it's Not ABout Me
“It’s not about me”
In the end ‘it’ is always about you. That’s my hypothesis… “it’s not about me”, however, as a mantra or as a phrase, is a helpful way to re-focus. The detrimental effects of failing to question your role at the centre of any situation manifests in three ways: you might hurt other people, you may be more hurt by other people, and you may miss out on being part of a collective.
On a subconscious level, what you see and how you behave is, invariably, a reflection of what matters to you - so, even making choices about the welfare of other people is something that, at the end of the day, is something you did for yourself. Choosing to do work of any kind, no matter how altruistic, is always about you.
Even in friendships, this level of awareness is important. It’s naive and unrealistic and destructive to abdicate responsibility for your part in a situation, and the sustainability of this scenario is VERY limited … trustworthiness decreases along with the ability to form long-term relationships and reciprocal relationships, which in turn limits your ability to develop yourself.
“It’s not about me” could be extended to cover actions, often poor ones, that you experience at the hands of others: if someone yells at you, maybe it’s not about you; this person is simply reacting to a situation and reflecting back what matters to them. However, if their yelling affects you, then you need to accept the conundrum. While their response may not be about you, your response to their response definitely is... because if you didn’t care, those comments may not affect you in the same way.
“It’s not about you” isn’t so much a truth, then… it’s just a way of re-focusing your energy and attention, acknowledging the other factors that may be at play in a situation.
The popularly held belief that Gen Y’ers are typically ‘all about me’ reveals some interesting aspects of our cultures tendency towards individualism, however. Approval, appreciation, credit, self-focus and self-determination are the back-bone of our modern society; an attitude enabled by the internet and social media. Even careers are taking the ‘all about me’ route - it’s becoming perfectly normal for individuals to change careers multiple times, because personal fulfilment is prioritised above commitment or loyalty. And many web based careers are "all about me".
Similarly, one could argue that divorce rates (48,517 in Australia in 2015) are also an indication that we’re moving towards a ‘ME’ society… divorce rates were lower in the past, not because people were happier or because marriage was easier, but because back then there was far less acceptability surrounding making decisions based solely on the preferences, conveniences, (and even the safety) of one person.
Capitalism represents the first world's propagation of individualism. With this individualism and power comes responsibility, which is perhaps something we lack. The understanding of the impact of funnelling everything through the SELF-filter is vital. A hyper-focus on individualism can present as a person who is incredibly entitled or reactive.
However, to return to the subconscious for a moment - the tendency towards placing yourself and your needs at the centre of everything tends to reflect itself in a kind of personalisation; a psychological term that describes the tendency for an individual to see themselves at the centre, or as the root cause, of other people’s behaviours towards them. If you presume you are of paramount importance, you immediately place yourself at the centre of the choices that others are making around you.
In terms of political and philosophical discourse, we’re observing a push towards the individual account and individual experience as a means of justifying observations. The individual and their experience of their reality is now just as relevant, if not more, than the group. If we’re all equally valid then there are too many competing valid experiences to ever reach consensus, which in many regards stunts the ability for a society to behave cohesively, or move forward together.
On the other hand, the decision to step back potentially creates opportunities to connect. One of the key elements of removing your ego from your decision making is re-focusing to think about long-term gain, as opposed to immediate gratification, which is something our society is geared towards. It’s about asking, “why do I want to do this? If I don’t get what I want right now, what will happen? Will getting what I want right now be good in the bigger picture?”
Even taking a further step back and attempting to identify why you might want something is a way of breaking down decisions even more: the ‘you’ that you are gratifying might be just one element of you, say the part of you that wants emotional support, or financial satisfaction, or even validation. By learning to understand your decision making, you’re employing a level of critical thought that will, in turn, likely lead to making better decisions for you as a whole human being, decisions that take into account the impact your choices might have on others. It’s a shift away from the internal and towards understanding the balance of the bigger picture, and even potentially delayed gratification. (Besides, you don’t always get to choose…)
This idea that we’re the sole creators or destroyers of our own lives is quite untrue - circumstantially this isn't possible, due to physical spaces, accessibility, inherited factors, privilege, environment…the list is exhaustive.
Whoever is hurting you probably doesn’t understand you completely, so the thing they’re reacting against is probably aimed at a very specific part of your behaviour rather than YOU. This is the basis of the "your behaviour made me upset", rather than it being about you as a vulnerable human being. Knowing who you are, knowing that you are bigger than individual behaviours, may help you take things less personally, but also make it easier to take responsibility for the behaviours that go wrong- because they are NOT you, they're just something you did.
As you gain perspective, experience and understanding, you begin to potentially gain empathy. The more empathic you are, the better your understanding of where you and someone else collide, and the more likely you are to come up with a successful solution. At the end of the day, that’s why empathy is so important: It’s not just about being nice, it’s about finding ways to safely find solutions.
The final element, that of being part of a collective by delaying your personal gratification, is an interesting one, and a process that ironically ends up fulfilling your own needs as well as meeting that of the group. A big part of saying ‘it’s not about me’ is choosing consciously to be valuable to a group of people to impact something larger than yourself. It also involves accepting that you have something of value to offer, something that will affect other people, and that you believe you are capable of achieving. Surely that makes you feel good about being you.
The group, in theory, does the same thing for you. In a group of 50, for example, rather than one person, i.e. yourself, doing good things by yourself, in this collective in theory, if everyone is doing good things, you have 50 people doing good things for you, therefore increasing "what's in it for you" 50 fold!
Knowing that we can’t ignore ourselves in our decision making is powerful, however - it’s not about trying to throw yourself and your own needs out the window. Rather, it’s a process in which you understand realistically how you interact with your larger space, and understanding the positive reinforcement that sustaining yourself and the collective can achieve.
It is always "about you". Knowing that is empowering, because then you get to choose what you do with that knowledge. You are capable of achieving value, and you are okay just the way you are... And if you don't think that, YOU need to work out why...