Why do I feel guilty when someone else lets me down?

Author:   |   Date: 10/06/2014   |   Categories: Mindfulness

I got stood up today.

I was really annoyed. It is a cold, rainy day and I would much rather have stayed at home.  It is the kind of weather where I want to wear boots, jeans and a jumper, not tights and heels. I did my hair, put on make-up, brushed my teeth twice. I got myself mentally ready to ask great questions and be interested and curious about someone else. I drove through pre-long weekend Sydney traffic, negotiated the puddles, and timed my arrival a polite couple of minutes early. Then when I got out of the elevator I could hear his voice and saw him disappearing into a room with two strange men. 

Did I mention this was not a date but a business meeting?

The good thing about being stood up in business is that you get to be righteously indignant with a receptionist rather than someone’s voice mail or email account.

The rotten thing is that you may have exactly the same feelings of rejection that came up in dating or job hunting or making sales. 

You don’t get the promotion you thought was yours – it’s like being left of the invite list for the popular kid’s party. 

Your manager reschedules your regular catch up – it’s your father or best-friend cancelling spending time with you.

Your client forgets to return your call – it’s your elder brother or sister ignoring your invitation to play.

Whatever the trigger might be, your emotional system kicks into gear and you are left with the familiar feelings of anger, frustration, resentment and disappointment that you would have felt as a child. 

As we are all adults, so I did not kick the receptionist’s desk, shout it was unfair or fall on the ground in a tantrum. I was polite and professional and rescheduled the appointment, requesting an email confirmation this time. 

However I still felt annoyed – and I wanted to do all the things that I had learnt to do in these situations to make it more comfortable. That is, I felt I had to make amends for feeling that way. 

I felt compelled to suppress my anger, smile and say it was OK that my schedule had been stuffed around. I wanted to downplay the importance of the meeting, claim it was just a catch up and of course it was just fine that I be forgotten for something more important. I should have confirmed the appointment yesterday to make sure that did not happen. It was my fault really.  I should really apologise to him.

Even though I was the one who had been let down and mucked about, I was tempted to neglect my own needs, criticise and blame myself.  If I had double-booked (and it happens) I would have been mortified that I had made such a mistake, that I had inconvenienced a friend, client or colleague.

Yet here I was feeling I should apologise to him (or at least to his suitably embarrassed receptionist) for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and making everyone feel uncomfortable. 

Disappointment, like all emotions, is a part of work and life. How we choose to deal with it is what puts us on a path to greater satisfaction and joy in life.    

Will I forgive this glitch in the relationship with someone I may want to work with in the future?   Of course.   Everyone gets one! 

More importantly, I will forgive myself for wanting to suppress and apologise for my own feelings.  I will acknowledge myself for recognising a learned behaviour and that I chose another way.  I will quietly celebrate that I allowed space for my emotions and accepted them for what they are.    

Every time we own a part of ourselves that makes us uncomfortable we come to understand and accept ourselves. Every time we gently challenge a learned behaviour we choose who we want to be. Every time we choose a new and more satisfying way of being we take another step on our authentic path in life.

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

Joseph Campbell

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