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So. You’ve done your best. You search your conscience. You acknowledge that with the resources and information you had, you ramped up and did everything within your power to succeed. You look back and ask yourself seriously, was there something else I should have done? What would I do differently had I known?
For in the course of your efforts, there was missing information and people with other agendas -all of which severely clashed with your own pulling off a good job.
The climate changes. People who were your friends avoid you. People look at you through squinted eyes, trying to figure something out…to believe you or not? And you don’t know why. You haven’t changed, but something has.
It can be anything–that changes perception. Gossip, half-truths, jealousy, insecurity, survival….in a “church”, in the workplace, anywhere there are people gathered. For politics only require the dynamics of two or more people.
I care a lot about what people think of me. Too much. I’ve allowed others’ opinions to weigh too heavily in my life’s decisions, and as a result I have led my life like a boat tossed in rough waves. I allowed it because I thought other people had better answers than I did. I was afraid to believe in myself. What I learned over the years, is that people didn’t necessarily have better answers for me; what they had was their own answers that worked for them.
I’ve been hyper-vigilant, and anxiety-ridden in trying to anticipate my co-workers’ needs, my bosses’ needs, even some of my friends’ needs. A combination of an unpredictable childhood, and the illusion that I can control the uncontrollable helped me to develop this coping mechanism. But I realize it is sadly overused and worn out now.
While all along, my true compass was always there. Inside me. I just had to believe in ME and MY ANSWERS.
So what do you do if others perceive you have failed, when in your heart of hearts you know you haven’t? You didn’t fail them. You were there through it all. But for their own reasons, they need to see that you weren’t.
1. Don’t react. Think calmly. Record all interactions, whether it is simply to document what is happening, or to see a pattern in which you can discern an insight or lesson.
2. Find a person you can trust- a mentor- that you can bounce off ideas and fears. Listen to their “take” -chances are they will see some things that you haven’t. But only take their advice if it feels sound. Often, if you have chosen a mentor wisely, it will be sound advice. But even a mentor can be fallible.
3. Be realistic. My sister is very good at helping me to look at my fears of “what if”. Her little trick is to say, “Imagine what the worst possible outcome could be. Then imagine the best. The actual outcome will, most likely, be somewhere in the middle. So if you face the worst possible outcome, and know you’ll survive it, but are hopeful for the best–well then, anywhere in between you have yourself covered. You can do this.”
4. Accept what you can control- really- and what you cannot. A person cannot read another person’s mind, no matter how intuitive they may be. And a person cannot do someone else’s thinking for them. So, it follows that you cannot control a person’s opinion. You may influence it with your words and actions, but ultimately a person will decide for himself to think what he wants. The “whys” aren’t important. They are complex and often have nothing to do with you. Just know and accept where your domain of control begins and ends, so that you may use your inner resources wisely.
5. Speak up for yourself-once- loudly, if necessary. If a person will not hear you, then write it down for their posterity. Then let your actions back up everything of what you’ve just said. They will be your words from then on. If you go on defending, you are wasting precious energy and giving your power away.
6. Learn. Though the journey has reached some rocky ground, search your conscience and actions. Ask yourself- according to your definition of success- did you fail? And if you did, so what? It’s really ok to fail- it shows you were trying. So, in this latest “exercise” what did you learn? Decide to carry with you from that point forward, at least one thing you would do better, and then do so. You don’t have to carry the whole bag of experiences with you over the rocks. Set the bag down, and move lightly.
7. Turn your attention to the “Now.” Let people go. They are doing what they need to do to survive. So are you. When things have played out, carry your head high and walk away. If there was anything hidden, time will reveal it. You now have other things to do.
8. Forgive people. They don’t have all the answers. They are struggling as well, and making judgment calls on limited information. Forgive yourself. You’re human, and are also on this Journey of Progress, and not Perfection.
9. Draw a line in the sand and don’t look back, taking only what is valuable with you. Look forward and expect goodness. You’ve earned it.
It’s a lot harder to do…I know. I’m going through it now. I keep wanting to ask people I had cared about, what did I DO? To set the record straight. To stand up for myself. But I have done that, once, and that is enough. I stand by my words and actions- already spoken, already taken.
What other words could I give them that would convince them? They have already convinced themselves. I can only choose my actions carefully, deciding where my energy and focus can be of most use. And as much as I cared about them, if the people don’t care back, then they weren’t worth having in my life.
There is a quote by Belgicia Howell: “Don’t explain yourself. Your friends don’t need it. Your enemies won’t believe it.”
And therein lies the key to healing.
Take back your Power. Let your Words and Actions stand.
Don’t even bother checking in and seeing how it’s all working out. Your part in this is over. Friends may have become enemies, dubious ones may have become allies, or you may have no one except the knowledge that you did your best. And that is enough. In fact believing in yourself after being through such a test, is an honor to take along with you.
It’s no longer about them. It’s about YOU, and what’s next. After all, many of us are not running the same race or even have the same goals.
At the end of my life will I wonder why so-in-so stopped talking to me? Why they unfriended me? What they said about me? Will I wonder how I could have changed some one’s mind? You bet I won’t.
I’ll be thinking of the incredible lessons I learned along the beautiful-yet-surprising path called My Life….having lived it, finally, on my terms.
Carry a song in your heart, and Light in Your Soul.