Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a *bit* self-centered. In fact, this year I’ve made a concerted effort to be more selfish and it’s served me well. If I don’t want to do anything, I just….don’t. If I want to eat cake for dinner, guess what I do – I feed the kids vegetables and then I eat cake. It’s been a revelation.
But even I, in my new “yay for selfishness!” phase have found myself saying, “Hey…I’m pretty sure this isn’t about me right now” on occasion. I’ve also found myself wanting to tap a few friends on the shoulder and say, “Nope, not about you either.”
Now, I know it can be tricky – I usually work from a default that everything is about me and subtract from there. It’s a system of trial and error where I find myself apologizing a lot. As I’m pretty much an expert on what is about me (almost everything), and what isn’t about me (a few pretty important things), I’ve decided to share this handy little guide for others who may be wondering when it actually isn’t about them.
Things That Are Not About You
1. Your Skinny Friend Thinks She’s Fat.
Your friend is lifting up her size XS shirt and pinching a quarter inch of skin, sighing and saying in a whiny voice, “Oh my GAWD, I can’t believe how fat I’ve gotten. I need to stop eating like a pig. I look like Jabba The Hut. Like seriously, just put me on my side and roll my fat ass out to the car.” Annoying, right? And here you are, daring to have ACTUAL fat, just sitting there, feeling fat times a billion. Why is your friend doing this to you? Is she trying to make you feel bad?
No, no she isn’t. Your friend isn’t fucking with your mind. You are not her “fat friend” that she keeps around in order to make her feel better. Your friend thinks she’s fat. She looks in the mirror and she feels as fat as actual fat people often feel. And when she looks at you, she doesn’t think you are way more fat in comparison; chances are, if she’s your friend, she just looks at you and thinks “friend” and then goes back to thinking she’s fat.
This is the thing about body image. 90% of it is in our heads. We see what we believe; we do not believe what we see. There are pretty girls who think they are ugly, skinny girls who think they are fat, smart girls who feel they are dumb. Your skinny friend is torturing herself the same way we all torture ourselves. We are all beautiful, and we’re all allowed to feel like shit about ourselves. So what do you do when your friend is sharing a moment of insecurity with you? You act like a friend, give her a hug and tell her she’s lovely.
2. You Hurt Someone’s Feelings
I know that since this one has “You” in the title it would seem like this one is about you, but hang in here with me – cuz this one is about you, but it isn’t about you. Your girlfriend comes to you and and says, “Hey, that thing you did/said really hurt my feelings.” Do you know what you should do when this happens? You should totally yell, “I’m not a mean person! How dare you accuse me of hurting your feelings! And remember that one time you hurt my feelings? And you are ugly, so there!”
When people we care about tell us that we’ve hurt them, it’s very easy to become defensive. What type of person would hurt someone they care about? What is your girlfriend saying about you? Obviously this means that your girlfriend thinks you, at best, don’t love her, and at worst – you are a horrible person. But you know this isn’t true. You try very hard to be a good person, you love your girlfriend, and what you said/did wasn’t really that bad; so your girlfriend is just a crazy girl. Maybe she’s on her period or something.
But guess what – this isn’t about you. You are human, we are all human. Being human means that sometimes you do something stupid and it hurts someone you care about. Sometimes you do something that seems fine for you and it really offends somebody else. This doesn’t mean that she’s right and you’re wrong. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be together because you have different definitions of “hurtful” or “offensive”. We all bring our own shit to the table.
When someone is letting you know that they care enough about you to be hurt by the things you say or do, you listen to them and you say, “I’m sorry that my actions hurt you, I’ll try not to do it again.” Ask some clarifying questions if you need to really understand what happened; let her know what your true intent was if you think that will help. But in the end, “Sorry, I’ll try to do better” or something similar needs to be said, because you care about your girlfriend and you are sorry that her feelings were hurt. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you would have reacted differently if the tables were turned. This is the part that isn’t about you. A large part of a relationship is learning about each other, trying to make each other feel good and avoid making each other feel bad. If you insist on saying “Don’t be so sensitive, that joke was funny and I’ll say it again”, then it does become about you – and what a dick you are.
3. Gay Marriage
Are you gay? Are you the child of gay parents hoping that your family will be recognized by the society you live in? No? Then guess what, this is really not about you.
Chances are, if you read this blog, you don’t need to hear me say this (because the 5 people who read this blog are my friends and feel the same way about it that I do), but I’m going to say it anyways: Gay Marriage is none of your business. I don’t care if the baby Jesus cries every time a devoted gay couple gets married. That’s between Jesus and The Gays. I haven’t read the bible since I was a wee lad so I can’t remember hardly any of it at all, but I’m going to assume that somewhere in there, God makes it clear that he can handle his own shit, right? So maybe stop trying to interpret his word (because you think gay people are icky) and then use that interpretation to stomp out the civil rights of others, ok?
Do you know what happens to you if gay people get married? Do you know what it says about you and your marriage or your faith? Nothing. Nope, nothing at all.
And don’t give me this bullshit about how it’s for the kids and kids are “happier in heterosexual households.” Do you know why that kid with two mommies is so fucking depressed? Because you raised your kid to be a little asshole and he and his shitty friends are constantly telling that kid that his family is going to hell. Look at you, defending the “word of God” by terrorizing people who just want to be in a loving family and raise kids and haven’t done shit to you. Seriously, who the hell do you think you are?
1. 4. Your Husband Had A Bad Day And Wants To Be Left The Fuck Alone
Did you do something really awful to cause the bad day? No? Then this has nothing to do with you so seriously, give a dude some time to himself. This is not about you. He doesn’t say “I don’t want to talk about it” because he doesn’t love you or feel like he can open up to you. This also is not likely any sort of “avoidance” or “transference” that you learned in your Psych 101 class twelve years ago. Don’t get mad or hurt – you will just make his bad day worse. Try this, “I’m sorry you had a bad day; I’m here if you need me.” Then go do something by yourself or with a friend and let dude work through his shit.
If dude never talks to you about his bad days and it’s becoming a problem, the middle of a bad day is not the time to bring it up. Now is the time to be supportive, and being supportive isn’t about doing what you would want him to do, or worrying about what his actions say about his feelings for you – it’s about giving him what he needs while preserving your dignity.
2 5. Your Friend Got A Raise/Got Engaged/Bought A New Car/Had A Baby/Lost 20 Lbs
In middle school my girlfriends and I came up with a ranking system where we decided what constituted value as a human being (charisma, skin clarity, clothing, grades, hair). We picked the boy and girl who we decided had the most and best of these qualities and ranked them 100 and everyone else filled the remaining slots down to zero. If George got a cool No Fear scullcap, he might move up a spot, and poor James, with his two-year-old HyperColor sweatshirt, would have to move down. So we watched the girls that were closest in ranking to us and hoped that they got zits or a C- on their next Social Studies test.
Yeah, we’re not in middle school anymore. There are no mean girls deciding what is important in life and ranking you accordingly. Your success is yours and yours alone and means jack to the success/failures of others - and vice-versa. How about a “Congrats!” for your friend?
So there you have it. A handy guide to when it’s not about you. I know there is probably more (put it in the comments my 5 readers!), but I really got tired of typing. I assigned genders to most of the above because it makes typing easier, but I’m sure you can guess that all of the above applies to everyone in multiple situations. So there, I hope this helps. I’m going to go back to thinking about me now.