Copyright (c) 2014 Bill Gager
We've all been in this situation. Someone, somewhere, bugs us. He or she really gets under our skin. It can be for a minute. It can go on day after day for years. Whether it's something he says-- or just the way she acts; there is something that drives us crazy.
I remember back to my first "professional" job. I was hired as the first-- and only-- marketing person at a small engineering services company. It was 1983. This was my big break. I was ecstatic to leave my job as a bartender and have my weekends off! From the first day, I loved everything about the job: my office, my coffee mug, and the camaraderie with my coworkers. I was in heaven. That is, until I met Larry.
Larry was an engineer, studying for his MBA. Larry prided himself as a marketing expert. In every meeting, Larry would try to show me up. He would stop by my office, again and again. Repeatedly, he tried to tell me how to do my job. Here I was, fresh from college, hired to be the marketing guy. I believed I knew it all. I began to dread going to work for fear of running into Larry.
I remember thinking: "Why me? Why do I have to be the one with a Larry in my life? This job would be perfect if it wasn't for Larry." I even remember thinking: "I can leave this job-- just go somewhere else. I'll be better off. No more Larry!" Alas, how very deluded I was.
For the next 27 years, wherever I went, there was another "Larry." For most of those years, I blamed the other person for being a thorn in my side. I finally realized why the "Larrys" in my life bugged me. In most cases, the people who bothered me didn't bother other people. In fact, often, they were well liked. Then it hit me! It wasn't them; it was "I"who bothered me. They were reflecting back to me the parts of myself that I didn't like.
Looking back to 1983, through a mind's eye honed by experience... I see a brash, arrogant, 23 year old know-it-all. So, of course, who confronts me? -- A brash, arrogant, know-it-all. True, Larry bothered me. Truer was the mirror he held before my unseeing eyes. Larry reflected my arrogance; denied, disowned. Through the years this pattern repeated itself... many "Larrys"... each holding yet another opportunity; one more mirror of my denial.
Each of us has an image by which we define our "Self." Some traits and feelings fit that image-- some don't. We put aside the ones that don't. We delete them from our self-image. We may delete or deny them-- yet, they will not disappear. After a time, we no longer realize we have them. Out of our field of conscious perception, they have literally fragmented from our consciousness.
When we reintegrate these fragments back into our self-image, true healing occurs. Instead of behaving with arrogance, I look in the mirror. I own the cause of my arrogance: fear. Having served its false purpose, the need for arrogance diminishes. Ultimately, it disappears as a learned defense mechanism in my life.
If we don't own our fragments, our subconscious perceives our fragments in the people and events around us. These reflected fragments serve as a symbol of our denial; demanding our conscious attention. To this day, I still encounter people who get under my skin. I've learned to take a deep breath, look closely in the mirror, and ask myself, "What is this person reflecting back to me that I'm not owning?" As I've done this over the years. I find that fewer and fewer people get under my skin. Perhaps, too, I am more comfortable in my own.
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Bill Gager is a consultant, coach, and speaker who helps organizations and individuals to communicate to influence the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of others. gager360.com
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