Why an Upset is a Good Reset

22 comments

in Personal Growth

Last week, I had a bit of an upset. Two things happened that derailed my good cheer and caused me to question the value of what I am doing. When you hear what they are, you will probably laugh because they are so, so minor in the grand scheme of things. But, I know you’ve been there too and will understand what I’m talking about.

First, I made a really embarrassing public mistake by misidentifying someone.

It was, of course, totally unintentional but I felt absolutely terrible about it. Fortunately, the person involved found it hilarious. I’m pretty sure we are now bonded for life over the incident.

However, at the time I was going through the first few minutes of the experience, it was excruciating. I was mortified. It was like one of those near-death experiences where your life flashes in front of your eyes but, instead of my life, every embarrassing mistake I had ever made flashed before my eyes.

  • Like the time I told a gruff judge I was working for that a certain lawyer was a real stinker – only to later discover I had identified the wrong lawyer – after the judge had chewed him out in court.
  • Or, the time I told my boss a piece of legislation was stupid and antiquated, only to discover she had helped draft it.
  • Or, the time I mentioned to a woman I was having lunch with that a certain guy had been flirting with me and he really wasn’t my type, only to remember on the way home that she had once dated this guy for years.

Ouch.

The second thing that happened is something that happens to all bloggers on a regular basis.

Someone unsubscribed from my subscriber list and felt compelled to leave a comment as to why they were unsubscribing. In short, the person said my work was, “boring.”

I looked at that word for a long time. I wondered why someone would take the time to say such an unkind thing. After all, they could have just unsubscribed and we could have parted ways gently and kindly.

Every person who works hard at their craft – whether that is writing, painting, or repairing cars – hopes their work will be appreciated and well-received, if not adored. If it is not, we tell ourselves that the person expressing the negative opinion is not one of our “tribe.”

Logically, this makes sense.

But, in those tender, vulnerable parts of ourselves where we question on a daily basis whether we are adding value, creating beauty, or helping someone, unkind words can land like a heavy stone.

Which was exactly how I felt. Like someone had thrown a stone. That “stone” caused a ripple effect where I wondered what I was doing, did anybody care, was I on the right path, was I really helping anyone.

And, I didn’t feel like writing another word.

Ouch.

At this point in my narrative, you are either laughing at the high drama surrounding these two minor incidents or wondering about my sanity. I hope it is the former.

After getting some distance and perspective, I know I was gifted with two great learning experiences.

First, “shit happens” as we used to say in law school.

It is how you deal with it that makes the difference. You can either crawl into a hole and never come out. Or, you can stand up and look for the opportunity in a situation.

In making my mistake, I chose to look at the opportunity it presented – the opportunity to get to know someone much better than I would have otherwise because we will always share this moment.

Second, the opinions of others do not belong to you.

Opinions can be instructive and well-intentioned or damaging and mean-spirited. In either case, we get to choose our learnings from them.

My learning from my unsubscribed subscriber is that perhaps, there is a grain of truth in the comment; otherwise, it would not have touched me so deeply. It is something for me to explore and consider as I continue to write, define my purpose, and build my business.

So there you have the whole sorry saga.

Once in a while, we need to be shaken up a bit. It’s the upset that gives us the opportunity to reevaluate or reset our thinking, perceptions, and understanding of ourselves.

Have you had a good upset lately?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita@thissortaoldlife.com February 16, 2012 at

Oh my friend, I know just how you were feeling. Been there, done that. Numerous times. Like you, I’ve come to realize that the best thing to do about it is usually nothing. Some distance is the best medicine. So glad you took it and haven’t thrown in the towel, because your words are not boring to me.

Haven’t had the pleasure of any real negative response to our blog yet. I say “pleasure” because I think that once you reach a certain level of success, such an experience is inevitable. And like you, I think it’s ultimately valuable. Wrote my own take on why criticism is good (based on my years in writing workshops) recently: http://www.thissortaoldlife.com/2012/02/10/if-you-cant-say-something-nicely/ .
Still, even years of toughened up skin can feel the sting of rejection. Always gets us, doesn’t it?

Good thing we have our tribes to bolster us.
Rita@thissortaoldlife.com recently posted..Bathroom Update: Plumbing done!(We think.)

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Andrea Olson February 16, 2012 at

Dearest Rita – I loved your take on criticism and so, so grateful that you are part of my tribe. :)

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Ronna February 16, 2012 at

It’s hardly a “sorry saga.” It’s a truth. Dealing with our own mistakes…and our own fears and insecurities. Endless stuff, really. A saga, to be sure; but not sorry. For it’s in acknowledging these mistakes, these fears, these insecurities that we diffuse them of their power. You have done this beautifully and more, in so doing, have invited us to do the same. More beauty. More power. More truth. Well done.

And much appreciated.

Oh, and I promise if I ever unsubscribe from you that I will give you some “it’s-me-not-you” reason.
Ronna recently posted..don’t sing with the chorus…

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Andrea Olson February 16, 2012 at

You’ve got me laughing, Ronna … “it’s-me-not-you” reason? Perfect.

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Nikki February 16, 2012 at

Hello darling,

My reactions to your two upsets… the first, SO easily done, and really not something to beat yourself up about (and the other examples you gave – ouch! I could feel your embarrassment, but we have ALL sooo been there!)

The second, my mouth actually dropped open. I didn’t find that either amusing or you insane for getting upset over a comment like that. What kind of a person would type something like that? Absolutely not someone who belongs anywhere near your tribe of loving, supportive followers. Let me at ‘em! (Said in “Scrappy” from Scooby Doo voice)

Love ya, love the way you write, love your authenticity, love the way you’re helping me find my way.

Don’t stop what you’re doing. If anything, write MORE. *Big hug*

Nikki ~
xoxo
Nikki recently posted..expansive, selective love

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Andrea Olson February 16, 2012 at

Nikki, I am so lucky to have an extraordinary woman like you as part of my tribe. Thank you, thank you for your kind words!

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Nicole Castro February 16, 2012 at

Andrea, it’s those criticisms that make us stronger. Whether you believe the criticism to be valid or not, it makes us want to be better. I hear criticism all the time. I hear it from family, kids, friends, and instructors. Sometimes I do get upset over it, because I do take it a little too personal, but then I recover and shove my success down their throats. You are an amazing woman and I do enjoy reading your thoughts. If I were really brave I would actually put your insight into action, but I admit I can be a little bit of a coward. Job well done!

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Andrea Olson February 16, 2012 at

My dear Nicole … Given how busy you are, you have no idea how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Brave?? Why of course you are. Don’t ever forget it.

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Jesse February 16, 2012 at

Andrea,

There are inherent risks in putting yourself out there. Kudos to you for doing so even when you know the risks.

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Andrea Olson February 17, 2012 at

Thanks, Jesse! I know you get it!

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Sandi Amorim February 16, 2012 at

Oh my word, I so get the upset. Like when a good friend unsubscribed or knowing that my husband rarely reads my blog or noticing that so many people I know have been interviewed by a certain someone and I wonder why they haven’t contacted ME for an interview. Sigh.

It’s always about me (learning) or it’s never about me (objectivity), the first is usually easier for me! And as someone once said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Sandi Amorim recently posted..A Feast for the Senses

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Andrea Olson February 17, 2012 at

Oh my. As usual, Sandi, you have made me smile. Thank you for sharing your own upsets!

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Jackie Walker February 16, 2012 at

Jings, I just tried imagining you not writing, I couldn’t!

Last year I had an excrutiatingly painful communication from a client I’d bent over backwards for. I recognised that they were showing me something in myself which wasn’t helping me, so in retrospect it ended up being a gift. It allowed me to really identify those I wanted to work with, and I was grateful that they identified themselves as not one of my kind of people. Now the process of weeding them out early on is in my hands!

Keep weeding, keep smiling, keep writing, we love you :)
Jackie Walker recently posted..Being Me Interview – Deb Hawken

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Andrea Olson February 17, 2012 at

Thank you, thank you, Jackie! I appreciate your advice and kind words so much. Yes, there is a gift in every upset if only we pause to look for it. Love you back!

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Currie Silver February 17, 2012 at

It really did my heart good to read this, Andrea. NOT that my heart needed to feel the deep sadness. No, it reminded me how easily I put others on hallowed ground. How many assumptions I make that make either ME or OTHERS unique.

There is such remarkable encouragement woven within your post. Such deep acknowledgement that we’re all just DOing our very best, despite evidence that implies otherwise.

I’ve noticed [mostly with astonishment at every turn] YOUR depth of feeling.
Always.
In every post.
Every response.

And yet it’s almost second nature for me to have you “up there” and BEyond falling into such upsets…

Thank you for this post and the many facets of its message. You are amazing.

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Andrea Olson February 17, 2012 at

Bless you, Currie, for your insights and the depth of your reflection. What you have noticed is so important … we all really do put our pants on the same way – one leg at a time. :)

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Sue Mitchell February 17, 2012 at

We’ve all been there! Thanks for sharing these feelings so we all can feel normal for having them. :)

For me, the criticism that stings the most is either things I was secretly thinking about myself already or stuff that I know is so completely off base that I actually feel wronged by it. Boring would get to me too because I do worry about being boring. Everyone else seems so clever and imaginative, while I feel pedantic and dull!

I had a teacher friend who used to tell students who complained his class was boring, “You’re boring.” Not the most compassionate pedagogical technique, LOL, but truly, people who complain of boredom probably aren’t inquisitive, curious and full of wonder, and who wants to hang out with people who lack those traits? Surely not me!
Sue Mitchell recently posted..A Juggler’s Guide to Creating Time for Creativity

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Andrea Olson February 17, 2012 at

“People who complain of boredom probably aren’t inquisitive, curious, and full of wonder…” I love that, Sue. The perfect reminder for us all. Thank you for chiming in on my saga. Much appreciated. :)

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Vanessa Vinos February 18, 2012 at

Wow! the second incident was just plain nasty. I try and live by the mantra “if you can’t say something kind, don’t say anything”. I guess blogging does leave us quite vulnerable to these types of comments, and because our blogs are usually an extension of ourselves, it becomes quite personal when someone makes such a comment. I think the word “boring” is a word we fear being directed at us in ANY context; by a boyfriend, a friend, a colleague, a blogger…….the list goes on. Maybe you can do a post on why that word is so painful for everybody (or at least most people ) ;-)
At the end of the day, if that is the core of the person who left the comment, you don’t want them following you anyway. You have nothing in common ;-)

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Andrea Olson February 18, 2012 at

My mantra is the same which is why something like that comment always surprises me. I love your suggestion on the post … I’m mulling it over. :) Thanks for your support, my friend!

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Lorrie Jones February 27, 2012 at

How did I miss this? I have just read your post, Andrea, and I feel a sense of “Ahhh” in my core. A dear friend and a person I admire and learn from greatly is like I am: confident and professional AND tender and human. I feel validated. I also feel “seen” as the person I am – by you sharing your experience – and the small but painful hurts that have occured in my life don’t have such an alone feeling to them anymore. Amazing what a little truth and sharing the truth can do for others! Thank you for this and for reminding me that it is ok to feel embarrassed and important to learn from everything and everyone.

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Andrea Olson February 28, 2012 at

What a beautiful comment, Lorrie! You are definitely not alone. We are all in this together. Thank you!

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