Monday, May 22, 2006

It's Not All About You

No, I don't mean you. Silly.

I tend to be completely self-centered (like most people, I suppose). The denial of my smallest whim looms larger to me than another person's legitimate suffering. And of course I am the center of the universe. The rest of you only exist when you're in the room with me (or commenting on my blog, I suppose).

But lately I've been using this phrase - "it's not all about you" - in various situations where I need an increase in virtue or humility. (Oddly, I always say it to myself that way, never, "It's not all about me.") It has a moral feeling to it that makes it more compelling than the details of the situation.

A few weeks ago, Mosch and I were going to someone's birthday party. Due to a mix up, I wasn't wearing the clothes I had intended to wear; I was a little bit underdressed. Because I'm not a very confident dresser anyway, I tend to feel very self-conscious and worried when I think I'm not dressed appropriately for an occasion. But what I've actually noticed is that, once you arrive somewhere, (a) you are rarely the worst-dressed person, and (b) nobody cares anyway. Why? Because the event is not all about you. Unless it's your party or your wedding, the event is, in fact, not about you at all, and most of the other people there will not care what you are wearing.

A few weeks ago, Mosch and I had tickets to a Saturday-night basketball game. Saturday night is usually when Mosch has his phone date with his girlfriend, who lives in another city and is disabled, so they moved their date to Friday night, which is usually the night that Mosch and I go out. (Did you follow all that?)

It was hard enough for me to give up part of my Friday night, but then, due to her disability, Mosch's girlfriend basically took up the whole evening, because she couldn't know in advance when she would be able to talk. I was really disappointed by not being able to have my Friday night with Mosch, but I was able to eventually convince myself that it was not all about me (life being the "it" in this case) and that the loss I was experiencing was extremely tiny in proportion to what was going on with Mosch's girlfriend. (Sometimes, it is hard to recognize one's own petulance as just "being a spoiled brat" - the mind is very clever at coming up with reasons why one really has some legitimate grievance.)

Oddly, this technique also works in situations you wouldn't expect. I can be tired of exercising and wanting to quit, and telling myself "it's not all about you" will work to make me carry on, despite the fact that my exercise is one of the few things in the world that really is all about me.


Anonymous said...

Three ways to discover it's never about you:

1. Have a child.
2. Have a self centered boyfriend.
3. Have dogs.

I'm always telling the dogs it's not all about them, but they know it really is (and so do I)

Tam's momm

sally said...

Kathy - Too true! My rabbits also are not very good at realizing it's not all about them when, for instance, I am 30 minutes late releasing them from their cage, giving them their daily papaya tablets, and petting them (well, Leo) because I've been in bed with a migraine. And I'm generally legitimately sorry when it happens.

I hope that I can learn my lesson from #3 and not have to explore methods #1 and especially #2.

I have never used this particular catch phrase before, but it is a valuable reminder of a simple but elusive truth. We may laugh to each other about your outfit for a moment, but we don't really care. (Wait, that is not very reassuring, is it. Strike that.)

Tam - I am sort of surprised by your success with it while exercising, unless the "you" it's not about is the currently put-out, immediate-short-term "you" while the beneficiary is the satisfied 30-minutes-post-exercise you or the 30-years-hence, happily strong and healthy you.

Tam said...

I see you gave in and got a login, Sally. Will Momm fall next?

I think what "it's not all about you" means in the context of exercise is something like, here is the moral thing to do (exercise), and your little feelings are not as important as you think they are.

I grant you that it's not exactly logical...

sally said...

Yeah, Debbie pointed out to me that I could select "Other" down there and type in my name next to username without having to create a blogger account, so I've started doing that. I'm willing to go that far for this blog.

Logical, bah. Over-rated.

Tam's momm said...

OK. Now I'm official.