It's Not about You

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We stood talking at the Starbucks counter where baristas serve up ordered drinks when one of the guys behind the counter barked angrily, “If you’re going to stand there and laugh at me, might as well tell me what the hell my problem is.”

We hadn’t even noticed him.

Easy to figure the guy was tired, stressed, overworked, or something else. I’m not sure where he got the impression that we laughed at him. And though the incident alarmed me in the moment and made me feel a twinge of guilt for something I didn’t do, I empathized.

At the gym a few weeks back, I’d made it halfway through a set of twenty burpees when I heard a few guys near me talking in low voices and laughing quietly.

If you haven’t done a burpee, give it a go. I’ll wait.

Feel ridiculous?

Burpees have numerous silly-looking possibilities: Butt sticks into the air; shirt rides up in the front and back, covering the face and exposing the tummy; “explosive” jumps never look as intense as they feel; arms jangle overhead.

So when the set ended, I chuckled embarrassedly. “I know. Pretty sad, huh?”

My trainer shook his head. “We weren’t talking about you. No one’s talking about you.”

I felt like the most self-centered person in the universe.

These aren’t isolated incidents. I recall a couple family dramas in which someone decided an action or statement was about him or her. It’s hard to convince people that they’re mistaken when their feelings are hurt. Perception is reality.

In truth, people don’t pay as much attention to us as we think they do. They’re too preoccupied with themselves and what we might think of them.

And what if, in fact, they are talking about you? As the line goes,

What other people think of you is none of your business.

Stop caring what others think. In most cases, it doesn’t matter, anyway. And really, if they think anything, what they’ve come up with is probably still more about them than you.

It’s harder to do than to say, I know. I haven’t mastered it, either.

I’m game to practice.