As we go about our daily lives, without fail we end up having an interaction with another human being on this planet that ‘pushes our buttons’. It can be a family member or a complete stranger. The first thing you’ll notice is the label you place on the button-pusher. “He/she is so ______________!” (You can fill in the blank with dozens of assorted judgments – stupid, lazy, selfish, annoying, controlling, demanding, unloving, uncaring, uncooperative, etc). We apply a label because we believe that we are nothing like that person.
How many of us have made judgments about our mother or mother in law? “She is so _______________ (fill in the blank)!” You rant to your friends, your spouse or anyone who will listen. Recently someone listed some very real flaws she sees in her mother’s behaviors. When I asked her, “Why is that bad?” she replied, “I’m afraid that I’m like her. I’m the same kind, just a different flavor.”
When asked what she fears she replied, “that I’m a bad mom.” Could that be true? Yes. None of us are good parents all the time. Yet by embracing what is true, the lie (fear) loses its power. By measuring percentages and seeking to stay on the healthy side of traits my friend realized that 95 % of the time, ‘I am a great mom!’
While life tends to reflect back to us what we believe we deserve, the universe also provides people to mirror back to us our shadow side – the part that we don’t want to claim.
When place judgment on a behavior it’s really because we fear that side of ourselves. As you call someone an idiot (or whatever label), the conscious part of you believes that there is no way you could ever be an idiot (or at least not that big of idiot). The subconscious part of you is secretly afraid that someone could apply that label to you. And the truth is somewhere in the middle. Under the right circumstances you could do something that appeared to be entirely idiotic (like locking yourself out of the house or paying too much for your first car – not that either of those things ever happened to me, wink wink).
The important thing is to ask yourself
- ‘Why is it bad to be ____________?’ (whatever label has just been attached to someone’s actions).
- What would happen if I were that too?
Once you identify why this judgment is so frightening to you it becomes a teaching, growing, healing moment.
A few years ago I had a disturbing incident where I was assigned to work with another woman on a project. It felt like she dismissed all my suggestions and had to have it her way. She was so CONTROLLING and BOSSY! (labels!!!) I found it highly irritating and infuriating.
When I stopped to ask myself if I am ever controlling and bossy it shut me down quick.
I am that? Yes…more often than I like to admit.
Why is it bad? Because I like to see myself as someone who is open to other’s ideas and cooperative. If you are bossy then people will think you are mean and they won’t like you. There’s the answer. I fear people won’t like me.
When I made the connection as to why controlling/bossy people trigger me I recognized I don’t want that label because I want to be appreciated and be accepted.
As I have come to see the dark side of controlling actions, I now make conscious decisions to steer my actions to suggestive and helpful verses bossy and demanding.
By admitting there are times our actions are less than perfect we stay motivated to become better. That’s the gift of seeing our weaknesses or fears reflected by someone else – we more clearly see who we want to become.