Last week, my roommate was kind of short with me when she got home from work. Instead of sitting down to chat for a while like she normally does, she just said, “Hi, I’m so tired,” and went straight to her room.
And what was my response? Well, my brain went into overdrive:
Shoot… did I do something? What could I have POSSIBLY done between this morning and now?? OMG, wait... Did she think I was mad at her when I said “k” instead of “kk” in our conversation earlier? F*ck.
Just now, I messaged my boss, the executive editor of a major online publication, about an idea for an article. It's been 35 minutes, and she HAS NOT RESPONDED. And what’s my reaction? OMG, she’s mad at me. My idea was terrible. It wasn't just terrible, it was OFFENSIVE! She is probably busy on the phone with HR right now planning out new and innovative ways to fire me. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
Normal people might be able to just let these things go, but I can't really seem to. I am an overthinker by nature. Always have been, always will be. If my friends or family start to act out of the ordinary, I begin to think this is because of me.
I guess that's why I’ve been a people-pleaser since I was a little girl. If there's any indication someone is even slightly upset, I automatically rack my brain for any way this could be my fault. Next comes the process of figuring out how I can make things better. As you can imagine, this is a stressful (and ultimately impossible) feat.
I learned this lesson the hard way my junior year of college, when I moved off campus with a bunch of my girlfriends. There was lots of drama, as is what happens when any group of young women live together. A bunch of girls fighting all the time is my actual worst nightmare. One passive-aggressive comment had the power to give me IMMENSE anxiety. Their drama left me wrecked with guilt and weighed down with the totally unnecessary burden of making peace between them.
I got super anxious. I’m talking late-night shakes, hard time breathing and sleeping, nervous pit in my stomach, crying to my mom on the phone. That kind of anxiety. And then my mom finally asked me, “Why do you care?” And that simple question solved my problem.
I thought about it, and I couldn’t really pin down a logical reason for why I cared. Who cared if my friends were mad at each other? Who even cared if they were mad at ME?!? There was nothing I could do to change their minds. And if I kept trying to change their minds, I was going to have a full-fledged nervous breakdown.
I have recently realized that the reason I flip out on people so much isn't because I'm a "people-pleaser," it's because I'm a f*cking narcissist. My boss was busy. My roommate was in a fight with her boyfriend. NONE OF IT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH ME.
No matter how badly I want to trace my roommate's bad mood back to my "k" text message, the fact of the matter is that HER WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND ME. I may be the center of my own universe, but other people's universes had different orbits in them.
Do you see where I'm going here? Instead of reminding myself to accept the fact that someone "might be mad at me," I should be reminding myself to get off my high-and-mighty throne and realize this entire situation most likely has literally nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with anything I did wrong because IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME AT ALL. Like, seriously, what makes me think that I am so important and omnipotent and great that all of these people are devoting every thought and emotion to reading into and reacting to my actions?!
I may be the center of my own universe, but I’m not the center of theirs.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a huge narcissist. I love myself. But unfortunately, as much as I’d like to believe that it does, I have recently come to the conclusion that the world does not, in fact, revolve around me.
And you know what? It’s really not that unfortunate at all. I’M FINALLY FREE FROM FEELING GUILTY ABOUT BULLSH*T THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.