Really, It Wasn’t You

Really, It Wasn’t You

I was in a café the other day, and four ladies were having coffee at the table next to me.  They were chatting merrily about social things, when a couple of them noticed a man they knew walking into the café.  The man took several steps in their direction, and suddenly pivoted around and walked out the door again.

The ladies were aghast.  One by one, wide-eyed, they chimed in:

“Did you see that?”
“Do you think he saw us?”
“He just turned around and walked away on us!”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Maybe he didn’t think we saw him… or maybe he didn’t actually see us.”
“Of course he saw us, how could he not have?”
“I always knew there was something wrong with that guy.”
“I heard his relationship is a total mess.”

This went on for almost an hour where the ladies speculated, debated, conjectured, gossipped and bitched about the man who had apparently rejected their company.  After they had run out of verbal steam, they each sat back in their chair with a look of being perplexed, hurt and annoyed, each silently in their own thoughts percolating around the high drama of the recent event.

As I watched this event unfold, I appreciated the show of how humans tend to react in the face of rejection.  But this is not the focus of my article.  I was inspired to write about this because I had been that man.

I too had walked into a setting with so much fear of bumping into people I knew that I would avoid any unfortunate accidental encounter at all cost.  I too had run away like that man.  If any of those people had spotted me, my action would certainly be taken as rude, perplexing and hurtful.

But my action had nothing to do with what I thought of you.  It had everything to do with what I thought of myself.

I remember the dread that consumed me when I thought about meeting people.  Locked in a world of self-beating and shame, my self-identity beaten to a pulp, I could not bear the thought of someone seeing through me.  The façade I had thus far skillfully erected had thinned out like cheap paint over a greasy surface.  I could not hold up my pretense at happiness and everything being great anymore.

I remember hiding in a public washroom.   I had walked into a hotel one afternoon after strolling aimlessly on the streets in a depressive fog.  My mind was filled with all kinds of thoughts that told me how worthless I was.  Every thought produced a pain that twisted in my gut until I was drained of energy.

By the time I had entered the building, I had lost all strength to put up my defences.  Being in a walled setting also brought on a sudden anxiety about coming face-to-face with people: people with whom I felt the need to appear ‘together’.  In other words, people who weren’t strangers but friends, acquaintances or colleagues.  People I might have known quite well and people whom I’d only met casually at functions.

The more highly I thought of them, the more the dreaded factor of meeting them.  You see, I cared about the opinions of others.  I worried about what people thought about me.  It was easy for me to imagine somebody criticizing me, pointing out a flaw in me, judging me, making fun of me, laughing at me.  My efforts to cover-up my insecurity was exhausting.  To look at someone looking at me was to see a mirror in front of me.  I dreaded seeing my reflection and what it would show me.

As I walked through the lobby of the hotel, I prayed that no one I knew would be there.  All I wanted was to sit down and have a drink, and then summon all my energy to make my way back home and collapse in a tranquilizer-induced amnesia of yet another painful day of being me.

It was then that I saw three people I had met at a party recently.  One of them glanced in my direction and I quickly averted my eyes.  There was no graceful way of getting around it, so I shifted my path to where the washroom sign was.  Even as I was walking into a cubicle, I started to feel ashamed of what I had resorted to do.  I was hiding from the world.

I didn’t know how long I was going to stay there.  I needed to strategize how I could escape from interacting with those people and get out of the building.  What if they called out my name?  Would I be brave enough to ignore them?  What would they think of me if I did?

I hated how weak I was.  Why couldn’t I be normal like everybody else?  There was something wrong with me, and it greatly disturbed me more than ever now that I was huddled in a small cubicle.

The party where I had met them – as usual, it had taken considerable efforts to psych myself up to attend it.  Several hours before I was to leave the house, I’d begun dressing up – painstakingly choosing the right outfit, putting on my make-up, drinking enough alcohol to soothe the way for me to feel sociable.  Several hours of preparations to appear perfect in every way.

Walking into a party was like walking onto a stage as a performer.  It took so much work inside me to appear the opposite of what I was really doing – i.e. to come across as naturally and effortlessly sociable, confident and relaxed in myself.  Most of the time, people were impressed by me (or rather, my performance).  I graded my performance according to how many people had commented on how beautiful I looked, how interesting they had found me, and how much they admired me.  But there was no such thing as good enough for me.

You see, those comments only highlighted the gap between how I wanted to see myself and how I really saw myself.  I did not feel beautiful, interesting or worthy of admiration.  It did the trick of fooling people into thinking I was all of that, but eventually it would only lower my esteem of myself.  I always ended up worse-off in the long run.

So here I was, hiding in a toilet, confronted by the stark contrast between how I had appeared at the party to those people I was now avoiding and the painful truth of who I really was.  Shame burned in my face, as I sat with the lie, the deception, of it all.

I made my escape from the hotel without glancing at the direction of where those people had been sitting.  That night, I would drown more pills than usual to erase my guilt, shame and self-loathe.

Perhaps you’d had an encounter similar to those four ladies’ that day.  Chances are, it wasn’t you.  I want to say to the ladies: That guy did not avoid you because he thought lowly of you.  He was probably immersed in his preoccupation of how lowly he thought of himself in that moment.  Avoiding you was his way of avoiding facing the worst he felt about himself.

Really, it wasn’t you.  Stop wasting your energy trying to figure out the most likely explanation about his behaviour.  The best thing you can do, for your sake, is to let go of the need to know, and to send loving thoughts to that person instead.  That person could probably do with someone sending good energy to him.  By taking this higher path, you elevate yourself to a higher vibration where more good things can come to you.

Photo by Lara Cores

Amyra Mah

Amyra Mah is the author of Embrace the Unlovable: How to Eliminate Shame, Guilt, Self-Judgements and Come Home to Yourself Using the Groundbreaking The Compassionate Self-Love Method.  She is a deep soulworker and addiction therapist specializing in healing deep emotional issues behind life challenges.  For more information on Amyra and her work go to www.UnusualWisdom.com.

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21 Comments

  1. Hi Amy. This was a great article. When I was a grad student in a mental health counseling degree program, we had to portray a counseling scenario as a senior project. I choose social anxiety and what you wrote about is exactly how I portrayed it in this role play. I asked the “client” to come up with various other scenarios that would explain why people did not speak to him at a party (and there are many other explanations other than they did not like him).

    Now, as a therapist in private practice, I use these same techniques (which are really just ways to help a client develop the ability to entertain alternative viewpoints). I have seen some amazing results.

    Reply
    • I find that so interesting, Linda. Thanks for sharing. It’s great that you’re using these techniques to help your clients, I can see how powerful they can be for changing perspectives.

      Love to you,
      Amyra xxx

      Reply
  2. Amyra – thanks for sharing this! I have also gone to great lengths to avoid people when I’ve been in a low place.

    Your story is such a great example of “it’s really not about you!” I had a friend recently go on and on about how she was treated by someone at a holiday gathering: “She was short with me,” “she barely talked to me,” and “she never even said goodbye to me!” And I asked repeatedly if my friend thought maybe this person could be having personal issues instead of snubbing her.

    Unfortunately, when lacking additional information, we tend to translate situations from our frame of reference and inevitably our ego takes it personally. If we could only get over ourselves and ask the question “I wonder what is happening in his/her life?” there would probably be a lot fewer misunderstandings!

    Reply
    • So true, Stephanie. I think a lot of times those on the receiving end of being seemingly snubbed and rejected are struggling with a sense of separation themselves. If we all related to one another with a sense of connectedness, believing that we are ultimately one and all, we would be more inclined to seek the truth of what’s going on with someone’s world.

      Thank you for commenting!

      Love,
      Amyra

      Reply
  3. I found this story of interest. I am well educated, hold numerous college degrees, work as a Emergency RN and clinical instructor. I have many positive things to be proud of except being away from work I am shy and hesitant to communicate with strangers! Your story hit home with me just recently. I entered a place of business and saw three ladies I knew from work and I just turned around and left. I was not in the mood to hear their daily negativity about work and their personal lives. I was hoping they did not notice me, but they did. I received a lot of negative, nasty words and treatment at work the following weeks. I find it distressing to have to play a roll with people. I should be respected and have the common right not to talk to anyone. I am a healthy single male, triathlete, personal fitness trainer and consider myself physically fit. I have been judged by these ladies in the past because I would not go out socially with them during this past holiday season. I would like some advice on how to express myself towards these women. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Bj,

      Thanks for sharing about your experience. I agree that we have a right to choose how we expend our energy, including who we want to talk to. Certainly, when I was healing from stress, it was important for me to guard my energy and who and what I was exposed to. Nowadays I am happiest when I balance my time with a healthy dose of socialising. I no longer have the type of social anxiety I used to have, and thus it is not stressful for me to greet someone and be engaged in a casual conversation. I can appreciate the light-heartedness, spontaneity and fun of a casual exchange with someone – which I could not do before.

      In the earlier stages of my healing and even after gaining confidence in myself, I found that I was still bothered by how people perceived me (even though I knew I was right! :) ) At some point, I realised that it merely pointed to something that was still conflicted inside me.

      I think that you are right in honouring what you believe, but perhaps there’s still some harmonising that needs to happen within. If you look deeply, you might be able to locate which aspects of you might be in conflict, and with reconciliation you will no longer be bothered or even notice other people judging you.

      You will siimply stand by your principles, without defensiveness, without any charge around it… and people will respect you for it. You would simply state to those ladies your truth, in honour of your own principles, and whether they accept it or not would not be your concern.

      I hope this is helpful to you.

      Love and Blessings,
      Amyra

      Reply
  4. I agree to stop trying to figure out other people’s actions. In my opinion, reach out and offer to help. My friend was avoiding people for a while and when I reached out to her I found out she was getting divorced. She was thankful that I had reached out first because she was not going to reach out to anyone anytime soon. Thanks for the story Amyra!

    Reply
    • That’s a good point, Veronica. Most people won’t reach out unless and until they reach crisis point. Reaching out with a caring heart can go a long way in helping someone feel supported and not alone in their struggles. It is also true that sometimes people don’t want to be helped, but I believe that as long as we come from good intentions we can’t really go wrong at the end of the day. Sometimes it is better to give and have our offer rejected than not give at all for fear of feeling rejected.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Amyra xx

      Reply
  5. It’s funny, Amyra….if you ask the circle of people who know me, they would say I am one of the more confident individuals they know. And they would be right…I AM confident. It was a journey, as I was one of those kids who felt excluded and laughed at. So of course with that energy, I drew more of those circumstances to myself.

    Learning how to meditate – how to quiet the chatter in my head so I could replace not only thoughts, but the emotions of shame and isolation was a turning point. It created a contrast…between the self love and self respect I learn to give myself and the circumstances I was permitting in my life. It came to the point where the isolation felt foreign, not the ease and grace.

    Thanks for painting such a vivid picture. For anyone experiencing that, you CAN make a change.

    Reply
    • Hey Larry, thanks for sharing. Yeah, you reminded me about how being in that kind of low energy would attract more of the same in a twisted self-fulfilling prophecy! And I’m a big proponent of meditation as part of the healing process with ourselves.

      Blessings,
      Amyra

      Reply
  6. You are a strong person. We have all had moments when we felt rejected by someone that attracted us. You have learned consider other real possibilities to the rejection that we dread.

    I am sure that education came with a price but you are living your life now for yourself and for others rather than running in fear.

    You touched on a key thought in the second to last paragraph. The man may have merely been preoccupied rather than disdainful. Most people spend their days thinking about themselves rather than you.

    That fact may horrify many but ii is actually liberating. Life is lived best when it is lived fully. You are free to share your life with loved ones that care about you rather than strangers that judge you.

    Thank you, Amyrah, for writing this post.

    Reply
    • David – thanks for your kind words.

      Indeed, as humans we tend to judge others too quickly and usually it is in defence of our own woundedness. I remember one of the most shocking things someone pointed out to me was, “People are not talking or thinking about you as much as you think.” It highlighted the sickness of the mind, the tendency to over-focus and make complex something that is quite neutral.

      Blessings,
      Amyra

      Reply
  7. Thanks for the story. I’ve noticed people who avoid eye contact and it’s caused me to think about what to do. Your suggestion of loving thoughts is where I’ll start.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Peter. I’m happy to hear that!

      Love,
      Amyra

      Reply
  8. Thanks for your advice, but i seem to be shy with people who are loud dominate but yet really insecure with themselves. I choose my battles and friebds! I wiuld rather be content by myself tgan be around unhealthy people. When i am teching or at work it appears i have more respect from my peers. I guess my values are different. I do nit talk trash or get involved in marrued or women i wirk with, never a good ending, i akso believe it is ok for me to pick who i want to talk to and when i want to takk yo them. Thanks

    Reply
  9. WOW! I love love love this. I’ve previously been the person avoiding others yet when I experienced it from the other side I thought again that it was me. You just gave me that mind shift that I desperately needed. Thank you! :)

    Reply
    • Thank you, April. Love to you xxx

      Reply
  10. Excellent story. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that. I can certainly relate to parts of it myself.

    Reply
  11. Amyra,
    Your post is so inspiring and easy to connect with.
    Lately I’ve been noticing how much I worry about people’s thoughts and behaviors. I always wonder what the person was thinking when they made eye contact with me or how they perceive me. I mean everyone has to wonder at some point, right?
    Well not only do I rely too much on other’s opinions but the constant worrying holds me back. The curiosity always leads me to some negative conclusion; much like the four ladies did. Your post definitely helped me have a new perspective and I’ll be thinking back to it often!

    Reply
    • Hi Gaby, rhank you for writing that.

      Big love to you xxx

      Reply

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