad mood about being cut off! It might also help him lighten up and relax. It takes a great deal of emotional energy to be angry and defensive. Glen would probably also laugh a little more. When you stop taking things personally, you can see the humor in situations. Wow, a change in perspective could make a dramatic difference in his life. What about yours?
So, what is a different perspective to hold with people, who mean no more harm to you than the deer or the pavement did to Glen? It can be different for each person. Is it tolerance, or acceptance, or perhaps even ignorance? If you find yourself reacting like Glen, try exploring a few different perspectives as an exercise to find the one that works best for you. The one that will help you shrug it off and NOT take it personally. You’ll be amazed at how simply, by changing perspectives, you can change the quality of your life!
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