by Rebecca Leonard
Typically, the phrase, “It’s all about me” is looked upon negatively. It could signal a person who is self-centered, one who does not spend time considering other people. It’s a mindset that is typically frowned upon. But…what if we turned the typically selfish-sounding phrase on it’s head and reconsidered it in a different light? I notice so many times in my work, people are navigating situations involving perceived negative interactions with other people. He said, she said, they said…and then, when hurt feelings are involved, judgments follow soon after about the person in question. Why is he or she so mean to me? Why does that person not consider my feelings? Why doesn’t he or she care about me? We spend so much time focusing outward on the other person. Our minds run rampant with stories about the other party that may or may not be true. Sometimes we don’t stop to check for truth because it is easier to make up (very creative) stories in our heads about negative interactions with others. Most of the time, these stories confirm narratives about ourselves that we have written that run on replay in our minds and are with us constantly. We spend a lot of time focusing on the other person, pondering the shortcomings of the other party…and we miss an opportunity to stop and take a good look at ourselves.
What if instead of looking outward in times of conflict, we looked inward to say, “It’s all about me.” This doesn’t mean that we cease to consider others, but we shift the focus from outward towards others to look more closely at our own hearts. We consider how our own narratives, or filters, affect the way we hear other people and how paying close attention to our own feelings about communication and conflict can be quite instructive– and tell us a lot about what we really need on an emotional level.
Let’s say that a woman is in conflict with her spouse. A situation arose in which she told him about her very exciting day, sharing several details of her experience. Her spouse seemed distracted and didn’t make much eye contact during the conversation. The woman’s default reaction is to say, “How rude! I am trying to tell him about my day and he doesn’t even have the courtesy to act interested!” The woman might be resentful towards him and even determine that she is not going to share with him for a while. She spends quite a bit of time ruminating over the dismissiveness of her spouse.
What if instead of looking outward in times of conflict, we looked inward.
What if this same woman shifted her focus to examine herself? Instead of making judgments about her husband if she paid attention to her own feelings and attended to her internal narrative? She might realize that the anger she is feeling is comingled with fear. She is scared that she is not worth listening to. She might fear that she isn’t interesting. She might feel lonely and realize that this signals a strong need for connection. The possibilities are endless and the point is, only by taking the time to stop and look inward can we be aware of our feelings, filters, and needs, and then take responsibility for those things and take steps to relate in a healthy way to the other person.
It’s not always a bad thing to take a moment to make it “all about me” in order to know ourselves, attend to what is going on inside of us and to take responsibility for our feelings and interactions with others.