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Tiny Wisdom: Being Self-Aware and Minimizing Drama

“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” -Gandhi

This past weekend, I took a break from writing at Starbucks to visit the nearby Fall Festival, which featured a petting zoo, face painting, and food samples.

This is one of my favorite events because it encompasses many things I love, including farm animals, giddy children, and food on toothpicks (yes, that’s in my list of favorite things).

Much to my excitement, I saw there was also a large makeover event set up in the vicinity. Since I had time, I decided to get in line—except there wasn’t one. It was more like a group of women positioned haphazardly in front of the two stylists.

So I asked one of the women, “Are you in line?”

Her response caught me off guard, because she snapped kind of defensively, “Yes. This is the line. Behind me—I’ve been waiting!”

Instinctively, I felt annoyed. I’d asked to be considerate, but I gathered it didn’t come across that way.

I realized then that I often feel angry when I have positive intentions that others don’t seem to receive as such; and I can easily get frustrated when I sense hostility that I feel I “don’t deserve.”

Sometimes, because of that, I take things personally that simply aren’t personal—and also aren't a big deal.

While this was a brief encounter with little significance in the grand scheme of things, it got me thinking about the importance of self-awareness.

So often in life, we feel things that have little to do with what’s actually happening and everything to do with the stories we’re telling ourselves in our head—stories that involve assumption, blame, and defensiveness.

But we don’t have to fall victim to our instinctive emotional reactions. At any time, we can stop, assess what’s going on in our heads, and decide to respond a little more wisely based on what we know about ourselves.

Today if you feel yourself getting all worked up over something that isn’t a big deal, ask yourself, “What can I learn about myself that will help me going forward?”

Photo by Melissa Gray

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Madhvi15

    True. This often happens in a traffic jam where there’s a lot of general and often misdirected hostility.
    It leaves a bitter taste in ones mouth and often is quite unnerving.
    To be honest, there is no easy way of being calm. It requires much effort.

  • chaustin

    there was some drama with the coaches after the 49ers and the Lions football game yesterday.  and its been interesting to read the comments.  how timely is your  – Today if you feel yourself getting all worked up over something that
    isn’t a big deal, ask yourself, “What can I learn about myself that will
    help me going forward?”

  • i dislike your choice of corporate coffee.. but i wont take it personally;)  i enjoy your message immensely!   

  • Haha thank you!

  • I generally don’t much of what’s going on with sports, but I had some friends from SF visiting this weekend, and they caught the game. I don’t know about the drama, but I know they were happy with their team’s win!

  • Yes, I have seen that many times! I’ve been trying to make driving an exercise in releasing control, as that’s a huge trigger for me (feeling like I’m stuck and I can’t do anything about it). Sometimes it does take a lot of effort to just let go.

  • Roger

    Wonderful post, this happens to me sometimes as well, and often I take it personally because I feel it’s so undeserved.  I noticed you said:

    “…At any time, we can stop, assess what’s going on in our heads, and
    decide to respond a little more wisely based on what we know about
    ourselves…”

    I’m curious for your further thoughts.  How did/would you respond to this situation?  Maybe not at all and just “be” being ok not to fix it and not taking it personally (would take some practice for me)?

  • Thanks Roger! I ended up smiling and saying, “No problem” because I assumed she must have had some anxiety going on inside her to have responded with that defensiveness. I know I sometimes get anxious when there’s chaos going on around me. Of course, I can’t know for certain that’s what she felt, but it always helps me to remember that far less has to do with me than I may originally think!

  • Roger

    Nicely done.  Just realizing as I’m reading your reply, you really found that compassion in yourself for this person.  That takes a lot of self confidence/love to do.  Good for you.  I’m going to take that away as the lesson from this if you don’t mind.  😉

  • Chasity_colton

    I love this post! I always find myself getting annoyed at people because I over analyze things and then tend to think that Im being personally attacked. I need to learn to let go of peoples reactions…. awsome post!!

  • Mia McLaughlin

    This is a great post, clear and simply put. I have found that every time I feel myself “fused” about something, whether it’s someone’s reaction to me, driving or a random situation I stop and give myself time to ask what in it is triggering me. Giving myself space to work through things whether it takes a second or longer keeps me from “reacting” and furthering adding fuel to a situation. 

  • Hi Lori,

    So sorry to see you experience the wrath of someone on the lower planes of enlightenment. I guess we all experience such occasions and our first instinct is always one of defense and annoyance. I remembered hearing Wayne Dyer on audio recounting a similar incident with an air stewardess having a tough day. His response for being jumped at was to confront the lady with this question: “Oh, so you are having a tough day today. It must be difficult for you to manage your emotions.” With that, he threw the ball back to her court and made her aware of her own negative emotions. Once she was in that state, she very quickly got out of it as well. I think it is not just us, the recipents of rude treatment that must be aware of our state, but we must also let others know their unruly state as well. Certainly no easy, but we must try.

    Cheers

  • this article could continue through the thought process of the incident.

  • I’d love to contribute here what works for me – I’ve recently discovered NVC (non-violent communication), and it’s been life-transforming.

    For me the best way to help myself in that situation is to use the NVC “self-empathy” process – what am I feeling and needing? The feelings point to needs I have that aren’t being met – I hear and savour those needs. In the above example, I might feel hurt and sad because I have a need to be understood, and I also feel confused, because I’d like to understand her response. Connecting with my needs puts me in a more empowered place – I no longer feel like a “victim” of other people’s behaviour or responses.

    Then, once I’ve given myself some empathy, it’s usually easy to then step into doing some empathy for her, as you indicate in your responses to comments: how might she be feeling? what unmet needs of her might be creating those feelings? I often find that the other person likely has the same needs as me: connection, understanding, clarity etc – and that helps me see her a human, and not feel attacked.

  • I’m glad this helped you! That’s something I need to constantly work at. Nice to know I’m not alone. =)

  • Thanks for sharing this, Julie! I’ve heard a lot about non-violent communication, but I haven’t explored it in depth. I find that empathizing always helps, but I love the idea of starting with self-empathy. 

  • That’s an interesting approach he took–kind of nudged her toward self-awareness. Thanks for sharing this here, Jimmy!

  • Michelle

    I really enjoyed this post; taking the discontent of others personally and internalizing others people’s problems is a big issue for me and can really take away my peace.  Unfortunately, even when I identify the trigger, that doesn’t stop the tape recorder in my mind that replays conflict over and over.  Do you have any suggestions for turning off the recorder?
    Thanks!

  • Hi Michelle,

    I know what you mean–I have been there before! One thing that helps me is to talk over the recorder in my mind. (Otherwise known as replacing thoughts). So if I’m telling myself, “That was so rude. I didn’t do anything wrong. What’s her problem…” and so on, I might tell myself, “It’s not a big deal. It has nothing to do with me. She’s probably just having a really hard day.” Sometimes I need a reminder to do this, as the internal conflict can be a knee-jerk reaction. I used to wear a rubber band around my wrist that read, “Catch that thought.” That was pretty helpful.

    Another thing I do is focus on my senses to ground myself into the moment. So if my mind is going crazy, I look for something I can smell, hear, or touch, and focus on experiencing those things. It helps me pull out of my head and into my body.

    I hope this helps!
    Lori