Repeat after me, “I am not responsible for other people’s happiness.”
Sometimes we have to make decisions – possibly big, life-altering ones that are right for us – but these decisions can cause those we love great discomfort. Ouch.
The belief that we are responsible for how other people react to you and life in general is very common but ultimately harmful for all parties.
Don’t get me wrong, our actions can and do affect other people’s experience, so it’s important to always act with honestly and integrity. In short, do the best you can and don’t be arsehole.
So what is happening when you are 1, doing the best you can, and 2, not being an arsehole, and the decision you have made is NOT being well received? Um, at all…
And more importantly, what can you do about it?
Firstly recognise that the initial bad reaction may be due to a jarring on the individual’s system. You have both been playing in a certain paradigm or dynamic. This is about to change and that structure will be dissolved. There can be a lot of fear around this that manifests in unpleasant ways.
Alternatively, you may not be on the same page, hence the bad reaction.
So how do you know if you believe you are responsible for another’s happiness?
You feel guilt, shame and doubt about your decision.
To avoid these feelings people often take on an overly consultative, accommodating and compromising approach to interactions. This is fine, until you cross the line where good intentions have harmful consequences.
Worse case, you back down, run away or ïce your plans in order not feel the discomfort of the other person’s discomfort.
The consequences however are serious. They extend far beyond you not doing what you really want to do, feeling held back and unfulfilled.
The simmering resentment, anger and frustration that builds up over time can lead to real and serious chronic physical and mental health conditions. Over a long period of time this is like a cancerous growth (sometimes literally) that only ends up hurting you.
So what to do? I like this physical body check-in exercise:
1. Close your eyes, and take as many deep breaths as you need in order to come into your body.
2. Go to your future self on your death bed and ask, “What did you do that worked well in this situation?” Feel this in your body.
3. Think about what your needs are. How might your life look like if you honour these? Feel this in your body.
4. Visualise following the two or three options available to you. Feel this in your body.
Ultimately the best result for everyone concerned is to go with the truth and for you to follow your life path.
And. Be brave!
Sorry, there’s no getting around this. If you have to lift up your chin, puff out your chest and pull your shoulders back in order to follow your path, do so. You are more powerful and resilient than you know.
In the end you can look back and know that you did what felt right at the time. You will have no regrets and hold no resentment.
And again, repeat after me, “I am not responsible for other people’s happiness.”
You are however, responsible for your own happiness 🙂
Looking for more inspiration? I HIGHLY recommend “Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey. It’s a memoir and about lessons learned and living with greater satisfaction.
PS If you have trouble getting into the zone to do a physical body check-in, join the Monday Morning Meditation and Prioritisation Group where we practice connecting with your body.