The other day, I was driving late on my way to meet friends and play tennis. There was no one else to blame for my belatedness but me, as I had over-scheduled myself with too many activities. This is something I often do. But I took no responsibility. From the moment I got in my car, I was already demanding from the sea of traffic I would encounter to clear a path along the way.
Predictably, my blood boiled with every red light that stopped my progress. I blamed and cursed the city crews,
“Damn signal programmers, they have no clue how to coordinate signals.”
My car horn became a coconspirator in harassing anyone slow to move on a green light or who decelerated to turn at the corner or at a driveway for a retail center.
By the time I got to my match, the mercury was so high on my anger thermometer that I was not ready to enjoy the occasion. My lame apology for being late included an ostensible excuse,
“Damn traffic around here is getting worse every day!”
Arriving late is disrespectful, it sends the message to the people waiting that you don’t respect their time. Fortunately, my friends were kind and ignored my bad manners.
Responsibility for your life begins with you
This is a perfect example of how easily I can shirk responsibility for my mistakes. It shows a level of self-entitlement and selfishness I need to keep improving on to become a better version of myself.
Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate reasons to feel bad. You cannot stop people who try do bad things to you. You also cannot help it when hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes from disrupting your life. But barring these kinds of instances, our bad habits and mistaken sense of entitlement are usually behind our bad moods and irritable behavior. You also can affect your emotions when you perceive what happened through the filter of what you believe to be true.
The good news is that, when you find yourself filled with a level of rage, you can check your feelings, beliefs and expectations and change them if appropriate. This is because your beliefs are not cast in concrete. They were suggested by teachers or developed by your experiences. You can literally change your view of the world. As the old saying goes,
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at begin to change.”
A few helpful questions to ask yourself
Whenever I am in a bad mood, it helps me to ask myself these few questions;
Why am I feeling the victim?
Did someone wrong me or am I blaming others for problems I created?
Do I hold enough information to pass judgement?
Am I mind reading the intent behind another person’s actions?
Taking my tennis game example, I was wrongly blaming others for delaying me when it was obvious I had waited until the last minute to leave for the gathering.
Now let’s use an example of someone cutting you off in traffic. The intent of his/her action is not so clear, the person may have been tending to a personal emergency and their manauver was not meant against you. Maybe they are having a terrible day. What I find works in these situations is to give everyone the benefit of a doubt first. It is amazing how the inner peace this brings me.
Another good case is when someone does not return my email, text or phone in (what I think) is a proper amount of time. This often makes me feel disrespected especially when it is a colleague, close friend or romantic partner. I have given this mind reading exercise a lot of thought and have concluded that my upset often comes from my insecurities.
Although I have made great strides in this area, I still struggle with a belief I am not worthy of the respect and love of others. I can feel unloved for days until the person contacts me back. Most of the time, the person in question had a good reason for the delay.
The best solution for me when I am feeling rejected is to call or text the person and find out what’s keeping them from contacting me back. I might not appreciate the answer, but this is much better than trying to mind read their intent. It is amazing the clarity my communication attempts bring.
There is no Universal conspiracy to screw up your life. This is an illusion created by your faulty thoughts and beliefs. You can change this by choosing different thoughts and by taking responsibility for your own actions. The best foundation for this new way of being is to look at your life from the perspective of what you have and not from what you are missing.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will reward you with much joy and contentment.