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It's not about you



“Other people’s reactions and opinions of me give me information about their world as I know who I am and nobody else can define me.” - Barbara Boselli


The phrase above is one of my favorite mantras. As someone who grew up believing that how much I am liked or admired is a good measure of my worth, I tend to embark on an emotional rollercoaster at any sign of rejection. So I keep reminding myself that my worth does not depend on others’ opinions. 


This  background will help you understand how I felt during a bingo night I attended last week.


I am part of a local non-profit that raises funds to support our community. Last week we hosted a fundraiser bingo night, and I donated a coaching session with me as one of the bingo prizes. I was looking forward to finding out who was going to win it.


Amongst over 100 attendees, in the table next to mine sat a group of lovely ladies, probably in their late 70s or 80s. They were having a blast and taking the game quite seriously.


After many rounds of bingo, laughter and prizes, my coaching session came up on the screen. The next winner would get an hour with me to work on an area of their lives they want to see transformation. A few numbers had been called and I heard one of the ladies from my neighboring table call bingo. One of the very elegant senior ladies had won. AND she did not seem very happy. I honestly was not thrilled either, I had never coached someone in her demographics and was unsure of how that would go. Before I could think any further, someone else, sitting at the other side of the room, also called bingo. It was a tie!


The organizer of the event ended up giving my coaching session to the second person who called bingo, and a different prize to my neighbor, the elegant senior lady. Everybody was happy.


Later that night I approached my neighbors to talk to one of the ladies that I knew. After greeting each other I made a comment about her friend winning a round of bingo. Her response was priceless: “My friend was upset because she initially thought she had won this coaching session. Luckily someone else claimed it and she ended up with a much, MUCH, better prize.” It took me a second to understand what was happening. Of course she did not notice I was the coach offering that session. So I smiled, made some nice comments and went back to my seat.


My jaw was clenching and my heart was racing. I had gotten really triggered by that comment. Some version of “HOW COULD SHE SAY THAT ABOUT MY COACHING SESSION????” was flooding my thoughts. I took a few breaths to regulate my emotional system and started observing what had happened. I had taken that comment very personally and to mean something about me or my professional skills. I equated the fact that the lady did not want my coaching session to the coaching session being a “bad” prize. Or worse, with there being something wrong with ME.


Once I noticed where my thoughts were going, I could separate her opinion/reaction from who I am. At that point my body calmed down and I was able to have a lot of compassion for the lady who did not want what I was offering. For whatever reason, that prize was not interesting for her, maybe she was not familiar with coaching, maybe she was looking forward to some other prize, I could not know why. What I knew is that a coaching session was not HER preferred prize.


Just by replacing the story I was nurturing in my mind, my experience totally changed. When I believed in the stream of thoughts #1: “how can she not want my session? Who is she? What is wrong with my coaching? What is wrong with me?”, I was upset, angry, resentful, and feeling defeated. As soon as I updated them to stream of thoughts #2: “for whatever reason she is not interested in coaching, coaching is not HER preference. That is not an indication of the value of my services or of my value as a professional or person”, I reestablished my calm and confidence and was able to celebrate that the lady got a prize that she was happier about and I got a client that I was looking forward to coaching.


In thought stream #1 I made it all about ME! In thought stream #2, I understood that it was about her and her preferences.


And yes, there are cases when we hear things that are uncomfortable and we may want to  listen for learnings and areas for developments. And we still do not need to equate the feedback with our worth or value.


I like to use a simple example to illustrate the idea that people’s reactions are a reflection of them, not of what is happening: think about rain. When it rains, the rain is neutral. It’s just rain, neither good nor bad per se. Our reaction to the rain is based on our own expectations, beliefs, preferences. I might be really sad that it’s raining if I value blue skies, or I might be really happy if I love the smell and sound of a rainy day. It’s not about the rain! Just like it’s not really about you when people criticize you.


I invite you to adopt some version of my mantra and remember that what people say and do has a lot more to do with them than with the situation or you. Otherwise everyone would have similar opinions about everything. 


So next time you feel attacked or criticized, take a critical look to see if there is anything you actually want to change based on who YOU want to be. Otherwise let it go. And remember my mantra “other people’s reactions and opinions of me give me information about their world as I know who I am and nobody else can define me”. 


If you are inclined to share your experience after you try this approach, I would love to hear what happens to you, to others involved and your relationship. Email me at barbara@bnowconsulting.com.


Be well, be now.

Barbara

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