“I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”
Remember that kernel of playground wisdom from the jerk face in grade three? Turns out that jerk face in grade three had a point. And that point is that often, when people criticize us for something, it’s because we reflecting a quality back to them that they’re not sure they like. Conversely, when often when people share our joy and enthusiasm, it’s because we reflect a quality back to them that appeals to them and that they are drawn to.
Rubber vs glue. Bounces off me, sticks to you. Makes sense so far?
Let’s say you are making a major life decision, like quitting your job and starting your own business: you think it through, you weigh all your options, you do your research, you run the numbers, and you are confident that you are doing the right thing. Nervous or a little scared of the newness, sure, but you are certain that this is the exact right thing for you.
Proudly you start to tell people of your decision, expecting that they will see your pride, see your happiness, see your joy at following a big ass dream and bringing it into fruition. Now watch what happens: some people will absolutely get it. They’ll share your joy, celebrate the process it took to get here and the process it will take to move forward; they’ll support you as you make that big leap in your life and set up shop.
Then there is the other faction, the people who – if shockingly – will not get it. They’ll question you, tell you you’re making a mistake, tell their friends that you’re crazy for making such a huge decision and taking such a massive risk. They’ll criticize you for making this massive change, and may even fall out of touch because of it.
Are you familiar with this feeling? If you are, I bet you’ve been tempted to take people’s feedback – both positive and negative – ultra personally. But here’s the thing: it actually isn’t about you.
*inner narcissist recoils in horror. Wait, what? But it’s my decision! My life! My risk! My choice! My f***ing happiness on the line here! What do you mean, woman, that it’s not about me?
That’s right kitten, it’s not about you; it’s about them. You are merely a mirror, reflecting qualities in someone else, back onto that someone else. No matter which camp people fall into, trust me, the ones who are most vocal are the ones whose mirror is the most reflective. For better or for worse.
Let’s start with Team A, the Get Its. Chances are, when you make a life altering decision or otherwise bold move in this game of life, the Get Its get it for a reason. They see qualities of growth, bravery, willingness to try, willingness to fail, confidence, unbridled enthusiasm, desire to dare live a big life, dream deeply, and pursue happiness. Maybe they live a life along the same guidelines and share that tenaciously courageous spirit. Maybe those are qualities they aspire to have, and you are a sign or marker on their own path that they need to make some changes and feel like your experience gives them permission.
They see qualities of themselves right inside you, and they love it, so they celebrate you for it.
Now let’s talk about Team B, the So Don’t Get Its. When they see you making progress in your life, they might see all the same qualities that the Get Its do…but they don’t like it. Most often the So Don’t Get Its are living with safety, some denial, and a lot of fear. So when you have the audacity to want more and do better, to break status quo and push the ejector button on a situation – like a lucrative but soul-sucking job – they do not compute. For them to understand why you would do such a thing, they have to confront their own narrative in a highly focused way. “Well I hate my job too, but I would never leave! How could I? This is just the way it’s supposed to be; you don’t have to feel happy every day – that’s just a fairy tale. A job is just supposed to be a means to an end, and it’s a complete joke to think that you can find something better or more fulfilling. This is a selfish endeavor that threatens to uproot the safety and well being of your family.”
They see qualities of themselves right inside you, and Sugar? They hate it, so they criticize you for it. Forgive them.
Knowing this little jewel of information – that I bet you’re now kicking yourself for having kicked jerk face back in the day when he basically spat the words out in your face – you can rest easy that you can go ahead and make any old decision you want, provided it’s the right one for you. The clothes you wear, the company you keep, the relationships you stay in versus the ones you don’t, the food you eat, the lifestyle you live…everything. Everything you do is for the betterment of you, and doesn’t need to be proven or justified to anyone (although it’s hella satisfying when someone doubts or criticizes you and you succeed anyway, let’s be honest). You need to become the best version of you, for you. Because when you do, you bring out the best in everyone around you.
Even the naysayers. You’ve got to understand that they’re working through their own process too, and just by honoring your truest self and your biggest feelings and living your version of what the most satisfying life is, you are lifting people up around you. Challenging them. Inviting them to go deeper, to look harder, to dream bigger. Focus on that. Keep your mirror clean and polished so that when someone tries to throw something at you it bounces right back and nearly blinds them with the light.