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You’re going to be told, a lot, that you shouldn’t be a victim of your circumstances. 

You’re going to be told that YOU control your feelings and your destiny. 

You’re going to be told that life happens “for” you, not “to” you. 

And you’re going to be told that, if you’re not kicking life’s butt, it’s basically your fault— it’s because you’ve not “mastered” your emotions and reactions. 

All of which, sounds to me, like a lot of pressure. 

I mean, who are they kidding? 

The truth is, we are PLENTY affected by a LOT of things outside of our control— and that’s not a commentary on how much we have or haven’t “mastered” our emotions or reactions. 

I assure you: you can have near complete “mastery” over your emotions and reactions, and you STILL would be very affected by the things happening around you. 

It has nothing to do with “inner strength” or “willpower” or “focus.” 

We human beings are DESIGNED to interact with our environment. 

We develop in response to how our caretakers behave toward us growing up. 

(This is why abuse and neglect have such a profound impact on kids. It’s not just that abuse and trauma are painful; it’s that abuse and trauma actually impede the normal development of emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills.)

As adults, we are wired to respond to and interact with our environment. 

Even the most introverted people in the world have to interact constructively with the people, places, and things around them. 

The idea that we can somehow ignore what’s happening around us— like, for example, a public health crisis— and rely on our own “inner mastery” is a fantasy. 

Make no mistake, it’s a seductive fantasy— especially if we’ve been disappointed or hurt by the people around us growing up. 

(This is one of the reasons why the fantasy of complete self-reliance is pushed by the self-help industry— because self-help gurus know that their audience is disproportionately comprised of people who had traumatic or otherwise difficult upbringings.)

You are not “weak” if you are affected by what goes on around you. 

It is normal to be affected by and responsive to the people, places, and things around you— both in the big picture, and on very intimate levels. 

You don’t need to make “complete self reliance” a goal. 

Every time I talk or write about how we need to be wary of this fantasy of complete self-reliance, I get pushback from people who say that they’ve decided that the only way to keep from being disappointed or hurt by other people was to, in fact, become completely self-reliant. 

I hate to burst your bubble, but there is no level of self-reliance that is going to guarantee that you never get hurt or disappointed by another person. 

And in trying to cut yourself off from the rest of the human community, you’re going to be cutting yourself off not only from the possibility of being hurt…but the possibility of being helped, identified with, acknowledged, and healed, as well. 

I get it. I’m an introvert. I’m not nuts about the demands that a lot of interpersonal contact and interaction places on us. 

I get VERY annoyed when I see extroverts preaching about how the ONLY acceptable way to live life is with HEAVY doses of social interaction. 

The good news for us introverts is, we DON’T have to become experts at or completely comfortable with social interaction in order to live a productive, fulfilling life. 

But we NEED to make peace with the fact that we are going to have to develop skills, tools, and strategies to manage the impact that the world has on us— because we are simply never going to get to the post where we are unaffected by the world or other people. 

Being affected by the world is not a failure of will or skill. 

It is the human condition. 

And we can learn to work with it— rather than against it. 

 

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