Our interpretation is everything
Interpretation is everything. A situation is never stressful, hurtful, positive, or negative until we interpret it in that way. I remember sitting in my Stress and Coping course in university and hearing this statement by Hans Selye for the first time and it all coming together. “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” So true!
Think of a time when you felt threatened by a situation, then told someone else about it, overreacting as you explained, for them to simply look at you wondering why it was a big deal in the first place. How annoying, right?! Well this is why the above statement rings true. Our reaction and interpretation of situations makes it stressful, happy, exciting, or upsetting. One’s own confidence, past experiences, and mood are just a few things that can interact to lead us to the resulted reaction.
I was speaking with my friend recently discussing how we have a mutual friend who has a tendency to see the negative and spin situations down a dark path. We both recognized that we too have had similar struggles in the past but somehow were able to interpret and react completely differently. We are all different and as a result a variety of situations can set some of us off but leave others unfazed. To be honest, it has only been in recent years that I have gotten better at reacting and interpreting situations differently. If you are like me you have a tendency to put your guard up and become defensive when you feel situations become threatening. Today I wanted to share my few learnings about how I have begun to best manage my reactions and interpretations of situations so I can focus my energy on those instances that truly need me.
Check yourself. If something is threatening you, ask yourself why. Are you insecure about something? Sometimes when we feel taken aback by someone’s words or comments it is because it hits a sensitive spot within us. We all have insecurities and usually those are the things that cause us to get our nose out of joint and react in certain ways.
Feedback doesn’t always have to be negative. Being in the career I am in, clients and superiors are constantly evaluating and assessing my performance. I have definitely looked at the online reviews of my classes (not always recommended haha). I used to be very defensive when being evaluated because I was confident in my abilities. Now, I have learned that no matter how much experience you have feedback will only make you better. I now accept feedback with an open mind and try to take away something that I can apply to my training and teaching style.
We don’t always have to be the victim. No one should ever undermine how you are feeling. I also don’t agree with the “yes, but MY situation is worse” type of friends. However, we can sometimes spin ourselves into a spiral of interpreting situation after situation as negative and get stuck in a funk. Some situations are allowed to be negative but sometimes we can get on a roll and not see the situation from another perspective. This one is not easy but understanding that you are not alone in feeling a certain way is important. These are the times I like to listen to the advice and experience of others when I know they have experienced something similar.
Feelings don’t last forever. Whether we are on an extreme high or dark low, those feelings do not last forever. It is okay to feel all the feelings in between. But, just like I stated above in point #3, it is important to recognize when those feelings and emotions can overpower us and not allow us to clearly see the learning opportunity of the situation in front of us. If you are going through a tough time and feeling like nothing is going your way, remember that bigger and better things are coming for you. We sometimes just have to embrace the tough stuff and power through. When things are going your way, use those moments as motivation when the tough times come, because they always do.
These tools I use are by no means a way to get out of owning the situation and your reaction. We are all allowed to be upset, angry, uncomfortable and sad. Life is not always about the good vibes. However, if we can better understand ourselves it will allow us to acknowledge and feel out the more uncomfortable, challenging times. Next time you are put in a situation that tests you, remember to focus on your interpretation and reaction so we can cease every opportunity that comes our way.
Yours in self-discovery,