A few weeks ago, I had plans with a friend from my old job. I’d had a busy day, but the extrovert in me was happy to make time to see her. I went test driving cars in the morning (a big life event that I’m sure I will write about once I actually get a new car), stopped at the jewelry store to pick up something for my mom, and stopped at my grandparents’ house. I calculated how much time I had in order to get home to see my friend. If we only stayed an hour at my grandparents’ house, we’d be home in plenty of time. Perfect.
Of course, as soon as we walked into my grandparents’ house, they offered to stuff us full of bacon and waffles (like grandparents do). I always text this friend frequently throughout the day, so I texted her that we were with my grandparents getting fed. I just thought it would be a funny text. “LOL of course they had to offer us food!”
Unfortunately, she took my text as me saying that I wouldn’t have time to see her. My stomach bottomed out and that feeling of impending doom that only comes with plans falling through set in. I texted her when we left my grandparents’ house an hour later and told her when we’d be home. I was already starting to spiral thinking that our visit was falling apart.
As I started to become more and more upset, there were several other lapses in our communication that ended up with her not coming over. At the end of the day, we talked it out and realized that it was a big misunderstanding, but I couldn’t understand why it bothered me so much.
It didn’t take me too long to realize that the reason I was allowing this miscommunication to bother me was the fact that this issue was bumping up against my core values.
I’ve worked with several life coaches throughout the past few years, and they have all taught me some valuable lessons about myself. Years ago, when I started with my first life coach, she had me write out all of my core values. Unsurprisingly, many were about people and connection. Being responsible was one of them, which was also unsurprising considering the fact that I’ve always been so proud to be an overly-responsible stickler. And, of course, self-awareness was also high on the list.
This coach then tasked me with paying attention when something really bothers me and figuring out why it bothers me. She told me to go through my core values and see if I was bothered because what was happening went against those core values. As I started thinking about the things that had bothered me recently, I realized that on the whole, she was right. Every time something bothered me, it often went against my values. Feeling like I wasn’t very self-aware, feeling like I didn’t belong, feeling like I wasn’t being empathetic — they all caused an emotional reaction because they made me feel as though I wasn’t living out my core values. Even though I don’t work with that life coach anymore, I still use this technique whenever I get that nagging feeling that something is upsetting me far more than it should.
The recent issue with my friend highlighted this again for me. Although this was an absolute misunderstanding, my brain had decided that my friend was indirectly implying that I didn’t schedule my time properly. I worried that I was being seen as irresponsible and an unreliable friend, directly contradicting two values that I hold at the very core of my being. The benefit of understanding where these feelings come from is being able to combat them. In this example, now that I know that I was so upset because I felt like I was being called irresponsible, I can talk myself back down. She wasn’t implying that I was an irresponsible person, it was just a misunderstanding. I am not an irresponsible person, it was just a misunderstanding. And the next time something like this arises, I can think more rationally and keep my cool without getting as upset. Ideally, anyway.
Of course, I can also explain to my friend why I was feeling that way and over-explain my feelings and core values (as I am wont to do). Time to call her up and talk her ear off! Always happy for an excuse to talk more about my feelings and neuroses!
Figuring out my core values has been helpful for multiple reasons, but understanding how they fit into what upsets me can help me to avoid misunderstandings like I had with this friend in the future.
Have you noticed any patterns in things that bother you? Do they align with your core values?
Photo credit: Apple Of William Tell PowerPoint Template