Let’s face it: I wish I had the superpower to make people happy. Do you ever see your friend in pain and wish it would just go away?
I recently experienced some pain. Several people from my past came into town and didn’t want to see me. They actively avoided me. The news stung me just like the bee that flew into my eye a few days later (true story). I had a pity party and invited a few close friends.
Here’s the story I made up about the situation: I could have been a better person in the past. I could have acted differently. They didn’t want to see me because I must have done something wrong.
Recognize this pattern? It’s a version of a simple, sour story: I’m not good enough.
Byron Katie would ask, “Is that true?” No, it’s not, but the thought still resurfaces. That’s ok. When it inevitably bubbles up, I now practice a more comfortable truth: I can’t control your emotions. Your feelings are based on your own thoughts and stories.
In other words, even if I turn into the funniest, most sparkling version of myself doing endless jazz hands, I can’t make you happy.
And you know what? It’s good for me to subtract myself from your equation. Here’s an example: this summer, during a stellar coach training with Brooke Castillo, she had us all make a list of 10 things we appreciate about ourselves.
Try this at home! Right now. Write down 10 things you appreciate about yourself!
I thought it was so fun… and then Brooke asked who was struggling. Dee raised her hand. My record scratched: Uh-oh… Was Dee stressed?? Brooke asked her why she didn’t get to 10. She asked what Dee’s friends would say about her. Dee didn’t answer. My heart rate increased: Uh oh.. Was Dee uncomfortable??
Don’t you know I wanted to jump up and shout the gospel of Amazing Dee? I wanted to crack an epic joke! I wanted to do jazz hands all day long! But I wasn’t allowed. Instead, I furiously chewed my almonds.
Dee struggled. But, she left that night and came back the next day full of insight. Now, she’s a certified coach that specializes in… wait for it…
Dee turned a lemon into a sparkling pink cocktail with a gorgeous mint garnish.
I had nothing to do with it. You’re probably relieved. No one likes unfettered jazz hands.
Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable or sad or angry or lonely to get to our truth. If other people interfere, the lesson could get garbled like static on an old TV.
Let people tune into all of their emotions. Amazing messages come through pain.
Honestly, I am still kind of sad that I’m not a superhero that can make people happy, and I still make up terrible stories about myself. But, as Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
It’s ok. I’m working on it. I’m learning that other people’s feelings aren’t my own. I’m learning that it’s ok for all the people I love to struggle. I’m learning that it’s better sometimes when I factor myself out.
That’s my truth, people. I can’t make you happy… but it’s much, much better that way.