Last weekend Chris and I went rock climbing at our local gym.
Before getting to the gym, we reviewed some techniques I needed to know to pass a test so Chris could progress in his climbing adventures.
I had experience with this skill set.
I knew what I was doing.
But I still failed the test (not to worry, no rock climbing husbands were harmed).
>> Why? <<
I pulled what I like to call at this point in my life, a classic “Liz”.
I freeze up under testing.
I don’t adapt EVEN THOUGH I KNOW BETTER.
I don’t listen to myself and just keep going, hoping for the best.
It’s silly and ridiculous and I knew I should have changed my technique, but I didn’t.
I was too scared.
Too scared to be wrong... even though I already knew that I was.
But I couldn’t admit that to myself.
So I was sheepishly embarrassed as the instructor told me things I already knew after the test.
I was ashamed when Chris heard that I had failed.
And I got super down on myself because my own fears were negatively impacting his enjoyment, and consequently my own.
I walked around in a funk for 30 minutes as we climbed other routes, sorting out my emotions.
FINALLY I worked up the courage to ask Chris how he felt about what happened.
I already knew what he’d say, but even though I rationalized it in my head, I still needed to hear it from him directly.
I asked out loud about all of the horrible things I was thinking about myself -- was I an idiot or dumb or literally THE WORST?
I’ve come to realize that I need to verbalize all of the awful stuff I’m saying about myself.
For me to release all of those ridiculous thoughts, I have to express them.
I have to make myself vulnerable and claim those emotions.
I have to say “this is how I feel about myself right now. How do you feel about me?”
Opening that door is terrifying.
But it’s also totally critical for processing whatever we’re upset about.
Otherwise those emotions and thoughts stay inside and build within us.
And at their worst, they get projected on to those we love.
When we assume that we’re failures, we start believing that everyone else feels that way about us, too.
Because, obviously, if we can see our own perceived inadequacies this clearly, so can everyone else. DUH.
This is the turn that really starts to muck things up -->
We start acting like everyone else *actually* thinks we’re awful failure trolls.
We lash out or we’re cold or uncommunicative or we feel constantly judged and disapproved of 🙋
So feeling like a failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as we encourage those around us to treat us the way we feel we should be treated as people who can just never get anything right.
This isn’t fair to you, but more importantly, it isn’t fair to your loved ones.
You’re putting your thoughts and feelings about yourself on them without giving them a chance to express how they really feel.
You’ve preemptively shut them down because *GASP* what if they confirm all of the terrible things you’re saying about yourself in your head?
That would be heartbreaking.
BUT if you can muster the courage to be vulnerable and ask, you give everyone an incredibly meaningful gift.
You’ve reclaimed your emotions for a second. You’ve opened the door for real, authentic communication.
You can start to release all of those terrible things you told yourself AND appreciate your loved one for their support, kindness, and a less-skewed perspective on what happened and who you are.
After speaking with Chris, I teared up a little with relief (awkward in a gym setting, but hey, sh*t needed to get real).
Guess what? He didn’t think these awful things about me. It wasn’t a big deal. We could take the test again when I was ready.
My shame and guilt dissipated and I could enjoy myself more. We may even have cracked a couple jokes before we left.
It’s a skill to learn to diffuse these emotional bombs within ourselves.
To recognize our emotions as our own and to stop projecting them on to others.
It’s one that I’m still working on and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
So how can you tell if you’re projecting your emotions?
The easiest… well, the most straightforward way, is to just ASK.
Start with “I am feeling ________ and ________ because of _________.”
Then ask, “How are you feeling about _________?”
Emotions sorted into your pile and their pile.
And the real work of relationship can begin.
Remember that 10 times out of 10, other people aren’t thinking the same things about you as you’re thinking about yourself.
Give them a chance to express how they feel instead of assuming that you know.