Do you have a recurring theme in your life? If you can’t think of one, ask a good friend to point one out for you. I’m sure there’s something that keeps coming up over and over again.
Of course, your pattern may seem so normal that you don’t even recognize it as anything out of the ordinary. You may assume this sort of thing happens to everyone -- and that everyone reacts in exactly the same way you do. (That’s why working with a coach can be so helpful!)
Why even bother looking for your recurring themes? Because they typically are perfect opportunities for you to choose to respond differently. When you do, you’ll be able to see, close up, what a big difference your response to a given situation makes.
For example, a wonderful woman I know recently revealed an interesting -- and pretty common -- pattern: She hates it when people speak disrespectfully to her.
For example, one of the people she supervises at work had been speaking disrespectfully to her, so she pulled him aside for a little chat that began, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again...”
She had a similar experience while helping a friend set up for a big event. The guy who was running the show was speaking disrespectfully not just to the woman I know, but to all of the vendors who had paid to be a part of the event. This woman simply wasn’t going to tolerate the guy’s disrespectful behavior. She gave him a real earful.
This woman also attracted a similar “don’t take that tone with me” experience with her teenage daughter recently.
The beauty of this pattern is that it’s relatively easy to change.
Until now, this woman, like many people, has chosen to speak up for herself and tell the other person that his or her behavior is inappropriate. Many self-help experts recommend this course of action. And there’s no right or wrong way to react here.
But the thing is: We can’t change other people -- not our children, not our employees and certainly not people who’ve made a lifetime career out of being a jerk.
But there is one thing we can change: We can change our reaction to them.
The goal in this sort of situation -- and in all situations, really -- is to love yourself. When you feel grounded and centered in self-love, you no longer “need” the respect (or approval or recognition or what-have-you) of other people. And when you don’t need anything from others, you are truly self-empowered.
So how would this woman react differently if she didn’t feel as if she needed other people’s respect? She certainly wouldn’t demand respect from them.
Instead, she could turn the other cheek. That is, she could see the “offending” person as doing the best he or she is able to do at the moment. She could choose not to react, but instead let the offending comment or attitude slide. In other words, she could rise above the circumstances.
Now, respect is a hot-button issue for this woman. So it may take two or three or four tries for her to really rise above this sort of situation and not have a knee-jerk reaction to the “provocation.”
But it’s worth the effort, because each time she notices what’s happening and sees it as nothing more than a pattern that keeps repeating, she is taking back some of her personal power. She’s recognizing that how she reacts -- and how she feels in any and all situations -- is her choice, not something that’s dictated by external circumstances. And that truly is what self-love and self-empowerment is all about.