It’s Not You, It’s Me (Except When It’s Not Me)


Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories. – Elie Wiesel

Have you written or said something and been surprised by how others reacted? Maybe they took offense or took defense, maybe they were hurt or angered.

Or maybe something you read or heard felt like a slap to the face. Maybe it was about you and maybe it wasn’t, but you responded quickly and strongly.

I think we’ve all seen this happen. Dealing with emotions and reactions is a fact of life. We all have opinions and beliefs and that’s usually a good thing. :) But sometimes the shit hits the fan and those emotions begin flying all over the place. Feelings are hurt or arguments start because we can’t see two simple facts through all the drama.

  1. The fanned shit isn’t based on reality; it’s based on our stories, shadows of our perspectives. Stories are the things we’ve come to believe based on our experiences or the experiences of others. They aren’t 100% real because other people don’t always experience them, but they are real to us.
  2. It’s not always about you.

It’s Not You, It’s Me (Except When It’s Not Me and Is You)

I live a life based on my own beliefs. These beliefs have been shaped by my experiences and the stories I’ve developed. I speak from what I know, from my own understanding and from my own authenticity, moment to moment. I live, act and react in ways that make sense to me.

It’s about me.

Likewise, I know anything I feel about or however I react to someone else is also about me. It’s based on my own stories, my own beliefs, my own perspective. Even when I feel snappy or defensive or offended, I know it’s about me.

It’s not about you.

Moving from a place of authenticity about our own stories irons out most of the wrinkles in our messier interactions.

But even when we move from our own authenticity, we’re still bound to hurt someone’s feelings at some point, we’re likely to find ourselves within misunderstandings and despite our best intentions, and especially when we’re at our most authentic, we are going to offend others.

This doesn’t mean what you said was about them. It means how they responded isn’t about you.

Reactions are always about the reactor. Even when someone is intentionally trying to hurt or offend us, our feelings speak more about our stories than the facts of the situation. And this is true in regards to every single emotion: love, jealousy, anger, loneliness, excitement.

Beneath every reaction is a story.

Stories aren’t bad until they hold back, keep down or hurt you or others. As soon as someone feels hindered or hurt, it’s time to recognize the stories so that we can overcome them.

I’m constantly overcoming my stories. In fact the more you move toward living an organic life, the more inorganic stories you’ll be challenged to remove. (Seriously. I feel like I’m recognizing and overcoming my stories Every. Freaking. Day.)

Mine is a process with two parts:

1. Recognize Who Owns It

Every time the emotions start flying, the very first step I take is back. Before I can do anything I have to sort out my response from the other components. Walking away or holding onto my response gives me space to understand it.

Then I have to admit that my reaction is mine to own. I can’t blame or point fingers. I can’t play the victim role. I have to own it.

The same applies if someone responds to me with an exaggerated response: I have to recognize it’s not always about me, own my own reaction and allow the other person to have whatever experience they choose (by allowing them to own it or not).

Note to Self: You can’t make them own it. That’s their business. Meaning it’s not about you so butt out!

2. Dig Into It

When something virtually unrelated to me (or maybe totally related to me) rubs me the wrong way I know it’s time to question it and listen to the answers.

I know, even if I’m not ready to admit it, that it’s speaking to me (not about me) and with some truth I’m apparently resisting. Asking myself a few questions always opens me up to what is really going on:

  • Why does this bother me?
  • What other emotions is this triggering for me?
  • What is this reminding me of or what memories are associated with this?
  • What do I need to acknowledge in myself here?

Something similar can be done for others: Without judgment or assumptions we can try to understand their perspective and what shapes it. With compassion we can acknowledge where they are, have empathy for their experience and validate their reaction…all without owning it and without allowing it to own us.

Yes, owning our own stuff is uncomfortable. Digging into it can be downright excruciating. It can be a long, sometimes frustrating, process.

But knowing what makes us tick – knowing who we are and why – is crucial to liberating ourselves from the drama that surrounds us.

Keep this in mind the next time you get frustrated by your child’s words or hurt by your partner’s actions or when you read something you perceive as offensive or rude:

Only after we judge our emotions can we judge a situation.

Once you know who owns it, once you have some understanding or empathy for why it exists, only then can you move forward into finding the best way to handle it. (And that’s a process too.)

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26 Comments. Leave new

Tara, you couldn’t have posted this at a better time! At least not for me anyways. This has been something has been in the forefront of my mind the past few days. Something I’m working on. I’m SO happy you came back to your blog when you did!!

This is something I work through consistently. Not taking anything personal. When I began to live that truth, my whole world changed. It’s not always easy, especially when something seems very much about you. But the truth is we are all working through our own stories and filters just as you suggested. This is a great post. I think we all need this reminder often. Very heartfelt, thank you.

February 8, 2011 10:45 am

No, it’s rarely easy. But I’ve found the harder it is the more I needed to hear whatever the situation was saying to me!

It’s always about me, except when it’s about you. And, it’s only about you if you agree with me.

I think the older we get in this life (and I say older only if in that time-span we have lot’s of experiences with other people, so those living under the rocks can sit this out) we realize everyone is the center of their universe. We try the hardest to understand and accommodate those we love the most, and so on and so on.

Everything is perception. You are wise beyond your years miss sister.

February 8, 2011 10:46 am

“It’s always about me, except when it’s about you. And, it’s only about you if you agree with me.”

Oooh, yes! Thank you for adding it! I love it!

oh so well spoken!
Reminds me why I try to read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz each January. (which I have yet to do this year…it’s sitting on my nightstand waiting patiently)
ancient wisdom, sister. thank you.

February 8, 2011 10:49 am

I was given that book years ago but never made it past page 4. I guess I just wasn’t ready to hear it. Which I think is an important component of allowing others to own their own stuff or not…sometimes it’s about timing and it’s not usually our timing!

I might just need to get my hands on that book again. :)

That book changed my life Tiffany. I love it that you read it each year.
Tara- Didn’t I tell you and or Justin to read that?! I am almost certain I did and I thought you told me you had it at one point, but didn’t read it.
Or am I making this up? lol

Thanks so much for posting this, Tara. SO important to remember and yet so hard.

I love #2. “It’s not always about you”….I need to remind myself this on a sometimes momentary basis! – thanks!

This is the best explanation of this concept that I have EVER read, hands down. I love that your writing totally lacks any sense of judgment about the fact that we have sh*t to own in the first place. This is just brill. Bravo!

February 9, 2011 11:12 am

Thanks Rainy. This was a post that was more difficult to write. I must have done it half a dozen times and it just didn’t sound *non-judgmental*. I’m glad this one came off for you how I wished it would. :)

Freely Living Life (Angie)
February 8, 2011 12:45 pm

Beautifully written Tara! :)

I find that there are *so* many people that have very little or no self esteem out here in the world. There are far too many people that have no clue *who* they really are as individuals. From my experience, it’s often these people that take things to heart and, right away, assume that it’s ALL about them (meaning something that has been said or written). The best way to overcome this is to build solid confidence about who you really are. With that confidence (your *rock*) comes self esteem (also essential). And with self esteem comes a back bone to truly *OWN* your every emotion. :)

Thank you for, once again, for pouring your wisdom onto the pages for all to absorb and for allowing us to express our opinions and experiences as well!


February 9, 2011 11:15 am

Oh definitely, a feeling of confidence needs to happen. But I feel like it’s a by-product. We can’t *make* confidence happen…we just have to figure out what’s in our way of feeling that natural confidence that comes with moving from a place of authenticity. KWIM?

Wow! I just found your blog, can’t even remember how now. But I just found it and I have to say YOU speak my language.

Thanks so much

Maurie Kirschner
February 8, 2011 3:53 pm

So very well put!


and yes.

and yes.

■Why does this bother me?
■What other emotions is this triggering for me?
■What is this reminding me of or what memories are associated with this?
■What do I need to acknowledge in myself here?

wow tara. these questions are HUGE!!!

so much to chew on in this post.

thank you.

Great points! It brings to mind, though, a positive example of same:

When my husband cradles my face in his hand, I feel loved. It really isn’t about him, it is about me watching a lot of soap operas with my grandmother when I was little and cradling the face in the hand = love has become one of my stories. :-)

It can be hard to pause before reacting, but we can definitely be more true to ourselves if we give ourselves that chance!

February 9, 2011 11:17 am

Oh yes. Stories aren’t all bad. Only when they start getting in our way should be start asking why. :)

It has taken me years to get a grip on this, and even understanding this doesn’t mean I can catch it all the time and breath in between the spaces of emotion and rationale. Great post!

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February 9, 2011 11:18 am

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by anitackaiser, Rachel Sayers. Rachel Sayers said: RT @organicsister It’s Not You, It’s Me (Except When It’s Not Me) / so insightful! THANKS!! […]

A very very true post. Thank you. I must save this for next week’s Sunday Surf.
It is something I have been dealing with hard on last week, as I was all alone on an apartment 24/7 with my 2y8mo old… It’s not her, it’s me… And it’s indeed about the past shit.

You always seem to talk about what I am experiencing. I’ve been faced with not playing the victim and owning my own shit for a year. It’s heart-wrenching/crushing/breaking (ahem yes, all three), but ultimately, freeing. Thank you for the reminder.

ahh, mindfulness. I would be lost in my self without it ;)

Thankyou for this post. It is very timely for me. I am really trying to notice my tendancy to stories & how it affects my interactions, particularly with my children. One day this week, I ignored a call (as my son had arrived home)from my mother who I was feeling annoyed about a request she was making. I managed to blow this up as a full blown story in my head whilst putting the kids to bed. My eldest (daughter) said, mummy why are you being all horrible & stressy with me know since Brother came home. That really pulled me up short & changed my wallowing in story. Esp as she thought it was due to her brother coming home! Do not want that sort of sibling issue! Thank you again. Jacs x

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