Since moving to a new state, I’ve been meeting a few new people —
and drop me in chocky and roll me in coconut*,
it’s brought up a few insecurities. Insecurities that Neville had only partially managed to bury before being caught in the act. The pickle is, I’ve always felt that people often misread and misunderstand me when we first meet. From airport staff to friends of friends – Neville reckons it’s a frequent experience that people don’t particularly warm to me right off the bat – and sometimes that they seem to outright dislike me from the get go. *The chocky and coconut phrase is stolen from one of my hilarious previous clients, Kristen.
I’m often left wondering what the hell I’ve done to create these situations,
since I’m always friendly and warm (at least I think I am), if a little awkward and aloof (also known as social panic!) ????????♀️ It often takes people a long time to warm to me (most of my close friendships now were more of a slow burn – not love at first chat), and I often feel like the weird one on the outside – like there’s some crucial magical social ingredient I’m missing. I’ve done a lot of work on my social awkwardness over the decades, and learnt some skills to help me manage social situations a lot better than I used to – when I open up to friends about being socially awkward, they often say “oh wow, but you come across as so warm and open and at ease?!” Which makes Neville cackle – the facade has worked! So when a friend of a friend started snapping at me unexpectedly in a few of our interactions, my first instinct was to personalise it – it must be me, what have I done, why do I always seem to piss people off without realising… why does everyone misunderstand my intentions?
A few times after she snapped at me,
or used what I perceived as a harsh/ judgy tone or look with me, I (later) broke down in tears all over Bloody Good Bloke’s jumper. I thought I must be doing something wrong. I felt on edge and anxious, like I was on eggshells. I started doing things to avoid running into her. (In this tiny town we’ve moved to, that’s easier said than done!) I was certain that at any day now, she was going to tell me why I was annoying. Which of course made me act weirder and weirder around her, and no doubt, more annoying!
It seemed that I had triggered her, and she had triggered me.
One morning I woke up and thought, hang on a minute, why am I waiting for her to tell me I’m being annoying? I haven’t done anything – and I’m being snapped at randomly and unexpectedly – why would I wait for this person’s verdict instead of saying “fuck this, I don’t want to be around someone like this – whether it’s my fault or their fault or no one’s fault at all – I still don’t want to be around this!” Just like that, I moved from victim mode into empowerment. And suddenly things became a lot clearer.
Life had brought me a splinter to be removed.
But first I had to do a bit of backlash judging of my own (“she’s not as lovely a person as she thinks she is, she’s projecting her shit on me, she’s judgey and unnecessarily haughty, maybe she’s just a bit of a bitch?” spouted Neville one night instead of letting me sleep.) In the past, I would have swung between victim mode (my fault) and “fuck that person” mode (her fault) – but avoided looking inwards at what my reaction was showing me about me. If she projected her shit on me and I felt neutral about it, that might be a sign it was just her stuff, not mine.
But when it happens, I feel sick.
So I know there’s a lesson here for me, much as I would rather blame it all on her. When we meet someone who triggers us, it doesn’t matter whose “fault” it is. In my experience, creating a weird relationship is always a 50/50 game. But either way, people who trigger strong emotions in us are ALWAYS an opportunity to learn and heal something about ourselves. Maybe they’re showing you a part of yourself you haven’t accepted. Maybe they’re showing you a part of yourself that needs some attention.
Maybe they’re showing you a part of yourself that you’ve been judging harshly, too.
Through talking to friends about my pickle with this new person, I’ve realised (or perhaps remembered) this deep belief I have that others (mostly women) will always misunderstand me and dislike me straight off the bat. I can see how I CREATE situations where exactly this occurs – not by coincidence, but literally because of the way my beliefs shape my behaviour. As I wrote in this blog post about when I first met Bloody Good Bloke and thought he was out of my league – “people are as they occur to you” (including yourself!) If you worry others will judge you as annoying – you can bet your best guinea pig that you will behave more annoyingly around others.
As my mate Carl Jung liked to say,
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Jung was all about the idea that the things that we most criticise in others are the things we hate – or haven’t accepted – about ourselves. Or as one of my favourite authors Marian Keyes puts it “The things we dislike most in others are the characteristics we like least in ourselves.” Perhaps Carl would agree that his quote could also be adapted to “Everything that triggers us can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
If you feel emotionally charged by something,
it means a splinter – a false belief about yourself – has worked its way to the surface of your skin — right where it niggles and hurts the most. The pain is there to make you realise it’s there so you’ll take action to remove it and heal. This person who’s been snapping at me – she didn’t put the belief that others hate me (the splinter) in me. She just helped bring the splinter to the surface so I can examine and remove it.
She’s done her job — the rest is mine.
Even now that I’ve realised this (still working out what to do with it exactly!) — I’m suddenly a lot less triggered by her, and for now at least, she seems to be less triggered by me too. Ask yourself — that person that’s realllllllllyyy pissing you off lately (or making you cry all over your boyfriend’s jumper)… What are they here to teach you?