Home > Relationships, Uncategorized > Choose Your Feelings, Let Others Choose Theirs

Choose Your Feelings, Let Others Choose Theirs



No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I used to believe that I was responsible for the feelings of others.  This belief led me to make a lot of choices I would end up regretting. I once let a woman I worked with borrow my most favorite sundress for a weekend, even though I knew she was irresponsible with other people’s things.  It was one of those moments where I knew I was going against my better judgment, but I allowed her to borrow it anyway because I wanted her to think I trusted her–I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.  I let a few weeks pass before I asked about my dress (again, I didn’t want to seem too anxious and risk making her feel bad).  She told me someone had stolen it from the locker room at her gym. Looking back, I can see that I had neglected to consider the only person whose feelings I could totally control: me.

Today this situation would have gone down much differently, I would have considered my own feelings first and let my co-worker down gently and without reservation.  I might still have that sundress today, too.  It was super cute.  In the time since the sundress debacle, I have discovered that the people I have tried the hardest to please, ended up being the people who either didn’t notice my efforts or never seemed satisfied by them—and my efforts to please always cost me my own happiness. It was a lose-lose situation. I now know that if I attempt to please myself first, at least one person comes away happy.

I also learned why I believed I could control the feelings of others: I believed that other people had the power to control my feelings.  If that really hot guy called then I felt wanted, if a friend complimented me on my appearance, I felt validated and if someone cancelled plans with me at the last minute I felt crushed. I realize now that I am fully responsible for my own feelings and that means I get to decide how to interpret the actions and words of others and how I react to them.  While a compliment is always nice to hear, it can only be fully appreciated if I believed it before it came out of the other person’s mouth. I have to compliment myself first.  The same goes for a cutting remark, if I harbor any mean thoughts toward myself, I am likely to take a critical comment personally and turn it into a judgment against me—what I already think about myself is what I’ll see mirrored back to me in the other person’s remarks. My work is to clean up the unkind thoughts about myself so that the compliments resonate and the non-constructive criticisms do not.

When I started looking out for my own feelings, I stopped looking to others to make me feel good about myself—I let everyone off the hook.  I happen to know not everyone is pleased with the my-feelings-first approach, but those who aren’t also happen to be the very same people who weren’t pleased when I tried so hard to make them feel happy in the past.  Go figure.  The good news is that they are free to choose their own thoughts about what it means when I put my feelings first, that’s their responsibility and I am so okay with that. I get to enjoy authentic connections with people because I’m not trying to manipulate anyone’s feelings, the pressure is off. By honoring my feelings first I’m encouraging others to honor their feelings first, too—whether they do or do not is completely up to them.

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  1. Lani
    February 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Awesome post Em!! I will keep your points in mind!

  2. Sharon
    February 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    so true that no one can make anyone feel something, it’s what we allow ourselves to feel.

    when we feel something, it’s because someone is touching on our achilles heal, otherwise we’d say, F-you. and if we were to unintentionally hurt someone, it’s b/c we’re making them look in the mirror.

    great post, thanks, emiko!

  3. February 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Lani, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    Sharon, right!

    And what we allow ourselves to BELIEVE controls how we feel.

    If someone gave me a tongue-lashing, for example, I’d have to check in with myself to see what, if anything, the person is saying that resonates with me–if there’s some constructive feedback in there, I can recognize it b/c the tongue-lasher will more than likely offer some sort of a suggestion to help me improve (that’s helpful), if, however, the words coming at me offer no constructive feedback and are clearly malicious, it will most likely just be unpleasant and there will be no useful exchange of info. If I feel crappy in that case, I really need to find where I’m being that critical of and malicious to myself. If it doesn’t resonate at all with me, I will more than likely be personally unaffected and realize that they have an unresolved issue that has nothing to do with me–I’m just the warm body that happened to get in front of their words. If someone angrily insisted, for example, that I was an 8′ tall orange man, I might think that an odd statement (and kinda funny), but it wouldn’t resonate with me. It would be hard for me to take a statement that I believe is false, seriously. I would be curious to know how that person was treating themselves like an 8′ tall orange man 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!

  4. Mahadevan
    May 15, 2010 at 2:36 am

    Very true, Emiko. I had been confused so far between being responsible for the feelings of others and being empathetic towards them. If I am responsible for the feelings of others, that puts a heavy burden on me meaning I wouldn’t be empathetic towards myself or others.

    Cheers and Hugs,

    Mahadevan Venkitaraman

  5. May 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Mahadevan,

    That’s a great point! We can still feel empathy for others and be there to support and encourage them, but one thing we can’t do, ultimately, is make them feel better (or worse). That is totally their thing, just like your feelings are your thing. Once we’ve taken care of ourselves and have tended to our feelings first, then we are in a much better place to be of real help to others. Not getting tangled up in the drama of others and by being one more example of someone who takes responsibility for their own feelings, you are being truly helpful 🙂

  1. May 16, 2010 at 10:26 pm

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