Your friend wasn’t able to meet you for a dinner date. Why do all her other friends matter to her more than I do? Your other friend has been single for ages. He should really go out more and make it a point to meet new people; clearly he is closing himself off. Another friend just got a new job that is SURE to lead nowhere, and yet another pal has scurried away to a vacation home for the umpteenth week in a row instead of actually staying put for once. All the while, your husband surely never listen to you, as he forgets the stories you’ve told him again and again – not to mention he looks unkempt but is too stubborn to care. Oh, and your BFF didn’t ask how your presentation prep is going or if you need help. As much as we’d love to say we are judgement free and empathy-filled, even the most virtuous of us slip and find ourselves outside of this wonderful yet seemingly unrealistic ideal. People disappoint us. People frustrate us. We become harsh and judgmental. Just “letting it go” is a nice ideal but is rarely a reality. How can we?
People in general are notorious for projecting. Projecting their decisions, their choices, their wants, their needs. And dissension arises when we either play the victim (“Why not me?”) or play the director (“Let me tell you what to do, because I know what is best.”). Neither are beneficial. Neither accomplish anything besides the creation of more and more negativity and wider and wider gaps in communication. Our personal relationships become a series of “living-vicariously-through” scenarios in which we project a desired outcome in our heads and just expect it to be there, or experience play-by-plays in our minds with a picture-perfect outcome.
As directors, we project our own expectations and decisions onto others. While it takes some work to put ourselves in another’s shoes and empathize, it is a lot easier to put them in ours and have them walk down the path we’d choose in a similar situation. When you find yourself playing director, pause. What do you really want? And are you projecting these wants and visions onto someone else? Or are you committed to living them out yourself? What YOU want out of someone is vastly different not only from what THEY want for themselves, but from what their path has IN STORE for them. No two lifetimes are identical, or even comparable.
When you find yourself playing the victim and diving into a pool of disappointment, ask yourself, truthfully: why is this so upsetting to me? Maybe you had a pristine picture of someone in your mind, and the reality is that they are NOT that fabrication. Maybe you rely so much on others to lead the way or show up that you’ve gotten into the pattern of holding others accountable instead of yourself.
Or maybe you are relying on the power of others’ validation, instead of searching for your own.
I am of the firm belief that we all learn the exact same lessons, just not at the same time – or even the same lifetime. A weary-eyed 70 year-old might already know the lesson of patience, whereas an impatient 14 year-old might have mastered the art of communication that the older man has yet to learn. Take a breath. We are all the same. We are getting there. It might not be at the same speed, but we are all getting there – and the least we can do is respect each individual’s pace, including our own, to make the journey a bit sweeter.
Photo credit: http://www.photopumpkin.com/photo-blog/trash-shadow-projection/