Thursday, May 23, 2013

What About Me? Mind Your Own Business Actually Means Love Yourself

Mind your own business is often interpreted as a moral issue, i.e. don’t gossip or interfere in other people’s lives. But it’s really just a practical thing meaning pay attention to you instead of focusing on the other person. It sounds easy but it’s actually pretty difficult. We’re utterly conditioned to think about everybody else first. It’s our normal way of being. We believe it makes us a good person. We grew up hearing that if we think about ourselves we’re being selfish, and selfishness is practically a crime against humanity. The message is thrust at us from every corner, every day of our lives. 

And when somebody does something that makes us angry or hurt or scared, we also focus on them – with judgment, though. We tear them apart. We obsess over what they’ve done and how outrageous it is. We don’t say I’m angry, I’m hurt, I’m outraged. We don’t rant and rave about what’s been done to us. We say you, you, you, you. 

In the beginning, it’s just a way of releasing anger, so it’s good to be as conscious as you can about what they’ve done to you. But that has to give way at some point to what you need, because when the need is met it settles you down, reminds you of your value, puts you in your power. We often don’t do that though; when we tell somebody else about what happened, we don’t tell them about us and what we feel, want and need. We keep the focus on the person who’s hurt us. We get completely lost in the picture, dismissing ourselves without even realizing it.  

Being dismissed or disrespected in one way or another was what pressed our buttons in the first place and made us feel worthless. You have to receive love when you've been hurt and the only way that can happen is if you shine the spotlight on yourself so you can identify what form that love needs to take to be meaningful.

Kate, 27:
Last week I went on a blind date. He arrived on time, looked great. We went to a fantastic restaurant; the whole thing was divine. But then he started with the sexual innuendo and it was too soon. I wanted him to stop but some part of me feared it would blow up in my face.
As it happens, that fear was my gut warning me; I heard it, but I didn’t trust it and I didn't have entitlement to do what I needed to do. The most I could do was be very unresponsive. He ignored that. Then he reached out and stroked my hand very suggestively. I had to say something. I took my hand away and said as calmly as I could “I don’t want you to do that. I’ll let you know if I want you to touch me.” My heart was pounding, though. 
He jeered at me, mocked me for being a prude. He got really mean. Trying hard to hold onto my dignity I got up and left. I was spitting mad but I also wanted to bawl my eyes out.  
I caught a cab to a friend’s and told her all about it. She was outraged, which made me feel a lot better for a bit. Ranting is really important, so long as you have somebody who really wants to hear it. If you don’t, you never stop needing to rant. So that’s priority number one. My friend really listened, so she met that need beautifully.

But then we pulled him apart for the next couple of hours. By the end of it I felt drained and tired and really not great at all. I got home and realized all we did was talk about him. We gave him all the attention. What I really wanted was to let my rage out and then for us to talk about me. 
I wanted to be reassured that I did the right thing, that it was okay to feel scared, okay to want to bawl my eyes out, okay to throw my food at him. That I didn’t deserve his behavior, that next time I can speak out even sooner and I don’t have to be nice about it. I went back to my friend and told her what I needed. She was amazing. 

She told me I’m allowed to look after myself first and to have whatever boundaries work for me. That they’re important to me is enough and they must be respected without question. Not wanting a guy to touch me until I’m ready doesn’t make me a prude. Most of all, she said, I wasn’t responsible for his emotional reaction and I didn’t have to adapt my behavior to it. She put her arms around me, and I felt the warmth and safety of her love.  

Then I felt good about me. I didn't care about him anymore. Everything made sense. I didn't have to even think about it. And I now know something more about my value and my rights.

Men and boys need this too. This isn't just about what women need. All human beings need it. Love and respect. Love and connection. The only way we can get it is if we focus on ourselves and know what we need. Then reach out for it.