Teaspoon of Happy

The Answer Is You

What is she thinking? Is he mad? What did I do? What is that look for? Is he cheating? Why are we obsessed with other people’s thoughts?

Many of us have a tendency to endlessly pain ourselves attempting to decode and decipher others and their thoughts and intentions. The “WHHHHHYYYYYYYYY?!!!” screamed out of a car window at night, the “WTF?!” we mouth when someone flicks us off in traffic, the “What’s his problem?” we curse under our breath post-meeting. All of these can be solved not with a lengthy interpretation, but with a little reminder that you can only ever control one thing in this situation: yourself. Whatever you think you might understand about that other person – you will never ever know why they did what they did or what the heck is going through their mind, nor should you. It’s irrelevant. Just like you are a patchwork quilt of experiences that cause you to make the decisions you do today, so is everyone else. And some have more childhood issues than others that cause their internal alarms to go off in specific types of situations. The best thing you can do is remind yourself of this fact and let it go. It’s not your problem to figure it out: it’s your problem to make sure you keep yourself safe, and calm and prevent yourself from standing in the line of fire in the future. If you’re upset, spend that energy processing the feelings, acknowledging them and then letting them go.

Here’s a little equation that I use to help myself remember this fact: If 100 different people saw you walking into a 7-11 in the middle of the day to buy a soda, they would each interpret that differently. One person would say, “Wow, she must be a spoiled trophy wife because she doesn’t have to go to work and that’s why she’s in 7-11 in the middle of the day.” Another person might say, “Wow that girl is probably a stripper if she’s in a 7-11 drinking green soda on a weekday…” Another person would say, “That person is smart and practical because she shops at 7-11.”  There’s no way you could predict these things and they have nothing to do with you or the 7-11. All you can do in the face of these diverse interpretations is control your actions and protect yourself.

The constant looking outwards and focus on another person when it occurs in a relationship is something much more dangerous. A little thing called co-dependency. Let’s say, for example, that you have a significant other that you suspect is cheating or has a bad drinking habit or behavior that is somehow hurtful or dangerous. A preoccupation with that other person’s actions will cause you to stop protecting yourself and thinking about if this hurts you and instead will keep your mind attached to that person’s actions. Which are, of course, out of your control. (This is sometimes caused by childhood experiences and roles we took on as the “hero” and it usually comes about when a child feels that no one is capable of caring for them. Instead of self-distructing, that child will assume this new identity as a survival mechanism. “I am naturally capable and the savior of my family.” ) These qualities are super common and sometimes manifest in positive traits: you’re a great listener, a great caregiver, always ready to help. Great until you end up in a relationship with someone that has issues and all you can do is obsess about what they’re thinking or doing.

A more pervasive trait that is common to us girls (and I’m sure guys too) is the preoccupation with a person we like and whether or not that person likes us back. The, “Does he like me? Am I pretty enough? Why isn’t he calling? What is he thinking right now? Is he seeing someone else?” All that crap is just another form of the removal of our self-awareness and a shift of focus off of how we feel to something we cannot prematurely interpret. The information we want will be revealed in other ways that will come in forms we cannot deny. This lack of self-focus and with that self-care also becomes evident to that other person. You begin to act in a way that does not demand respect and sets up a bad foundation for any kind of healthy relationship. While dating or even meeting new friends, you should be asking, “Do I like this person? How do I feel about the fact that they have not called me? Is this person worth my time? Do I really want to be with someone that is potentially a cheater?”

I know a lot of girls would say, “I don’t care — I want him and I’ll change him!” If you think you will, then that’s a lesson you gotta learn on your own unfortunately. You cannot change another person, they can only change themselves. If you believe you will inspire change in a person, this is never a condition you can rely on if you intend to take care of yourself. To want something despite the fact that it will cause you pain and devalue you is to not love yourself. It is to disregard your own health and happiness for the sake of a chemical high sometimes misinterpreted as love. I would call it “extreme want” – something that is painful and intoxicating, but blinding.

Without both parties being honest, understood and capable of giving love, important human needs will not be met and often a relationship will become a whole made up of two deformed parts that have grown together, never healing and growing upright but rather twisting and remaining stuck in painful cycles. Sometimes when two people are both mid life-change they can grow together, but it requires they are honest and committed to that process – something that is rare but not impossible.  One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was stuck in my head was to stop trying to “figure it out” and do everything in my power to get to a place where I could hear my real voice inside. To listen to my feelings, what my body was already aware of but my brain chose to ignore. Now I strive to hear it constantly and when I do hear it, I never betray it. The self is everything. It’s the divining rod that will guide you truly. Don’t let chemicals and ancient feelings get in your way.

I recently arrived on a new definition of love and I have to say, it has grown into something much better and much bigger than I could have understood before. To love someone you have to know them and know them honestly and you have to be present and aware and whole. There have been times that I felt I was in love with someone and I realized I was in love with my idea of who they were. A rendering half-completed by my own excuses and explanations. This false-reality also created an internal incongruence in that my gut was telling me things that did not match my outlook. I became blinded and lost without my inner voice to help me find my way out.

Coming out the other end, I would like to offer this to those who perhaps are stuck somewhere that doesn’t feel right and those who don’t quite believe that perfect love exists. I don’t know if I will find it but I know what I want and I don’t want anything less.  Real love is different. It requires that both parties reciprocate the feelings, and if one party is incapable of caring for the other properly then that should be accepted, and you should move on. Real love means a person will never willfully hurt you (aside the occasional fight where words are thrown and then retracted). Real love means you can be yourself and be honest about your feelings and never change yourself to please the other person. Real love makes you stronger, helps you grow more and go farther. And everything that is special about you is brought to life. Real love is peaceful and soothing. It is family. It helps you to blossom.

To be truly available to another person and love them and receive love, you must first love yourself. Looking inward, taking care of yourself, retaining your balance and clarity above all else is the most important thing in the world. It will give you all the answers you will ever need with friends, work, health, family, in times of pain and trauma, in times of overwhelming change. If you can take care of yourself and stay connected to your body enough to feel your gut and know when it is talking, you have the most important thing in life. Never lose sight of it. If you have inner conflict – that’s a sign that your “mind” is trying to tell you to go against your gut. Just slow down and listen. And whatever you do, never betray yourself or hurt yourself, because what that does is tell you that you don’t matter. That you are not worth loving. And whoever you are, that is false.

Please share any stories or thoughts! I love, love to read them. xo Sarah

Special shout-out to Sharon, from whom my most valuable wisdom is gleaned. 

Featured image via dreampixels Flickr gallery Copyright All rights reserved by dreampixels

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=855979217 Laura Lilley-Bell

    Needed this today

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Thanks for commenting – you made me smile :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=15612242 Sarai Garnett

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I had a situation a few years ago where I kept sayingto myself about this guy-“I’m in love with the idea of you and me, I’m in love with a possibility.” Turns out, I really was just in love with what we could have had..if only he weren’t so ‘this’ or ‘that’. I usually don’t go the route of trying to change anyone, but this guy had me all messed up! Long story short, he and I have been through a lot, but we are happily involved today as best friends-nothing more, nothing less. :o)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Thats so amazing to read- and I am so glad to hear you are still close friends!! That makes me happy :) thanks for commenting! X

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5233899 Kate Colmerauer

    We all need to be reminded of this from time to time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates


  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.haebe Liz Haebe

    I always wonder why people want to change other people. I always think, ‘well, then why are you entering into this relationship if you just want them to change?’ As always, Sarah, another fine Sunday column!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      That’s so true!! And thus denial sets in. Sometimes it’s so hard to let go of what you wish was true but you’re right- it’s crazy to try and change a person rather than find the person you really want.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suhey516 Suhey Suarez

    Great column! This is something that I will be reading at times I feel in doubt about myself and life situations. Great writing, very inspiring <3

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Awesome Suhey!! So glad to read that and thanks for commenting! Xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/violet.lieben Tiffany Cram

    This has given me the insight i really needed! I have liked this guy for over 5 years and 3 years ago we became intimate but he won’t date me, he says he cares about me but even after i told him “hooking up” feels good at the time, after i feel drained and depressed. He still finds away to get me in bed and i let him because i have this picture of him i have painted from past experiences and i love him, or perhaps i think i love him but just “extremely want” him because of some traits he has that i find very attractive even though he is constantly breaking my heart or perhaps I am just hurting myself. either way thank you for this article. I love it. its very insightful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Awe Tiffany that’s so tough and so familiar! It’s a painful situation and I know you will find your way to the answer that’s right for you. If you feel you are betraying yourself try to practice self-care and self-protection and slowly but surely you’ll find yourself walking in the right direction. Thanks so much for commenting! Xox Sarah

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000082258162 Alex Austin

    Seriously some of the best advice ever! I will definitely remember this in the future :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Awe you warm my heart, thanks so much Alex!!!! Xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/gleeyu Mae Glee

    I just had this bookmarked. This couldn’t have been written any better. I’m speechless.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Omg Mae you gave me chills- you are amazing thank you so much for writing this. You made my day!!! Xox

  • http://www.facebook.com/HRHHRH Hannah Whitehill

    couldn’t be more exactly what i need right now. thaaaaaaank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Awe thank you Hannah! So glad :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726984285 Melanie Smith

    My head and my heart and my gut are waging war against each other and I don’t know who to listen to. I can’t stop overanalyzing and wonder if i’m going crazy. If only there was switch i could flick to shut off my brain and just have some quiet so i could figure out what to do next. Thanks for this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      I hear you Mel- it’s really tough!! I know exactly how you feel- what is seemingly impossible to accept is that you can’t think your way to the answer- I had to stop and get to a place where I only focused on taking cre of myself in the most basic ways: sleep, exercise, a nice bath or good food- and to above all assure myself that I wanted to do what was best for myself. The answer will come from that place. Good luck and thank you for your comment. Xox Sarah

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberlymmh Kimberly Hawkins

    Hello Sarah May, my brain twin…lol! Another excellent post. I dispense this advice to my friends all the time (though they never listen). This is a lesson that I had to learn the difficult way. It cost me 6 years of my life, spent in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was so blind that I couldn’t see what was going on until he left and someone pointed it out to me. I don’t regret it however, because I have learned some amazing things about myself. I believe we go through the things we do so that we can help others who are in similar situations. You’re so terrific, keep it up!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      So true, Kimberly. I feel like people have to learn those lessons their own ways even when the answers are being delivered perfectly by those that love them. I am also grateful for my lessons and I don’t intend to repeat them. Thanks so much for sharing! And for your kind words, xox

  • http://www.facebook.com/talmeida Thamy Almeida

    This is absolutely brilliant! I’ve been slowly coming to these realizations myself but some of the things you said helped me put the pieces together! Thank you so much! This totally helped me feel relieved with everything I’ve been going through! And it was wonderfully written as well :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Awe Thamy thanks for saying that! I am grateful my experience can help in any way, and thanks for commenting xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=863270452 Marney S.

    My ex and I just ended our (almost) 11-month long relationship this past week. Reading your article has really helped me put things in perspective and get me through the past few days. I’ve already shared it with my mom and two friends. I plan on printing out a copy to have just in case I start feeling down again. Thanks so much for this insight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

    Omg that is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. I am so touched and grateful you shared :) thanks for your comment, I am very very moved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/little325 Cassie Burkhart

    I love when a hellogiggles post is so relatable!! All day I kept wondering what”he” was thinking or if I did something wrong… This helped a ton!! Almost like you girls are my besties and know exactly what to say to keep me in check <3

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Awe yay for besties Cassie! Thanks for your comment :) x

  • http://www.facebook.com/besper Bryan Esper

    Struggling with co-dependency is something I’ve been dealing with for several years now. It’s great to always hear someone’s perspective on the issue. Continue writing these amazing blogs and helping others understand the power that is within themselves. :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Thanks Bryan! I will, and so glad you enjoyed :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/wackyfacedme Angel Fernandez

    A must-read for girls of all ages. Thanks for this one. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Thanks Angel!! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/musiccallsushome Tiffany Hopper

    Another amazing inspiring post Sarah!!! Love your views & insights..it’s so much how my mind thinks & views life these days. It’s when we come head to head with something or someone – these views & feelings are put to the test. What all you said was so perfect & so right :) I’m a pretty independent girl & have my positive outlook on things (yet still trying to control worry, wonder, and the all you can do is live in this moment, and the it’s good to be unique or different…things like that)…growing up took so much inspiration from quotes, lyrics or even celebrities I admired (who had their head on straight) that’s helped me a lot as I’ve got older. But when I hear someone else speak such wise inspiring words like you just did it makes me feel like okay there are people out there who view life, relationships & just the value of our own self the healthy way…the way it should be. It only helps & encourages me more. So thank you. & one thing that does bother me are the ones out there who are blinded by something of truth….makes me sad or frustrated – cause it’s true you can’t change someone, you can only hope they find the inspiration or even the lesson soon and gain positivity and a different outlook from it. Thank you again…I think I read your posts now more than anyone’s (aside from Zooey when she posts) since finding this site. I do need to go back through your archives though & read some I haven’t :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Wow amazing words of support and encouragement! Thank you so much and I too am more optimistic- thanks for your comment :) (my real smile is much bigger) xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/RandiSprouse Randi Sprouse

    This is my favorite part…

    ” There have been times that I felt I was in love with someone and I realized I was in love with my idea of who they were. A rendering half-completed by my own excuses and explanations.”

    and sadly too true. Multiple times I have conceived a personality layout as to who someone “is” and then had the audacity to be disappointed because of the expectations that I had contrived….as if it’s their fault they weren’t who I had created them to be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Thanks Randi, I know man- I guess once we can tell we’re making it up then we can actually avoid it. So tough though when you have chemicals telling you to hold on tight!
      Thanks for the comment! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Claudieelove Claudia Gabriela Reynaga

    Thank you so much for this post. I have read many things about self love and never felt like i could relate to them or they never made sense to me.
    I recently came out of a 5 year relationship with someone who was a cheater ,and also cut ties with my childhood friend in the process as well due to this relationship. I have been “in my head” for months wanting to know WHY things happened the way they did and etc because i felt like i did everything to be a great girlfriend. Ive been really hard on myself. Consuming myself with wanting know why other people did the things they did.
    I was brought to tears while reading because it all made a lot of sense to me and put things in perspective.
    I have been trying really hard to figure things out in this great transition and I want to thank you again for this. As cheesy as it sounds, i really didnt know how i was going to get through it. Reading your positive words has shed light on things i didnt know were there and now I can really let go focus on finding myself and loving myself.
    <3 so glad i came accross this. thanks again!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahmaybee Sarah May Bates

      Wow you took my breath away. Thank you for saying this – I can relate to your situation a lot, and I know how hard it is to be in that place. It’s like you’re going insane! I am so grateful to hear your comments and that you are beginning to find a way out of there – if you happen to need some good reading, “Courage to Change” has helped me immensely. Just replace the labels of personality types with ones that pertain to you and they will still ring true. For me there are certain passages that I can’t relate to and I disregard the pieces that feel too preachy, but the ones that hit you will really hit you. Thanks so much for your comment and I wish you much love and luck. xoxSarah

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