If you asked my friends about me, they’d tell you I was a smart ass. A dancer. Sassy-silly. A little hippy-dippy. Loyal. Reliable. And positive. I really try to look for the good in all situations. For instance, a year ago, I was in a head-on collision on a highway when an elderly driver suffered a heart attack (which he fortunately survived) and careened across the median strip into my lane. I was shocked, shaky, and delighted to walk away from an accident that left the front end of my tank of a car crumpled like paper. I took that incident as a sign that I absolutely had to redirect my life. Go for the career that secretly intrigued me, as frilly as it might be, spend the savings on a summer trip to Paris, and make time to nurture myself and be excited about life. Really.
I am a happier person today after deciding not to waste time hanging out with people who don’t appreciate me or make me smile. It’s not that I shun anyone else; I just choose to learn from them, and go back to my homies. This is huge. I grew up hiding my opinions for fear they would be silly, and regularly verged on practicing doormatism. Learning how to assert my own needs without anger or aggression has been amazing.
Well, this new system was working beautifully for me until two weeks ago. Guess what?! A new opportunity for growth emerged! Hallelujah!(?) I was paired on a project with someone who triggers me like no one I’ve ever met. I’ll just say we operate with opposite styles. This person takes control and anxiety to what I consider an art form, and needs to plan each detail of the project meticulously, finding my “go with the flow” attitude distressing and risky instead of charming and amusing. (I am Hawaii born and raised, after all). I know that I get my stuff done, and have always prided myself on remaining calm and measured, even in literally life-or-death situations. Now my “lax” affect clearly signaled incompetence to my partner.
When I say this person pushed my buttons, I mean I was really, really bugged by her mistrust of me. When daydreams of publicly shaming my partner danced through my mind, I knew urgent action was required. (Did I mention that I’m a positive person?) I tried to step away from the situation to look at it more clearly. I took slow, deep breaths. I went to yoga. I discussed my feelings with a dear friend who conveniently just happens to be a therapist. And then, I let go of trying to control the situation. I didn’t need to fix anyone’s anxiety or conform my methods to match someone else’s. I excused my bruised ego from taking the wheel, and let compassion take over. Who knows what this person has experienced in the past? Not me. Her story might be much more difficult that I could imagine. I allowed myself to release my defensive response and focus on doing my best work. So. Damn. Freeing.
My lesson? I have no control over, or business worrying about another person’s opinions about me. I know in my soul who I am and what I am about, and my best tactic is to remain anchored by that knowledge. It’s so much easier to do when I care for myself, body and spirit. It makes me believe that people would be so much happier and more at peace with each other if they felt a strong sense of self and remembered that each of us is on our own journey. You know deep down what you are about, regardless of anyone else’s beliefs. So, go do your thing the best way you know how. When someone pushes your buttons, do what feeds your soul, reconnect with who you know yourself to be, and return to sharing your gifts with the world.