What do you do when someone tells you something that is invariably true but so totally not what you want to hear? It’s typically not comfortable. It reminds me of trying to fit into a pair of jeans I “out-expanded” years ago. I kick at them, pull, claw at the wrinkles trying to get them on, and for what? Really just so I can say ‘ha! I did it! I knew I wasn’t too big for them’ because I know darn well that the second I button that top button I’m going to either pass out from holding my breath or reverse my decision to squeeze into them and peel them off as fast as possible. Hearing the truth is sometimes the same feeling for me. It’s easy to slip into your rational mind and try to think your way out of the truth. Sometimes the truth does indeed hurt. Sometimes the truth is a reminder that we can trick ourselves into believing a fallacy about ourselves.
I recently tricked myself into believing I was doing good work toward my own self-improvement when in truth I was only going through the motions. I was over-committed to helping others to the point that I had convinced myself that helping others was good enough to count as helping myself as well. While I have undoubtedly learned from every person I have been in contact with, I neglected to give myself adequate time to process what exactly I was learning and then time to apply it in a meaningful way in my life. One day a friend somewhat callously told me, “Stop. Stop ignoring you again.” She may as well have slapped me across the face because I was that surprised by the comment.
What I had failed to see myself was that while it’s okay to be focused on others at times, it’s also important to always be mindful of where you are in your life and how you are feeling in a situation. This doesn’t have to be done to the complete exclusion of all others, but as my friend pointed out, if I am being one hundred percent other-focused, I’m not leaving room to look within myself and see what’s happening. She was right. As uncomfortable as that comment felt, my friend saved me from much greater heart ache and suffering that would surely have resulted from the self-neglect.
Sometimes we are just unable to be objective. We get so wrapped up in things and events that we forget who we are or where we are or what we think. We become so over-indulged that we lose sight of how we feel. If we aren’t looking out for ourselves, no one else is going to. When your knee-jerk reaction to someone is to become defensive, take a step back and examine what it is that’s causing the defensiveness before dismissing what may very well be fact. It is very hard to do. Again, many times hearing the truth, especially when it is truth you’ve convinced yourself is false, is painful but it’s a necessary reminder at times. When that happens, feel the surprise, avoid the defensive impulse, and say thank you to whomever dished out the truth to you. They may just be saving you from a crash in the end.