Episode 106: Don’t Take It Personally with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Episode 106: Don’t Take It Personally with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
When people hurt us or wrong us, we often automatically assume that the problem is us. We find ourselves asking “Why don’t people like me?” or “What’s wrong with me?” or “What did I ever do to them?” Developing the ability to depersonalize others’ actions and realize that the things people do often have very little to do with you can be life changing.
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Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Light After Trauma podcast. I’m your host, Alyssa Scolari, and I hope everybody is off to a good week. I am doing pretty well. I have been keeping up with my reading, which honestly has been helping me get through some difficult times. I just finished a book called The People We Meet on Vacation. Honestly, I do not recommend, unless you love a good rom-com, then you might like it. I just don’t think that I’m a romantic comedy kind of gal, I didn’t like it at all. I really expected it to be a little bit better in terms of like… The book is kind of like flashbacks of these friends who are on vacation in different parts of the world, and I just thought that I was going to get to feel like I was traveling with them, and that we were going to travel across the world with this book.
But honestly, so much of it was just about sexual tension, and I swear to the lord almighty, if I had to read one more sentence about how he gently and softly swept a damp curl from her face and tucked it oh so softly behind her ear, I will vomit. It’s just not me. It’s just not me. No offense to the author. The writing is good, the wit is great, there were a few moments where I chuckled out loud, and I think that if you love romantic comedies, it’s perhaps good, I was just not impressed.
So I’m looking forward to my next book, which is going to be The Guest List by Lucy Foley. We will see. This one is, I think has murder in it, which I’m already much more inclined to like, and at the end of the day, I just don’t think anything is going to top Where the Crawdads Sing. I’m almost sad that I’ve read it and that it’s over, because I feel like there is no book that is going to top that. I’m sure that’s not true, but right now my brain is still in Kya’s world, and yeah, I just wasn’t ready to leave that world. So anyway, I digress. I hope you’re having a awesome, awesome week so far, let’s get into it today.
So, we are going to talk about kind of a somewhat difficult truth, and this is a truth that I have had to grapple with a lot over the course of my life, especially lately, and the truth of the matter is that not everything is about you. And I know that that can come off as harsh, and I probably shouldn’t say it that harsh, because I have had people quite literally say that to me when I was a child, and it was really actually painful to hear, because I wasn’t trying to make everything about me, I just was desperate for attention and help of some sort, so I shouldn’t say it like that, right?
It’s not necessarily that not everything is about you. The nicer reframe for that is that you don’t always have to take things so personally, because truly so many things that happen are not personal. And this is a really hard concept for so many of us, especially trauma survivors, because our brains are wired for protection. So our brains are always trying to seek out a threat, and we are trying to eliminate any potential threats before we end up getting really hurt. So when something happens, we just assume that that person meant it intentionally, or we just assume that that person hates us, and we assume that the problem is us.
And we ask ourselves, “Why me? Why does this happen to me?” And that’s us taking things really personally and assuming that people’s behaviors are a reflection of who we are, and that is simply not true, and it really is one of the hardest things to unlearn. I mean, at least for me. I have had to grapple so much with this idea that people’s actions and their behaviors and the things that they say are not about me, right? And let’s talk about a couple examples, and I have a lot of personal examples about this, so I’m going to go to my personal examples.
So for one, and this might seem kind of simple, but going to the doctors, right? As a fat person, going to the doctors is always a really stressful experience, because they almost always say something about my weight, unsolicited. And so I’ve gotten to a place where going to the doctors has become kind of like a anxiety-provoking thing for me, and I had a doctor’s appointment just to get literally some vaccines, where I wasn’t even going to be weighed, and I was driving there and I could feel my heart just pounding in my chest, and I’m like, “Man, what do I do about this?”
And so I’m trying to talk myself through it and reframe like, “These doctors’ comments to me about my weight is not about me. It is literally not about me.” And you’re like, “What do you mean? They’re literally telling you to lose weight, it has to be about you.” It is so not. It is about their own fatphobia, their own misunderstandings, or lack of being up to date about what actually makes somebody healthy, right? Because again, you can kind of look at my blood work and you can see everything looks great, and then you can just look at my body or the number on the scale and say, “Oh, well, you must be unhealthy.” No, there are really no indicators that I’m not healthy.
So this is about the diet culture, this is about the fatphobia in the medical system, this is about doctors not knowing, or really understanding, or really caring to learn about the Health at Every Size movement, it’s not about me in the slightest. And so when I think about that, it helps me to shift my narrative from like, “Oh, I’m this, I’m that, I’m a bad person. Doctors don’t like me, they don’t want to work with me,” or “They think I’m this, they think I’m that.” They actually aren’t thinking at all, really. They’re doing exactly what their training has told them, which is “We see this number on the scale, we don’t like this number, and we need to address it.” That is literally what their training is, it’s what their training has told them to do, it has absolutely nothing to do with me.
And so reframing it like that has helped me to depersonalize it to the point where now I will go into a doctor’s office and I will be like, “Hey, not getting weighed, and no, I’m not going to tell you what my weight is, unless I’m here specifically for my weight, or unless you need to know it for some medical reason, I’m not letting you know.” And also I happen to have found a doctor at this point, at least a primary care doctor, who is amazing and totally, totally gets it. So that’s just one example, right? People’s behaviors are not a reflection of you, and I think that this is really important to remember with family members as well, right?
Many of you know, I no longer have any contact with my family. It is not, and most likely is never going to work out with my family, unfortunately. And I have had to grapple a lot with the past, and with trying to understand certain behaviors and certain situations, but every time, when I’m in therapy or when I’m thinking by myself, my therapist will remind me so that I’m able to remind myself, “Their behaviors were never about you. Their actions are never… They were never about you.” They were about X, Y, and Z things that quite frankly, I’m just not ready to share at this point.
But let’s say you have a family that you don’t get along with, or you have childhood trauma and your family members were your abusers, and let’s say you have parents who gaslight you, and when you try to talk to them about certain things that happened, your parents say, “That never happened, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or they say things like, “I thought you had a great childhood,” or they try to guilt-trip you and say things like, “Oh, I guess I’m just such a horrible parent,” very sarcastically.
Let’s say you have a parent like that, it can be really, really confusing and difficult for you to try to figure out what the truth is, because you have certain feelings and certain memories, but then somebody else who was there is also telling you something completely different, and so you are left feeling very confused and a little bit chaotic because you know what you remember, and it’s very painful to not only be invalidated, but to have people tell you that your memories are wrong. And so it’s really helpful in these moments to remember, again, it’s not about you.
People might tell you that your memories are wrong because they don’t want to face it themselves. People might invalidate you because they don’t want to have those feelings. They are running from feelings themselves. Some families will invalidate people or gaslight people, or say that things never happened so that they can keep their own secrets, so that they can maintain the appearance of normalcy and happiness and functionality. It has so little to do with you, truly.
The same goes for, let’s say you go to the grocery store to go grocery shopping, and you’re checking out and your cashier is miserable. I had a cashier a few weeks ago, I went to the grocery store, and as I was almost finished, I had all these groceries in my cart, the cashier… Or actually the person comes on on the loudspeaker in the grocery store, and they’re like, “Just so you know, our system is down and we’re only taking cash right now.”
And so people were up in arms, because who carries that much cash on them? I feel like people rarely pay for groceries with cash anymore, certainly not me. So people were up in arms, people were leaving all their groceries and they’re running out of the store, people are running to the ATM, people are screaming, yelling, and I actually didn’t know it because I didn’t hear it on the loudspeaker at the time. And so I wheel my cart up to the cashier and I’m standing in line, and she looks at me and she’s like, “Hey, how are you?” And I was like, “I’m great, thank you, how are you?” As an aside, I was not great. I was having a terrible day, but I was like, “You know what? I’m going to be really nice.”
She was like, “You do know that it’s cash only?” And I was like, “Just this lane, or everywhere?” And she was like, “Our system is down, we’re not taking cards right now anywhere, so if you don’t have cash, then you can’t pay for these.” And I was like, “Oh.” She was like, “I don’t know how you didn’t hear that on the speaker earlier.” And I was getting heated, let me tell you. Luckily there was a very kind man there who heard the way she was talking to me, and I don’t even remember what he did, but he said something to kind of defuse the tension and I walked away, but I was fuming as I was walking away.
And one of the things I had to keep saying to myself over and over and over again is “It is not about me. Her rudeness has nothing to do with me as a person, and I am not taking on that energy. That is hers to deal with. I am not absorbing that.” And then I kind of do this visualization exercise where I picture myself almost turning into a rock, so that things will just bounce off me, so that I don’t absorb it, because a lot of times I’m a sponge, so I got to turn into a rock.
This happens even in stores when you’re shopping, grocery shopping, whatever it may be. It also happens among friends or acquaintances, and I got hit with it hard a couple weeks ago, where I have this distant friend who’s getting married and they… She has a shower that’s coming up, and I am not going to be able to attend the shower, and so I wanted to send a gift. And so I of course did my due diligence and checked in with the maid of honor to make sure that I could reach out and ask for an address so that I can send this gift, and the maid of honor was like, “Yep, go right ahead, you can reach out,” and so… Or maybe the maid of honor didn’t say exactly that, but whatever the maid of honor said was pretty much like, “Yeah, go ahead.” Like, “She knows, she knows about the shower.”
And so I just text her, and I just said like, “Hey, I’m not going to be able to make it to the shower, but I wanted to send you a gift. What is your address?” That is literally all of the information that I revealed. I didn’t give anything away, nothing. Within like an hour or so, I get a text from one of this person’s other friends, a person who used to be a friend of mine, but who I haven’t talked to in years, and don’t care to talk to, reached out to me and was like, “Don’t say any more about what you’re going to be doing and when, because this needs to be a surprise. We all want this to be a surprise and so does the bride,” and it was just a passive-aggressive text message.
And I was so hurt by it, because number one, I did my due diligence, I made sure that what I… I was very careful with what I said to not let anything slip. Number two, I don’t understand, I texted one person, so why is it that that person that I texted felt the need to share my messages with somebody else, right? Obviously I know you’re talking about me, obviously I know you have a problem with what I said, even though I don’t know what I said, to the point where the person I texted, the bride, I asked for her address, she still hasn’t gotten back to me.
So I did something, I clearly did something, of which I don’t frigging know, but this is exactly why I have chosen to cut ties with so many people in my life, because I don’t put up with this bullshit, because it really got to me, and I started crying and I started saying to David, like, “I don’t understand why people have to do this to me. I feel like people don’t like me and I don’t know what I did. I did everything I possibly could to not let the surprise out. I checked with the maid of honor. I just don’t know, whatever.”
But I was taking it so personally until I sat down and I thought, and I was like, “You know what? This is actually who they are,” because I’ve known these people for many, many years, and I’ve been around different groups and I’ve heard, they all talk shit about each other. Every time somebody so much as sneezes, somebody else knows about it. They all talk shit, they all gossip, they all look for something that somebody does wrong, and it just happened to be me. It just so happened to be me this time. I did something wrong, and instead of reaching out to me and saying, “Hey,” I don’t know, telling me what I did wrong, they’re just going to ignore me or be passive-aggressive. Mind you, these are people that are way older than me.
So it’s just like, it’s not about me. This is what they do. This is what they do for fun. They chew people up and spit them out for fun. And as soon as I was able to realize that, I felt so much better, and then I was able to just laugh it off and go, “Yep, this is what they do,” and let it go, and didn’t say anything, and realized, “You know what? I don’t want friends like this, and we’re done here.” I also should say, I don’t want that to sound like I have cut people off abruptly, because I haven’t, and I don’t recommend that.
If you want to learn more about cutting people off versus talking to them and setting boundaries, you can look back in the previous episodes, but suffice it to say that these are people who I have decided just aren’t good for me, and so these friendships are not going to go on. But it’s not about me, it was never about me, and it was never about you either.
How much angst and anger and frustration and tears do you think could have been saved if you remember that people’s actions truly have nothing to do with you? How many tears, how many less tears would’ve been shed if you acknowledged that people, nine times out of 10, are just operating according to their own rules in life, and if those rules happen to hurt you, they’re not really paying too much attention to that? They’re not sitting up at night going, “How can I hurt this person’s feelings?” They’re just trying to make it through their lives, and that’s not me saying that it’s okay, it’s not. But what I’m hoping that this does is try to take a lot of the pressure off of you to feel like you need to be better, like you did something wrong, like you need to change things.
Listen, we all need work. We all need work, we all have things we have to change, but you don’t need people to make you feel terrible, and you don’t need to be personalizing people’s actions in order to elicit change. People love to gossip, they live on it. People love to talk about other people because it makes them feel better. Families love to keep their secrets, because if we keep our secrets, then we maintain the system, then we don’t have to deal with the pain and the feelings. Rude people out there exist because they’re having bad days, and they project all over the world, and very little of it is personal. And the moment that you realize this and can continue to tell yourself this, that’s the moment that dealing with people and being in relationships with people, friendships with people, becomes so much more manageable. I love you, I hope you have a wonderful week, and I will be holding you in the light.
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