I had a rough day recently, and it threw me for a loop. I spent the day feeling lower than I have in a long time. I spent the day in a kind of cold fury, at myself, at the world, at anyone who was happy and having a good time. I’m proud of myself for not going too crazy in regards to food or drink that day, but that’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about today.
I wanted to talk to you about monkeys and circuses.
It’s really easy for me to get caught up in other people’s emotions. The feeling of a room can weigh heavily on me. I remember breaking down in tears one time to my mother, when discussing a particular classroom in 7th grade, where the teacher had absolutely no control and would always end up yelling and screaming at misbehaving kids. It drove me insane. I couldn’t stand being around that much anger. Similarly when in retail, if a customer got angry at me, I would take it personally. I would dread telling them bad news, the times when I wouldn’t be able to help them. Or when a manager would be freaking out at me because I hadn’t gotten enough customers to sign up for our email newsletter.
I was reminded today of a simple truth - just because someone around you is angry about something, or is angry about you about something, doesn’t mean you deserve it. Doesn’t mean you need to care with the same intensity they do. Just because someone is critical about you doesn’t mean they’re right. It sounds obvious, but it’s something I still struggle with. Compliments I will not believe unless they come with a sworn affidavit and video evidence - criticisms I’m ready to believe at the drop of a hat. Hell I see them when they’re not even said!
But I was reminded, today, that it’s important sometimes to divorce ourselves from other people’s cares. Just because a customer says your return policy has ruined their life forever doesn’t mean you have. Just because your manager is freaking out at you because you haven’t made your email capture metric for the day doesn’t mean you need to hang your head in shame and fall on your sword. Care about your job, yes. Work harder and take constructive criticism where you can. But also remember - so much of this is a construct itself. We build these metrics and standards and whatnot, but they are all things constructed. Likely if you made a mistake, no one died. No one went bankrupt. No one’s going to jail.
Care. For sure. But keep it all in perspective. A lot of people, and I mean a lot of people, myself included, often fail at that. These things are often not worth as much care as people think.
As the old saying goes, not my circus, not my monkeys. You have one circus to run, your own. One set of monkeys. You cannot run someone else’s. When you see it going out of control, do your best to help, but remember, it’s not yours. You don’t need to take those monkeys home with you. You don’t need to cry over them. You don’t need to fall on your sword over them. Sometimes, maybe. But not nearly as often as you’d think, I’d wager.