If only everyone could only act like me . . . Wand target #3

Recently, listening to my community of women’s voices reveals the third target for the proverbial magic wand we all wish we had. It seems a universal wish: that others adhere to the same standards we hold in our own heads. The refrain echos all around me:

  • “I try to be cheery to everyone I see–why can’t my coworker do the same?”
  • “I try to affirm my mom as a mother–why does she feel threatened when I’m successful as a mom? Why can’t she be happy for me?”
  • “I love my sister unconditionally and don’t criticize her choices–why does she feel it’s okay to pick on me like that?”
  • “I work hard to fight fair–then my partner throws these vicious barbs at me!”
  • “I don’t gossip about those women–what have I done to them?”

Who says the internal rules of our cohorts must necessarily match our own? Of course we wish everyone followed the Golden Rule. Life would be so much smoother, if everyone held the same high ideals that we enforce for ourselves. It truly feels like one of life’s major injustices, to get bombarded by bad behavior from all sides. To receive treatment we work hard to avoid dishing out to those we encounter–how is this fair?

***SIGH**** It’s not.

Our old frenemy expectations weaves in and out of this issue. Disappointment is inevitable when we expect others to honor our code, our values. The hurt seems particularly intense because of it’s repetitive nature. Again and again, siblings, bosses, parents, partners fail to follow the fair, kind, loving path we try so hard to stay on. Often, the only solution is to remember that we really can only expect others to be themselves. To act out their issues, their moods, their unhappiness. They are only being their messy, limited, hurting human selves. “It’s just who she is.” Not very satisfying, for sure. But it definitely helps the next encounter if you can remember to rein in your expectations. In your own head, review that a) this disappointing behavior doesn’t have to do with you and b) it’s just Mr. or Ms. Crabby being their poor, miserable self.  Enter the situation from a point of compassion: it sucks to be them.

At the same time, pat yourself on the back. Kudos to you for keeping to your own high standards for yourself. You didn’t sink to that level! But if you do have a bad day and you snap into stinging rubber band mode, offer yourself some compassion–you are only human too. In the words of the Dalai Lama:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

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