One of my favorite things about my 12 Step Recovery group is that it gives me slogans to live by that can be recalled readily for any given situation. If you aren’t part of one, you should know that one probably exists to help you with whatever you are dealing with; struggles with being a slave to over-eating, over-drinking, hyper-controlling, compulsive shopping, sexual fixation, co-dependency, etc. The list is endless. And even though it is a program of “attraction rather than promotion”, I have to say that it takes great restraint to not tell all of you to get yourself to one STAT! (That’s hospital code for “emergency level reaction needed”)
Anyway, one of my favorite slogans from my favorite recovery group is, “How important is it?” Honestly, I thought I understood the general use for reminding myself of it, but after hearing a few others unpack it, I am embracing it even more. There are several nuances to it that my tiny viewpoint hadn’t considered until now. Feel free to borrow this slogan and its applications and apply and reapply as needed.
Ask “How important is it?” When you need perspective. Remember that above all, your serenity matters. Is it really worth handing over your serenity like you are passing the salt when things don’t go as planned or go your way?
My husband used to always say (and it made want to strangle him, on occasion), “what does it matter in the scheme of things?” Since he usually asked this when I was in a rage or a dither about something significant like burning banana bread or leaving the lights on in my car all night long, let’s just say I didn’t use it as a wake up call for reflection on my overreaction. But if I can train my brain to go there first and ask, “how important is it?” Before I freak out, I could save myself much distress.
I understand that in life, everything is relative. When I compare the fact that I just lost a client to a FSBO or got my purse stolen out of my car for the 4th time (true story) to people suffering from homelessness, addiction or war crimes, my frustrations or worries seem petty and irrelevant and downright bratty. However, this hand I have been dealt is the only hand I personally have to deal with and I have to accept it and give myself permission to feel the feelings that have been triggered by what is happening in my actual life.
We have to remember that we can feel the feelings without guilt, but then ask ourselves, “how important is it” in order to keep perspective.
The most powerful illustration of this was when my son, who was in 8th grade at the time, was part of a wonderful team that lost a championship basketball game on a Thursday night in February 2015. The boys were devastated and I was beside myself for them. I remember wondering how I was going to ever get past this massive loss and disappointment, both for me and for the boys.
The next day I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Problem solved, I guess you’d say.
I love the quote from a daily reader called Courage to Change:
“It is almost as important to know what is not serious as to know what is.” -John Kenneth Galbraith
Ask”How important is it” when you are over concerned with what others think about you. Oh boy. This is one that hadn’t occurred to me regarding this slogan. It was also timely because I have been obsessing about this for a week or two, having imaginary conversations with people and putting pretty mean thoughts in their mouths and minds about me.
I love the saying, “what you think of me is none of my business.” Easy to say, not so easy to believe. This is especially hard to do when I screw up or hurt someone I care about. But if I am being totally honest, it is also hard for me even when I don’t really care for the other person or am hurt by them. I have talked to enough people to know that I am not the only one who doesn’t like everyone but wants everyone to like them.
When I over-own what others say about me or assume I know what they think about me, I am in dangerous territory. There is no serenity to be had if my identity is dependent on the opinions others have about me, good or bad.
If I rely on you to make me feel ok, that leads me to a lifestyle of image management and people pleasing that will eventually do me in. And here’s a thought, when I am consumed about what others think about me, might I consider that maybe people aren’t thinking about me at all? Say Whaaaattt????
Again, love the words in Courage to Change regarding this:
“It occurs to me that my extreme sensitivity is a form of conceit—I think I am the focus of everyone’s actions. Am I so important that everything that goes on around me must have something to do with me? I suspect that attitude reflects my vanity instead of reality. “ p.320
“Other people are important to me, and sometimes their opinions matter, but I may be taking something personally that has nothing to do with me.” p.320
Ask “how important is it?” When wondering if it matters how you talk to yourself. Does that matter in the scheme of things?
How you talk to yourself is always the most important voice. That doesn’t mean you should always listen to yourself, because we can be downright cruel and vicious.
We must, I must, always consider the words we tell ourselves because even if they are lies from the pit of hell, sooner or later, if we keep saying them, they will ring true.
I am schooling myself on this one, because I just spent a weekend camping but forgot my camping chair and forgot to bring the clothes I needed to kayak for the whole day. I felt stupid, then thought about how stupid that was, then said it out loud to myself and eventually to my friends who eventually shut it down.
How we talk to ourselves is paramount. ALWAYS.
You have probably heard the Bible verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I once heard someone comment about that saying, “the problem is, most of us do.” In other words, we tend to treat others harshly and without compassion and love because we first treat ourselves that way.
Unless we begin with talking to ourselves with words of grace and kindness, we can’t fully embrace ourselves as we are or love others the same.
Personally, I put the highest stock in what God thinks of me. When I am spiritually fit, I remember that only the opinion of a Being that loved me enough to create me and treasures our relationship enough to send His son to die for me so He and I can be united in Spirit matters. This brings me the ultimate serenity.
Maybe you aren’t ready to believe that. That’s ok. Take what you like and leave the rest (for later).
“How important is it?”…can’t hurt to ask.