Does Teflon coating remind you of the kitchen, or of former president Bill Clinton? Probably a different metaphor would be better, and in any case, I’m really writing about not taking things personally and not letting events, situations and conversations (aka things) get to you, or bother you. When you get news that wasn’t what you were expecting, and it’s not that you won the lottery, it’s easy to play that recording again, See, it’s just not meant to be, or some form of I’m really not good enough, see? Of course that’s nonsense, the less time you spend dwelling on this comfortable-but-inappropriate story, the better off you’ll be.
The reason it’s so easy to get mired in these stories is simple: we’ve done it so many times before the neural pathway in the brain that reminds you of this story is extremely well worn. It’s an automatic reaction. To stop this, you’ve got to see that it’s happening, that it’s one reaction you have but it doesn’t have to be your only reaction.
Is it ever really helpful to remind yourself of how things didn’t work out the way you wanted in the past? Or, to think again about how other people react to certain triggers in ways that annoy you?
The correct answer is no.
1. The first thing is to see your story, your interpretation for what it is, it’s one of many possible explanations for what happened.
If your husband is late for a dinner date, one possible explanation is that he really doesn’t love you anymore, that he never did respect you the way you thought he did and that he really is narcissistic. (I’m not writing this because of anything that’s happened with Ruben, but I know he is quite capable of being late, so I’m prepared. )
Or it could be, that once again, he got distracted by something he thought was important at the time.
Next time, bring a book to read to entertain you while you wait.
2. Realize that something better for you is right around the corner. (If you’re too caught up in your drama, you might miss it.)
Let’s say that you didn’t get the job offer for which you were more than qualified. You thought everything went well. And then they tell you they picked someone who was "a better fit for our company" or "has this particular skill we need" (even though that skill wasn’t listed on the job description.)
OK. That stings. We could play the CD mix on the theme, I’m not hirable, I’m too young, too old, too smart, not qualified, not politically correct, not well connected, whatever.
Those are all plausible explanations. Any one or several could be true. It’s also quite likely that because of your clear intention for something, there is a better alternative for you that you haven’t seen yet.
If I had gotten the job at East Carolina that I had applied for in the fall of 2008, I would never have had the chance to move to glorious Charleston last year.
In any case, disappointment is part of the human experience and helps us connect better with others. That connection is healthier when we don’t take the reason for our disappointment personally.
One thing you can do when something like this happens is to make a list of 20 possible outcomes that are much better than if you had gotten the response you wanted. This helps keep you and and your mind healthy.
3. Get exercise.
I hate to sound like a nag, and I know FOR SURE that exercise is essential for mood management. I know that my intense swimming workouts during the worst months of my divorce drama kept me far away from depression. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself if your body is getting a workout.
Simply going out for a walk is a great way to touch up that Teflon coating, a strong and flexible protection for your real self, the fun and brilliant person you are!
4. Think about what else you can do, even if your list includes taking off a specified amount of time to nurture yourself.
One of the huge changes in the way I lead my own life is something I learned from a mentor almost 3 years ago. And this change has made ALL the difference is the way I live and feel.
Here’s the thing: don’t put so much attachment onto the one thing….the interview, the article submission, the sales call, the blind date, the presentation. This is also called detaching from the outcome.
As Aristotle said, Excellence is not an event but a habit. (I’m paraphrasing.)
When the thing, whatever it was didn’t work out, which is TOTALLY normal, BTW, this would act as my cue to beat up on myself and be miserable. I was see this as definite proof that I was a victim of life! As a free bonus, I could also make people around me miserable, too!
It’s taken practice for me to assume this paradigm of not looking for the answer in that One Thing, but it is so empowering. You just keep taking action and taking more action, until you achieve the goal. EVENTUALLY you will do so.
The other thing is, that you won’t be any happier when you achieve it, so go on and be happy now, or at least at peace.
You may need time to grieve a loss, take the time, feel it, and then look for a way to feel better.
In other words, Move On.
5. Choose your words carefully.
You know to be careful with words like always and never. When you’re feeling raw emotionally, you really want to make the effort to choose what you say carefully. This in itself will help you not go off the victim cliff.
You don’t even have to verbally express all the thoughts that are going through your head right now. Actually giving these stories words is making them stronger.
It really is true (most of the time) that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
This is definitely not the time for any sort of inflammatory language,
You also want to take care in who you talk you. (Note, the correct way to write this is Take care with whom you speak.)
Some people are great with drama. Talk to them when you need ideas for the movie script you’re writing.
THE BONUS: When you take a hit, as is part of life, go back to your journal and visit your goals and your intentions. See what you’ve written about the kind of person you want to be. If you haven’t written about that lately, now would be a good time to get that down. The upset and angry you isn’t the real you.
What do you do to keep from taking things personally?