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Sometimes someone says something about you that ping-pongs in your head. Whether you agree with the statement or not, you can’t stop thinking about it. It’s like being caught in a revolving door with no way out and no emergency button. Over and over you hear the words, and over and over you experience the emotions associated with it.
That statement for me? “You look too comfortable to be taken seriously. You’re young and cute and I don’t think people see you as an authority figure.”
Now this statement is false. At least for most of the people I interact with at my job, or any other job.
But this person is high up on the food chain of administration, and I’d heard similar things from them before. Which means in ten years, their perception of me has not changed. That’s what rankles.
What agitates me more is that their perception of me is possibly tainting the others in administration because of their strong influence in the community. Now, I’ll have to work three times as hard to prove myself to everyone…
Or do I? Do I even care?
I love my job and it’s my goal to affect small changes before I leave. However, I don’t want to be promoted much more within higher ed because I would lose contact with students—the only reason I’m still in the field.
I don’t look up to this person because our beliefs are counterbalanced. While their passion is palpable, they are too old school to allow true forward thinking (also part of the culture of the school).
I know for sure that I am more interested in keeping my day job to satisfy my passion for helping students, while leaving my nights open for my family and other business ventures. Which means, I am where I want to be. I am controlling my own success.
Still the words are rattling around in my brain and frustrating me.
Okay, we’ve talked about the fact that I’m a grudge holder. It took me nine years to forgive this person for the last thing they said about me. Nine years! I refuse to give this nonsense nine years of my life.
Get out of my head!
Letting people take up space in your head, especially with false statements, serves to do nothing but drain your energy. Like a washing machine with no rinse cycle, I’ve been reliving their words. Not processing or unpacking them. Reliving them.
Finally, I had enough. I realized I’m dealing with my perfectionism; needing everyone to see me as competent and capable. And they are viewing me from their belief that the clothes make the man…
Never mind that we work at a university and literal rocket scientists wear jeans and khaki shorts. The place is crawling with PhDs who do amazing things on a daily basis all while wearing casual clothing.
My point? What was said is not worth taking up space in my head.
And in reality—in my heart hearts—I really don’t care. I was offended, but I am not invested in caring about or changing how that person sees me.
When dealing with this situation, I had to ask myself a few questions.
Is there some truth to the statement?
Sometimes there can be a nugget of truth in the statement even if it’s largely false or unkind. Be objective, take the emotional stinger out, and really unpack the statement. Is there any truth to it?
A friend once called me judgmental. It hurt like hell and it was a prelude to a small break in our friendship. But you know what? At the time, she was right, and I have since changed my ways.
Is this person’s opinion worth my time?
Do you respect the person? Are they doing something you are aspiring to? Do they have a skill-set that you are trying to hone? Basically, you want to decide if what they said is worth thinking about by deciding if it’s beneficial to you in any way. If they are just snarky and mean, or constantly negative or jealous, it’s not worth your energy. Was the statement constructive criticism or personal bias?
Whether I like the person or not, will this statement help propel me toward the next phase of my life?
What was said is largely false. Obviously, I wouldn’t wear tennis to a meeting with Deans and Vice Provosts. Just as I know how to code switch, I know how to dress to impress.
However, it was helpful in reminding me about something on my to do list. I have been thinking about my personal brand lately. If I ever want to do webinars, or end up touring when my book is published, I need to think about my brand, aka, my clothing choices. While I never thought tennis would be suitable, I do need to think about my personal style because since I had Monster, I don’t have one.
Why am I investing time on this?
Figure out which trigger that emotional stinger pricked. Was it a blow to your pride? Did it strike one your insecurities? For me, it was my self-image. There aren’t any flashy words I would use to describe myself. I’m not hot, alluring, or sultry. I’m not a genius or exciting. Instead, I am pretty, competent, intelligent, and tenacious. This person called into question my competence using my looks as their rational. Young, cute, and comfortable. That’s what upset me.
Process and let it go!
Okay, so words were said, feelings were disturbed, and for a brief time, a jerk-face lived in your brain. Process it and let it go. And if they move back in, repeat the steps and let it go again. Then evict them from your head.
No one is allowed to take up space in your head without permission. If it’s not for your betterment, it’s to your detriment. So, change the locks or hire a guard, but don’t allow squatters space in your head.