Fortuitously, just as I had set “Relationships as Mirrors” as the week’s meaning experiment, another difficult person showed up in my life this very week.
A week or so before, I had received a phone call from a dissatisfied parent of a child I teach. I won’t go into all the details, but suffice to say that this parent was angry at their child, but misplaced that anger onto me. I have found this happens more often than I though possible in teaching. In this case, the student involved had failed to take responsibility for their organisation and I was blamed for putting this responsibility on the student in the first place. It is becoming increasingly alarming at the declining standards of self sufficiency that we can witness in 16 and 17 year olds today.
This phone call was angry, rude and inappropriate. I felt angry at the audacity of this parent and their completely misplaced sense of entitlement to my time. I felt victimised and a sense of “why does this always happen to me?”. And yet, while it was happening, and then in the days afterward, my wise self was prompting me to discover what I could learn about myself from this conversation.
I pondered this on and off, and in a serious attempt to answer these questions, created this as the star topic of the week’s meaning experiment. And then, as if to remind me of just how important these questions really are, I received an email from another angry and disgruntled parent. This one was even more ludicrous than the last complaint, if that is even possible. Just to give you the side story, in an attempt to keep all parents informed, I send regular emails to all the parents of my students, updating them on their child’s assessment results. In these emails I also outline what more students can do to improve their results and their revision habits. Anyway, this particular parent thought my email was too negative, and went to some length to try and put me in my place.
The key here isn’t the actual content of the email (or phone call), because in hindsight it seems clear that they have little to do with me or what I’m doing right or wrong. In fact, because both of these communications were so ridiculous, they are all the more effective as mirrors for my life.
In relationships, whether close friendships or mere acquaintances, it can be difficult to see what is acting as a mirror and what might actually be of real concern. When you are trying to find what you can learn about yourself from those you are closest to, it becomes a far more difficult task due to the emotions and love involved. While those you are closest to are likely to teach you the greatest things about yourself, it will take years to decipher what you see in these mirrors.
When you reflect on what you see coming from a casual acquaintance, the lesson can be determined in a matter of days.
Since I had set the intention to discover what lessons I could learn from these sorts of interactions with parents, it is not really surprising that I had two such encounters within a matter of weeks. When you are ready to learn, you’ll find more opportunities to do so.
As I analysed what I was feeling, it was obvious that both situations made me feel enormously angry and also extremely disappointed in myself. While at first it felt that I was angry with these parents, really I was angry at myself. While I felt angry at their sense of entitlement to my time and their audacity in telling me how I should be doing my job, I was more angry with myself for letting these communications ruin my day, permeate my thoughts and waste hours of my time. I was disappointed with their immature behaviour and lack of self reflection, yet I was more disappointed in myself for expending so much energy reflecting on their criticism, energy I never expend on the dozens of grateful and supportive emails I receive from parents all the time.
So ultimately, what did these two communications mirror to me? I can see that I am not 100% committed to myself, and am still too easily influenced by the words of others. I still lack security and self belief in who I am and what I want to achieve. Most of all, I still have a way to go in eliminating from my life those people and situations that hinder my path forward. Although many would find this hard to believe, I struggle greatly with saying “no” to what I don’t want, out of a sense of obligation and loyalty.
When these people come into my life and treat me disrespectfully, it is a reminder to me that I am doing the same to myself every time I deny what I need and what I truly want. As I begin to choose, more and more, situations and people that enhance my sense of joy and fulfillment, and turn away from any scenario that draws me in merely from a sense of obligation, then these types of negative and disrespectful communications will disappear from my life. I know this to be true because it has happened many times before.
When you’re ready to decipher the mirrors in your relationships, all you need to do is intend to find out all you can learn. It is likely that you’ll encounter further similar situations arising in your life, all as a way to help you learn your lessons more rapidly.
Focus on what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Ask yourself “Do I also treat myself in this negative way?”, and you will find that these relationships are doing to you what you do to yourself on a daily basis.
Consciously determine how you can begin to change, through your everyday choices, the way you treat yourself. Choose the situations and people that best enhance who you want to be and you will see the negative relationships slowly dissolve from your life.