It usually goes something like this.
Someone makes an observation about me. Something personal. I don’t like it. I get defensive. I explain why their observation is wrong or I start arguing my side, trying to provide more context so they can come to a better conclusion about me. Really, it’s so they can come to a conclusion that I prefer. When people don’t see me the way I see myself, it BOTHERS me. I’m like, Nope, you’re wrong, here’s why.
I want to control how I am perceived. Sometimes it seems that I even want to control what is said to me. So when people say things about me that I don’t like, I get defensive. It messes up my flow and I react. I don't necessarily get aggressive, but I might pout or act out in some way. Criticism creates self-doubt for me because I start thinking that something about me is not working, or I have a problem, or whatever.
So when my sister made a comment about how I spend a lot of time on my phone and that is probably why my kids are on their devices a lot, I felt defensive. Yeah, I didn’t like that comment at all. Some hidden guilt, perhaps?
When my significant other says something to me about how I mother our kids, I get DEE-FENSIVE. I have my reasons and excuses. Even constructive criticism, especially when it comes to my kids, is not received well.
I don’t like to be questioned or challenged when it comes to my behavior. It feels like I’m being picked on, you know? Like, what’s your point? Don’t bother me. For some reason I don't get defensive when it comes to tactical things, I guess because I'm not emotionally attached. But question my goodness? my intentions? my creativity? I get all self-righteous.
I realize that I’m being immature. I’m acting like that girl, a younger version of myself, who doesn’t know herself very well and feels threatened by any and everything. This girl needs to control what everyone thinks of her. She needs to have the last word. She needs to be right. She needs to be the victim, the innocent, the misunderstood. Anyone who has a problem with her or sees error in something she does is wrong and mean and she wants them to come away from the conversation knowing that. You’re wrong, I’m right. And even when I’m wrong, I have my reasons, so I’m still right. So there.
Enough is enough.
The woman that I am now knows herself and has nothing to prove. I know that I can’t control who I am to anyone else, but I can control who I am to myself. Why do I need to get all bent out of shape when someone says something to me that I don’t like? When someone questions my behavior or intentions? My peace of mind should not be dependent on being understood by others. I mean, it’s nice to be understood, but I don’t want to need that approval in order to feel content with myself.
And what about accountability? What about growth?
Sometimes a person can say something that hits a nerve, an insecurity that we have yet to fully acknowledge; and because we haven’t dealt with it, our reaction is super emotional and defensive. Deep down we know that there is truth in what they are saying and we don’t like that they have brought up something that we don’t want to deal with. What?! You’re mean, you’re wrong, here’s why. Now, feel bad about yourself and apologize. This is my ego talking to my imagined oppressors.
When I’m at my best, I’m calm and thoughtful and aware of my emotions without being a slave to them. I’m graceful in the midst of discomfort. I know that I always learn about myself from my relationships and interactions with people. If I’m secure with who I am, I should be able to hear both praise and criticism without taking off on an emotional roller coaster. I don’t need to change anyone’s mind about me. I can listen and reflect and decide what to do with the feedback I receive.
This is important to me because what I crave most is inner peace. I spent so much of my life only feeling peaceful when I was in good standing with others. So now, when someone makes a comment and I overthink it and it steals my peace of mind, I feel that familiar angst that comes from playing the victim, having my peace stolen away, feeling unhappy because someone said or did something that wasn’t part of my script.
When I give my peace away so easily, I'm wrong. Even if I'm right, I'm wrong.
Do you feel defensive when people question you or challenge your thinking? Being defensive requires a lot of energy. We can’t allow ourselves to be controlled and pushed and pulled all over the place by what other people think of us. Instead, “Breathe it all in. Love it all out.” I think that’s a Danielle Laporte quote, but I’m not sure. But yeah, do that and save your energy for productive things like finding love in hopeless places or whatever it is you do that makes the world a better place.
I'm so excited about 2014, aren't you?! Have you signed up to get my posts in your inbox and also for my newsletter? Let's stay in touch!