I don't like myself. I look in the mirror and tell myself, "You're not a nice person." And when you don't like what you see reflected back at you, it can perpetuate the behavior that you don't like. It's quite the self-defeating cycle.
I'm crabby and irritable. I snap at the people I love. I wake up with a headache and I cry myself to sleep. I feel an enormous weight on my shoulders. Constantly. I worry about money. Or lack thereof. I wonder if anyone will take us in when we're evicted. Or will some miracle happen enabling me to save my home from foreclosure? I worry that I won't be able to feed my kids. I feel seething anger toward my ex who doesn't live up to his responsibilities. I fear living like this for the rest of my life. I agonize over decisions that will affect me and my kids forever. I let these fears rule my life. I let them dictate my behavior. And I hate it.
When you look in the mirror and don't like the person looking back, it can hurl you into a deep depression. Unless you look in that mirror and realize that you have the power to change the person looking back at you.
I had to go to the store today. I absolutely detest going to this particular store that rhymes with Halmart. I push my cart around, loudly sighing and rolling my eyes every time I encounter another patron blocking the aisle or walking slowly in front of me. I grunt and snort and make other passive aggressive noises, getting more and more angry with every person I encounter. By the time I reach the check-out, which is always 419 people deep, I'm texting my friends, Stand by with bail money. I'm at that store that rhymes with Halmart, and I'm about to go postal.
Today, however, I made it a point to smile at everyone. I grinned at every single person I encountered. Ordinarily I would've muttered under my breath a sarcastic, "Could you take up any more room?" to the woman blocking the entire aisle and completely clueless to my presence as I tried to push my cart past her. Today, I smiled and said, "Excuse me."
Instead of contrition and an apology, however, she had the unmitigated gall to look at ME like I was annoying HER. Normally, I would have made a barely audible, snotty comment, calling her clueless and annoying, implying that she should live in a zoo, or something along those lines. Don't get me wrong; I'm not proud of that. I'm admitting that I've become a mean, impatient, short-tempered person with no tolerance for others. But today, I merely pushed my cart along, ignoring her surliness, a smile plastered to my face.
I left the store and pushed my cart along the walkway, stuck behind an elderly woman who was propelling her cart exceedingly slowly as she struggled to maneuver it along the path in front of the store. I didn't get frustrated, as I followed along toward the crosswalk that leads into the parking lot.
I loaded my groceries into my car, proud of myself for not losing my cool the entire trip. Then I stopped. I was congratulating myself on not being a total jerk. What was wrong with me? That behavior is not worthy of congratulations; that behavior is just how humans are supposed to act! I returned my cart to the corral and looked around the parking lot, searching for the older woman. I found her a couple rows over in a handicapped spot, and I headed that way.
As I approached her, I had second thoughts. "What am I doing? I'm such a dork!" I told myself as I walked up to her, then continued walking, lest she (or anyone else) think I was weird for stopping to help her. Angry once again with myself for the way I was acting, I screeched to a stop, pivoted on my heel and turned right back around. Great, I thought as I paced back and forth in front of this woman, she probably thinks I'm casing her, weighing my chances of stealing her purse and getting away with it. She's going to take out her cane and beat me with it, no doubt, because I'm being so weird and creepy.
"Hi. I'll take your cart for you," I offered.
She looked at me and smiled, joking, "Can I get my groceries out of it first?"
I laughed and said, "I don't know. I forgot to buy ice cream and that looks pretty good," eyeing her bags of food. Oh yeah, good move, Dawn. Imply you're going to steal a senior citizen's ice cream. That's great! I berated myself with sarcasm while looking to see if she was picking up her cane to clock me.
I helped her put her bags in her trunk while making small talk about the weather. Although it was super hot and humid, she asserted that she was happy for the heat because her laundry was hanging on the clothes line at home. We chatted about laundry and HOAs and her husband for a few minutes. Then I told her to have a great afternoon as I took her cart and walked across the parking lot to the cart-return. I smiled the whole way. Not because I was forcing the smile on my face. Not because I was proud of myself for doing what everyone should do every day just because it's right. I smiled because I felt good. For the first time in a long time, I just felt good.
It doesn't matter what you're going through because guess what - everyone else is going through stuff too. Wallowing in self pity and taking out your frustration on others doesn't fix anything. It doesn't help the situation; it just makes you feel worse. Getting outside yourself and your issues and putting others before you makes you feel good. It lets you forget about the garbage in your life and enables you to focus on someone else, so not only are you helping another person, but you are making yourself feel better in the process. Win-win!
It seems brainless, right? Why wouldn't we do this every minute of every day? Why indeed. We let ourselves get so wrapped up in our own little lives and our own little problems that we have blinders on to the rest of the world. We need to remind ourselves every single day to take those blinders off, look in the mirror and act in a manner we want reflected back at us.