We all make them. Judgments and assumptions. And then we make those judgments and react emotionally to them. Once it swirls around in our heads marinating, we can get really angry or sad over these thoughts.
So for example, “Jane” recently shared that she was struggling with her grief after the loss of a close buddy to suicide because she thought her friends thought she should “be over it by now.” She had not known this person but for a few months, not long enough to be so torn up about it so why was she letting it still bother her?
Here’s the issue.
She then allowed what she perceived as their thoughts and opinions about her grief to control how she felt about herself. She admonished herself for being weak and not being able to “move forward” fast enough.
I remember when few people called after the memorial service for my son Charles. I thought, “They don’t want to be with me because this awful thing happened in my life and they think I’m no longer fun.”
No one had told me that. I assumed it. And I assumed it when I was upset and emotional. Those were not facts.
“Scott,” told me recently, “I’m so fat and ugly, I look disgusting and everyone thinks so.” He assumed this after someone made a comment that they didn’t have his size when handing out free t-shirts. They asked what size, he said XXL and he assumed they meant something by saying they didn’t have it.
In all these cases, the judgment or assumptions don’t fit the facts. And when we get all worked up in a lather about something we assume about others, we allow it to color our feelings about ourselves. Then it triggers other emotions: anger, pain, sorrow that sometimes drives us to lash out, eat too much, drink too much, or engage in too much negative self-talk. The result? We feel worse. The goal is to feel better so this exercise is worth the effort.
We think worse of ourselves because of what we perceive someone else thinks of us.
So in the case of Jane, it might be her friends who think that. But then they might not know what to do or say or how to support her. She doesn’t know because she has not asked. And then she would need to ask herself if she had thought about telling them how they might support her.
In my case, I woke up one day and thought, “Do I really think that all my closest buddies are purposely ignoring me and have moved on because this tragedy has happened in my life? Or are they truly unsure of how I might like to be supported? Does everyone like to be supported the same way? Can they read my mind?”
In Scott’s case, he was feeling self-conscious about his weight, and did someone’s comment of not having his size really mean they were internally thinking, “Gee, this guy is disgusting.”
That’s why I implore you to strip out all the emotions and look at the naked facts. Once you look at the facts when they are not draped in all your internal “oh woes me” storytelling, you can start to get some perspective of looking at things from another point of view.
In Jane’s case, she can nonjudgmentally observe that she has been crying a lot after her friend’s death. Her friends have not contacted her as much. Or when they are with her and she is sad, they are quieter.
Scott might decide that for his age, his body mass index is greater than the average person his age and size. And notice that they simply stated they didn’t have XXL.
Here’s what I had to come to terms with. Close friends were not contacting me but had they before? What was I expecting them to do? And if had expectations, did they know? Were they mind readers?
Sometimes we have to take it as an opportunity to educate so others might understand. They may want to know but are fearful of asking. Other times we need to understand that the facts are not supporting our feelings. And taking a deep breath and a few moments to go over the facts can help us put it into perspective and decide what we might want to do about it from there.
What did I do? I sat down with my friends and discussed how I would like to be supported. I told them I wanted to be invited to things even though I might cancel at the last minute because I was having an awful day.
Other times, I wrote snarky posts on emotionally naked to let those feelings go so they wouldn’t roll around in my head like thoughts on a hamster wheel.