It's Not All About You (modified transcript of #1 Lifeskills Podcast)

Here is your daily joke from 

I changed all my passwords to "incorrect", so that whenever I forget, it will tell me, "Your password is incorrect." 

Hahaha do you have the same password for everything? According to experts, that’s not a good idea! I don’t even want to know how much time I spend looking up every password for every site I need to log into. But, this joke is actually a great life skill hack which leads me into my podcast topic. 

I want to talk today about lifeskills. When I think about "lifeskills", it reminds me of my kid’s elementary school that promoted lifeskills and they were more like good character traits. The basis for my podcast is from the June 2018 issue of Psychology Today article by Jena Pincott. 

The author wrote that wisdom comes from reacting to the world as it is and not as we ideally wish it were. These skills are intended to clarify what you want out of your life and help you determine what it might take to reach your goals. These lifeskills are based on what she terms “psychological truths”. 

The #1 lifeskill is “Understanding that not everything that happens to you is about you.” 

This is based on the term “egocentric bias”. Psychology defines Egocentric Bias in this way:

     “An egocentric bias occurs when one thinks of the world from one's own point of view and self perception too much. Wishful thinking is a common example of an egocentric bias. Wishful thinking is essentially the belief that one is special.”

Sometimes I will ask clients how they would live if they were the star of their own show.  Or maybe if they were on a reality show and being filmed all the time. 

Some clients would thrive on living as a TV star with some show tunes in the background. (Wouldn’t life be more fun with our favorite songs playing in our day? Didn’t that TV show Ally McBeal have that happen?) 

Other clients would probably either stop doing some things that they would never want others to know and some clients might suddenly become brave enough to do the one thing they have always wanted to do. 

My point with all of this is that some of us need to stop living as if everything that happens in our life is only affecting us. As if we are the only person in the world worth noticing or worrying about. 

We all have frustrating circumstances in our lives. The author, Jena, wrote that if our partner’s mood changes, we get stuck in traffic, or our stock prices rise…these are all ups and downs that we take very personally. We look at these events in regards to how they affect us. I do it. You do it. We all do it.  

Social scientists believe that the way we see events through the lens of “how this affects me” is important because by personalizing these experiences, we remember the moment and our memories form our identity. We learn from our memories. 

Jena wrote that it is important to remember that this viewpoint is an “adaptive illusion”. The fact is that your partner may be having his/her own bad day and it may have nothing to do with you.

If your boss is snippy do you automatically assume it is because you did something? Do you think you are the target of traffic jams? Did you not get a job and you take it personally? 

Jena pointed out that you might even then feel “baffled, offended, maybe irate”. Then what happens? You get emotional, you then have to “nurse perceived wounds” which may lead you to completely change your next behavior. 

Have you ever said to your partner, “Hey, what have I done to you?” and they look at you like “Huh?” Jena wrote that this “egocentric bias causes us to misread others” and “undermines empathy and tolerance”. 

What if instead you asked your partner, “Hey, is there anything you need?” or “How are you doing?”. I’m all for personal responsibility and if your partner is indeed mad at you because of something you have done, then you can talk about it. 

This approach would be much more productive then assuming that his/her mood is “about you”. 

There are also many people that are so fearful of people not liking them that they walk on egg shells and assume that however someone is acting towards them is all about them. 

Jena suggests that we live “less reactive, more directed” lives. Do you see what she is saying? What if you didn’t react to others in a way where you feel their behavior is because of you or focused on you. 

What if you worked toward whatever tasks or goals you need to work on and then casually react to others if needed? 

If we realize that our “point of view is not the only one” then we can calmly approach our life with a clearer view. Why get sidetracked by someone’s else’s moods because we think it is “all about me”? 

This approach “subdues the ego” and “widens” the “perspective”. Maybe removing our “self from center stage” could lead to less stress and more happiness? 

You may have someone in your life that really is affected by everything you do. Do you bow down to them and do everything they want? 

Maybe you could consider drawing the line somewhere and letting them do some things for themselves. Let them begin to live a more directed live. 

On the other hand, do you have someone shouting out their needs and you ignore them because of how it affects you? 

Maybe take a few minutes to sit and talk with them gently and let them know that you see them and want to try to reach a compromise on what each of you are willing and able to do to get both of your needs met. 

This lifeskill isn’t going to solve all your problems and of course there are always more difficult situations than others so please don’t feel as if I know your situation and this viewpoint is all about you. This is a quick podcast and simplified list. But today begin to ponder the thought that maybe everything that happens to you is not necessarily always about YOU.