Wednesday, June 19, 2002

A Peek Into My Psyche, Part the Second

The secondary title to this is, Everything is Not My Fault. I'm really going to work to explain this so it makes sense, so work with me.

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that no one is harder on me than I am. Today I'll expand on that and explain the other major effect that's had on me.

What it really breaks down to is that in any situation that I'm involved in, if something goes wrong I take responsibility for it. Re-read that line because that is the key to everything in my life. The key to how I handle every interaction. Every relationship. Every job. Everything.

As a quick example; I made a friend recently. We got along amazingly well. We clicked in a way that I haven't clicked with someone in a long time. I was excited to have a new buddy. But after doing a half dozen things together in the first month of knowing each other -- it stopped. No more phone calls, no more dinners, nothing. This stressed me out to an unbelievable extent and -- you guessed it -- I blamed myself for messing it up. I figured that I'd done something to "deserve" being shut out of my friend's life. We talked about it and nope, nothing wrong. But we still didn't really do things together. Another month and a half passes. More stress. Finally, this past Monday I vented to someone about it and she said, "It's not you."

This may seem like a really simple thing to say, but for some reason it really struck a chord with me. I felt better about venting and went back to work. Later, at the gym I thought about why I was so stressed and thought more about "It's not you", and suddenly something clicked. Call it whatever you want, but I'll use the word epiphany because it's appropriate. I realized for the first time ever that I am not responsible for everything that happens to me.

I want you to think about that. Really think about it. It's crazy isn't it? To think that I could control every aspect of my life so completely that if something went wrong that it's somehow my fault. That's how I thought of things. I walked through every day of my life trying to make sure that everything was perfect because if it wasn't it was my fault.

Someone doesn't want to date me? It's because I didn't try hard enough to make them happy. Or because I wasn't attractive or interesting enough.
Someone doesn't want to be my friend? It's because I did something wrong.
Someone doesn't do a task correctly that I've given them? I didn't explain it to them correctly.
Someone doesn't believe some fact that I've told them? I may have faulty information.

Everything was my fault. I was wrong. I didn't try hard enough. I didn't get it done. Literally, I took the responsibility for everything in my life on myself.

The other person was never a factor. The other person was never mistaken, or messed up, or shallow, or was just plain wrong! (Or, like my friend above, just had their own life to live and things to deal with.) Instead, it was always my failing. And remember from yesterday when I said that all I pay attention to are the faults in what I do? Well, if someone doesn't like me, or does something wrong, or is mad at me it's because I didn't do something right. I look at the situation and say, "Okay, there's a problem. What did I do wrong?" It never occurred to me that it might be the other person!

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to go around blaming everyone for my problems, but from this point forward I can at least say, "You know what, I've done my best, and if this isn't working, well, maybe it's not me. Maybe there's something else at work here." I've never done that before. Never. Again, I want you to think about that. That's nuts! No one can live like that -- and yet, that's what I've done for 32 years. Can you even begin to imagine the immense pressure I put on myself? Can you imagine how many things happened everyday that I blamed myself for? Can you imagine what all those little "failings" did to my ego and self-confidence?

Nothing good.

Well, you know what? You and I have probably had a disagreement of some kind (no matter how small) at some point in our relationship. And when that happened I probably said it was my fault -- or at the very least -- I blamed myself. Think back to that instant, visualize it, then visualize me saying, "You're WRONG!" Ha! How's that feel? I'm not the one that's messed up, or made a mistake, or has incorrect information, or whatever -- YOU ARE! Not everything is my fault. It's not and I can't keep living like it is.

You don't want to date me? Fine, you're missing out.
You don't want to be my friend? Too bad for you. I rock.
You don't know how to do something correctly? Fine, listen to me this time.
You don't believe what I've told you? Well, I know I'm right.

Whew! Even typing this is liberating in a weird way. And ultimately, I hope you enjoyed reading all this as much as I enjoyed writing it. These are realizations that I probably should have made years ago, but I don't care. I made them now. I'm glad I made them now. I like the person that this screwed up way of looking at life has made me. I know that I'm a better person than most of the people in the world. That's not egotism, that's fact. I've been in situations where lesser people would have caved and done something immoral, opportunistic, mean, cowardly, or cruel. I am a good friend and I have good friends. I know that. There's no one who can say differently. I'm a good son and brother. I love my family. They've always been there for me -- even when I didn't think I had any right to fall back on them -- and I've always been there for them.

And, I like me.

And I thank all of you for liking me.

I think -- actually -- I know things are going to be different for me in the future. I've gone through a paradigm shift and you're all coming with me.


I want to add a short note to thank all of you for emailing, calling, or talking to me about these posts. I really appreciate it. I think I've done a good job of communicating how important this has been to me. To some of you it may seem like these are pretty basic things, but they're not to me. This is an immensely different way for me to look at the world and I wanted to let you know about it. This won't solve all my problems, but it will solve how I look at them -- and it will make me more capable of handling anything else that happens in my life. Hopefully you'll see the difference, but if you don't, at least you'll know that I do.


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