Thursday, June 16, 2011

Occasionally Embarrassed By Those Close To You?

Well, you can teach your young children to behave in a manner that won’t embarrass you in public, but that is were your power over others ends. You can only request (very tactfully) that your partner, sister, brother, or friend, refrain from doing whatever it is that upsets you.  Some may comply, but odds are there will be times when you’ll be embarrassed by what someone does, says, or wears.

So many relationships have been built on the (false) belief that one person will be able to change the other’s bad habits, once there is a real commitment in place. And initially, when we see with the eyes of love, there is greater tolerance.  Traits get overlooked that may eventually cause friction.  

You really can’t change anyone else.  This is important to understand and accept. You may be able to influence them here and there, but real change is a very personal process within each of us, and you can’t force it from the outside.  So if the answer isn’t change them, it has to be change you. Specifically, change your thinking.  And start by asking yourself: Why should I feel embarrassed or judged by someone else’s words or actions?

My grandmother, who is all of 4’11’ and weighs less than 100 lbs, is the most peaceful, gentle soul you could ever meet. When she and Grandpa got married, she moved into his parental home, where his family had lived forever. Having grown up in the neighborhood, Grandpa knew everybody, and made it his business to know theirs. He fought with his neighbors often and passionately when (in his mind) their actions threatened the welfare of the community (i.e., real estate values).

My mother, his daughter, lived in a state of chronic mortification.  He would frequently  burst out of the house, waving his arms and threatening police and jail time, because the children’s ball game had drifted too close to his car, or because they were too loud. One day, after menacing the children over a harmless snowball fight, Mom ran crying up the stairs to complain to Grandma.  It wasn’t the first time. “How could you marry a man like that?” she asked accusingly. “Aren’t you embarrassed to step outside?  Don’t you care what people think of us?”

“No,” said Grandma, smiling a little. “I believe they think of me as ‘Oh, that poor woman.’  They have always been very kind to me, since the day I moved into this house.”

Grandma refused to identify with, or take responsibility for, her husband’s actions. . She knew she couldn’t change Grandpa, and that no one actually expected her too.  That part is really important – so often we believe that our friends and loved ones are a “reflection” on us, when that is rarely true.  

So the next time you feel uncomfortable because someone is acting the fool, remind yourself that it’s not about me, it’s about them.  Relax, don’t make a scene, and try to take your thoughts in different direction.  It may help to have a specific plan of action:  If he embarrasses me in the future, then I will ­­­­­_________.  Make it something you know will be comfortable for you and help you handle it with class. 

Remember my Grandma, and don’t own anyone else’s bad behavior.

Good luck with your goal!

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