Teaspoon of Happy The Answer Is You Sarah May Bates

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

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  1. I think this is a great article that I definitely relate to various relationships in my past. Although I wish I had someone at the time to tell me how screwed up my obsessing was. Now I’ve found the love of my life and we have recently married. This article has relevance however with relationships that aren’t necessarily romantic. I think sometimes we tend to try to change friends and family members too and it’s important to realize that maybe things are just out of our own control.

  2. So true. Thank you very much. I really needed to read this today.

  3. Gemma has been in many a relationship. The problem that she’s consistently had is that there’s always something she wants to change about the guys she dates and they never want to change, so she breaks up with them. Gemma is waiting for her perfect love, Liam, but she doesn’t know where Liam is or who Liam is, etc., but she does know that he has to exist. So, Gemma goes through life alone, bouncing from relationship to relationship, unwilling to settle for anything less than Liam. Gemma meets Charlie and he is mostly everything she could ever want in a man, yet he isn’t quite Liam. He’s got a few imperfections that she’d like to change, but she shrugs them off and tells herself that it’s nothing, that she can overlook his flaws and be with him because he makes her happy. Slowly, but surely, they fall in “love” with one another. They both look past each other’s flaws and they get married and have a long and happy life together with three kids, and a nice 401K. How is that not love? They still wanted to change each other, but they didn’t. They just forced themselves to see past said flaws and soon, they forgot about the flaws. Occasionally, they would remember, but then they would forget again. Is this not real love? Is this just extreme want? How would they know it’s just extreme want if they’ve never loved before?

    Sorry for the long post and I also apologize if it seems bitchy or anything. I was just wondering what your thoughts were, I really liked the article–it was very well put together and I agree with about 80% of it and I found it very insightful. You just take things and give them a clarity anyone else could never present in any form of communication. I can’t wait ’til the next one. :D

    • That sounds like love to me! I think it’s mutual and both parties sound very honest about their needs. That’s pretty important when it comes to being able to love and receive love. There’s no perfect relationship, and the best of them require a lot of work. I think often when two people are loving and committed they will grow as a result of being in a strong partnership. :)

  4. Just catching up, Bee. Brilliantly expressed with great examples. You should have a channel.

  5. You have no idea how much I needed this week – just wanted to say how grateful I am that you wrote it and that I came across it :)

  6. This is so true and inspiring. I am going through this type of situation right now. I have been hurt a lot in past relationships and the only question I had to ask for myself was, “What did I do wrong?” I did nothing wrong. Nothing is wrong with me. I am who I am and if they don’t like it, there is nothing I can do to change that. It’s a fact of life that most women cannot grasp. We as women need to remind ourselves that we are so much more than we have to offer, and if no guy can appreciate that, we can’t control that. We just have to move on and not lose ourselves along the way. Thank you soo much for posting this. It really made my night.

  7. This just made me tear up at work. Thank you so much for this, sometimes we need a reminder to put ourselves first.

  8. It’s always funny how things come into your life just when you need them. Thank you for writing and posting this. It’s so important to remember to always value and love ourselves first.

  9. I love this because i went through something similar, where i thought i could change the guy i thought i loved but as you said i loved the idea i had of him. i love how you described it! i am always trying to tell people they need to love themselves but they always look at me like I’m crazy, because i am a psychology they think I’m always talking psycho- babble lmao! This article or whatever you call it is amazing i just wish i would of thought of how to say it as fluently as you did SO WELL DONE !!!!!

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  11. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for writing this! It is something that everyone needs to be reminded of–I’ve done this so many times, with guys, and in other situations, and (weird as it sounds) it’s nice to hear that I”m not the only one who does it! Your advice is very insightful, and I hope I can always remember this when I’m in the thick of things and want to decipher others’ actions like this. :)

  12. 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!

    • 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

  13. 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.

    • 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! :)

  14. 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 :)

    • 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

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

  16. 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. :-)

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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 :)

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