One thing I’ve noticed recently is where I haven’t been making myself wrong, and as a result I’m starting to be aware of how often I try to make myself wrong. Personally, I find it easier if I’m the one who’s in the wrong. If I’m wrong, I can change, or apologise or ‘work on myself’. But if someone else is wrong? Then what? Maybe they won’t change, maybe they won’t apologise and maybe they won’t work on their stuff.
I had an example of this on Friday morning. The 12th of October is a holiday in Spain, like it is in the USA, related to Christopher Columbus (or Cristobal Colon as they call him here). It’s basically National Spain Day, and as a result everyone gets a day off and a in this case, a long weekend. Apart from me! I don’t get Bank Holidays off, so, as I was leaving my building to totter off to work, I was greeted by the evidence of someone’s night out. Apparently it was a wild, or at least a drunken one, as in the lobby was a huge, steaming pile of sick!
Dodging the sick, and being careful not to get any on my beloved, glittery boots, I went off to work hoping that by the time I got home it would have been cleaned up. Mais non. It was still there. And it was still there on Saturday. And today.
This is such an obvious example of someone being out of order. Firstly, don’t vom in the lobby. It’s not cool. Vom in your house all you want, but not in the communal areas, okay? And secondly, if you do vomit everywhere, I guess it could happen to the best of us, clean it up!
I was aware that normally I’d try to find ways to excuse it away, to stop the phantom vomiter from being wrong. Or more than being wrong, I’d try to absolve them of their responsibility for their actions. I’d think things like ‘Oh, they must not have realised that their sick is proudly displayed for everyone to enjoy’, or ‘They must have gone away for the weekend and haven’t had the chance to clean it up’, or any other situation I could think of to prevent myself from feeling that the other person was out of order.
And, even more than not trying to make the other person right, I complained about it! Now, us British people usually suffer everything with a stiff upper lip. We complain, but to each other, never to the person who ‘wronged’ us, nor to a person in a position of power. We might, if we are raging about something, write a strongly worded letter. But that’s about it.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw myself sending a text to my landlady (still didn’t have the balls to do it over the phone, but it’s a start!) telling her that there’s sick in the entrance, it’s disgusting, and asking when is it going to be cleaned up. Even when she called me and tried to sidetrack me by telling me not to leave the main door open, I stayed strong, and told that I don’t, but with the vomit on the floor I might have to so that the building doesn’t stink.
I know it might sound really small and obvious, but for me it was quite a difference. I normally feel like I absorb the responsibility of a situation to either prevent the other person from having deal with their responsibility or to prevent a situation from (as I see it) falling apart.
Over responsibility is most definitely one of my ‘things’, which means that I either get left with, or in some way take on, the responsibility in any given situation. In fact, in my family we laugh that when my parents used to ask ‘who made this mess/broke this glass/did something else that we’re angry about’, and when it wasn’t me, I used to say ‘It wasn’t me, but you can blame me if you want’. See, I’ve been over responsible and a bit pious since day one!
This over responsibility means that I’m often ‘right’, and nearly always have the moral high ground, but equally end up feeling heavy and annoyed at feeling like I have to do things I don’t want to or pick up the slack when others have dropped the ball.
But in this situation, and in a few others that have occurred during the last week or so, I haven’t. I felt like I left the responsibility, in the form of sick, right where it was and didn’t claim it as my own. Of course I could have cleaned it up, but it didn’t feel like mine to clean up.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. In life, we all play roles. One of mine is being responsible, and because of this I very often get paired with people who are irresponsible. Which means they get to play out being irresponsible, whilst I play out my normal role of being responsible. And it’s really not a role that I like. Playing this role makes me feel very unimportant, untaken care of and very put upon.
Most of the women I know play at being responsible too. In their relationships and in general. And I think we especially play out this over responsibility/not allowing the other person to be wrong, with people we know.
When we know someone, when we know their history and their experiences, it’s very easy to explain away their behaviour by referring to their history; ‘oh, he’s not rude, it’s just that his dad didn’t hug him’, or ‘it’s not that she’s being a bitch, it’s just that her last boyfriend was an idiot’. Have you noticed that we don’t do this the other way around? We never try to negate someone’s being awesome by referring to their history. When was the last time you said ‘oh, it’s not that he has integrity, it’s just that his dad brought him up really well’ or ‘she’s not a good person, she just has a really nice life’?!
If you’re going to discount someone’s lameness by blaming it on their history, at least be consistent and discount someone’s awesomeness by blaming it on their history too!
It’s not that I think we should blame everything on other people, or that we should be irresponsible just to prove a point. It’s more about not making yourself wrong. If someone is rude or horrible to me, I always try to find out what I must have done to have provoked such a reaction, try to see it from their point of view, or tried to see where they were acting unconsciously due to whatever reasons they may have. Or, and this is the one I do most often, to say ‘well, they’re entitled to act how they want, but why am I affected? Why do I care?’.
Which on the one hand does mean that I get to address loads of things, but it also means that I often get treated in ways that I don’t want to be treated, don’t stand up for myself, never have a go at someone for being rude to me and always end up absorbing the situation. By which I mean if someone says something nasty to me, instead of calling them on it, asking them why they said it, bursting into tears or telling them to ‘fuck off’, I carry the situation, I’m the one who feels bad about it and the other person never experiences my true reaction, and as such never takes responsibility for what they did.
Well not anymore! Now that I’ve said it on the internet it means it’s true! No longer shall I take responsibility for things that aren’t mine. If someone drops the ball, or loses something, or fucks up, and I don’t genuinely want to help, I won’t. I naturally like helping people, but doing it when you don’t want to is just another way of being dishonest, except it’s to yourself. Next time someone says something that I find rude, or out of order, I’m going to tell them. Not necessarily in a harsh and rude way, but I’m not going to carry the burden of their aggression.
I often find wisdom in football, and this week has been no exception. Spain is super into football gossip, and the newspapers have been reporting that in Real Madrid (one of the biggest teams in the world for those of you not well versed in football), the manager, Jose Mourinho, and the vice-captain Sergio Ramos don’t get on. That Sergio Ramos has been telling Jose Mourinho that he’s not happy with how he’s doing things and so on. About this subject, Sergio Ramos said something along the lines of ‘well, if I don’t like something, or have someothing to say, why would I shut myself up?’. So thank you Señor Ramos. Indeed, why would you shut yourself up?
It’s not noble or good to not tell people what you think. Maybe you end up being out of order, maybe you end up upsetting the other person, maybe you end up falling out, but I think firstly it’s a risk we have to take, and secondly you do yourself a a disservice by keeping everything in, and you end up being a liar. To others, but more importantly to yourself.
So, going back to the title of this post, stop making yourself wrong. Stop taking responsibility for things that aren’t yours. Of course use any time you have a reaction to something as an opportunity to look at why, but don’t use self inquiry as an excuse to not confront someone about something. Take responsibility for your feelings, but not for the rest of the world’s.
There’s nothing good, or holy about never having a go at someone. You’re not a better person because you don’t express anger, or sadness. Your journal isn’t the one who upset you, so don’t let your journal be the only one you tell!
It’s a risk. If, like me, you’ve never it before, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I know how a situation will end if I take responsibility for it, or if I’m the one who’s wrong. It’s the same as what always happens. The status quo is maintained and a false sense of everything being okay continues. But equally, I feel unhappy in the situation and any potential intimacy that either was there, or could have developed, is lost due to my dishonesty in the situation.
So people, I have a challenge for you. This week I’m going to try to be really aware of where I make myself wrong, or where I try to explain away other people’s actions. And stop. It’s a bit scary, and I might not always notice, or, if and when I express something outwards rather than internalising it, it might be a bit clumsy because I’m not used to it, but I need to get the hang of not being responsible for everything and letting a situation unfold as it naturally would and letting people experience the natural consequences of their actions.
And I’d like to invite you to do the same. If you’re overly responsible, join me in letting go of the responsibility and not making yourself wrong.
And if you’ve already mastered this, then look for another pattern that you’ve got, another role that you play and try seeing what happens when you don’t play it.
Night night, and good luck!