You are what you feel
You probably grew up hearing, “You are what you eat.” But did you know you are also what you feel?
It is true. When you feel lousy, you act lousy and you are a lousy person to be around. No one likes to feel lousy and no one wants to be around you when you are acting lousy. But when you feel good about yourself or something you have accomplished, then you glow, your personality glows, you feel good about yourself, and you are a good person to be around.
So why does your attitude towards yourself automatically change whenever someone at work, or a stranger in a store, or family or friend says something negative or hurtful? Why do you allow their ornery disposition to ruin your day and your good mood? The answer is – you shouldn’t.
But this is easier said than done. Your positive attitude toward yourself should not become negative because others around you are having a bad day and taking their frustrations out on you. You were not intended to be a mirror image of their bad luck day.
So what can you do to change this? You can start by feeling good about yourself. You do this by reminding yourself that only you can make yourself feel good. Similarly, only you can make yourself feel depressed. While other people can say unkind or thoughtless remarks, it is how you choose to react to their comments that determines how you will feel about yourself afterward.
Only you can change you. A good example of this happened to Debbie my secretary. Debbie used to absorb everyone’s negative remarks and unhappiness like a sponge. If she came in to work bouncing and happy, she could be in tears at her desk a few minutes later if someone said something upsetting.
Debbie was always fretting over what other employees were saying. One co-worker in particular was always upsetting Debbie. After the anticipated unpleasant daily encounters with Sandy, Debbie would end up with tears in her eyes, feeling angry and hurt by Sandy’s flippant remarks which Debbie took very personally.
While Sandy thought everyone was enjoying her zany wit, Debbie internalized Sandy’s remarks as something bad which typically would ruin the rest of the work day for her. Debbie rode this unpleasant emotional roller coaster month after month.
After one of Debbie’s tearful outbursts about how upset she was with Sandy, I gently pointed out to Debbie that she could not change Sandy’s behavior and there was no sense in wishing Sandy would change. Instead, I suggested that Debbie change how she responded to Sandy.
I explained to Debbie that she could not change Sandy’s behavior, and the only behavior Debbie could change was her own. This included how Debbie chose to react to Sandy’s comments. Debbie could either continue absorbing each of Sandy’s comments as if it were a shock wave, or she could learn to ignore it. Time passed and Debbie’s attitude improved, though I would never have predicted what would happen next.
Several months later, Debbie and Sandy went out for lunch together at work. I was shocked even more when they went out together for lunch a second and a third time and then continued going out for lunch periodically. Then they started shopping together after work or on weekends.
Several years later, Debbie took a new job across town. I was very happy for Debbie’s promotion. On her last day of work, Debbie left me a farewell greeting card which said, “I learned a lot from you at my job. I learned that I can’t change other people but that I can only change myself.”