It’s sometimes difficult to look at the big picture. I’ve often been guilty of seeing only how something affects me and not how the same circumstance affects those around me. It’s human nature. I don’t wear the other person’s shoes, so it’s not always easy to know how they feel. At the same time, not knowing what is plaguing others, it’s easy to misinterpret bad moods, scowls and just plain lack of friendliness as a personal assault when it’s quite possible that the person is actually distracted or consumed by events that have absolutely nothing to do with me.
Nearly two decades ago a very wise woman listened to my complaint of the day and said, “Betty, it’s not all about you.” I was taken aback. I felt attacked. I was pouring out my heart to someone who was there to listen, and she had the NERVE to tell me that my pain wasn’t about me. Seconds later, she said, again, “It’s not all about you... and you can be so glad it isn’t.”
I learned all about “Jesus Christ Syndrome” from that wise woman. She told me that I “take on the sins of the world.” I really do tend to blame myself for a lot of things. I say “I’m sorry” a lot. My friend once challenged me to go an entire week without apologizing to anyone for anything (I didn’t make it).
This morning I had a reminder that “it’s not all about me.”
My husband and I go to the gym together. I had a rough start last year. Actually, I had a (couple of) false start(s) last year. I was extremely obese, self conscious, and absolutely sure that everyone would be starting at me at the gym. I invented errands to do on the way to the gym and the errands gave me opportunities to become very upset with my poor husband about something dumb and as a result, I had an excuse to demand that he take me back home without setting foot in the gym.
After two of those incident, I finally made it past the front desk. The staff were smiling and the other members were not staring at me. I had a good time and it soon became a habit. I’ve been going regularly now for about 6 months, and until recently I’ve never had a negative experience. Recently, though, things changed.
There is a male staff member at the gym whose actions today reminded me that it isn’t all about me. I smile a lot and I say good morning to just about everyone. It’s just how I am. This guy never smiles back. Sometimes, when I am walking my warm-up laps around the track, he stands in the middle of the track to watch Fox news. He never smiles. He rarely makes eye contact. He exudes contempt.
I was really very happy this morning. Think about Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, and you’ll get a good idea of how bouncy I was feeling. I was jamming out to Time Warp, Funky Town, and other favorite tunes as I walked around the track when I came upon Mr. Muscles directly in my path. I gave him a big smile and said, “good morning!” He looked right at me, locked eyes for an uncomfortable second or two and said NOTHING.
I checked my clothing for stains. I sniffed to see if I smelled funny. I ran my fingers through my hair, made sure that I was walking the correct direction around the track, checked my shoes for dog poop and concluded that I was okay, but that he either has a problem with women in general or just with fat women. Whatever caused him to stare me down was obviously my fault. I wondered what I did wrong. I finished the workout avoiding all possibility of making eye contact with him. I lost the bounce in my step, and felt my Tigger mood transition to Eeyore.
I finished my workout and dashed down the steps, collected my belongings from the locker room and got in the car. Once we were in the safety of our car, I turned to my husband and asked him if he had noticed the tall blonde staff member wearing the Lifeguard shirt. He said he knew who I was talking to. I told him that I thought I must have irritated him because he wouldn’t even say “Good Morning.” He chuckled and said, “it’s not about you – it’s him.” Darling Hubby, too, had tried to engage Mr. Muscles. He didn’t get as far as I did because Mr. Muscles wouldn’t even make eye contact.
Darling Hubby said, “It’s obvious that guy doesn’t like his job. He doesn’t want to be here. He doesn’t like the members. He doesn’t like the work. He probably won’t be here long.”
I don’t know if Darling Hubby is right on all accounts or not. Mr. Muscles may work at the gym for a long time, but I do think he’s likely correct in stating that Mr. Muscles isn’t a happy guy. It’s not all about me, and I’m so glad it isn’t!
Today was a good reminder that it’s not all about me. Just as nobody else is responsible for my happiness, I’m not likely to single-handedly ruin someone else’s day very often – especially not a stranger.
One key to my happiness is to live my life trying to do the right thing. The words below have often been attributed to Mother Teresa. I don’t know if she actually said them, but I love them.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
It’s not all about you, and aren’t you glad it isn’t?