As I wrote about in the Enneagram post recently, I have often felt misunderstood at various points in my life. It was healing for me to read about how other people who identify with Type 8 on the Enneagram are also often misunderstood, that our intensity and passion are often misidentified as anger, which can cause an extreme reaction. It’s been something that I’ve often struggled with as I work to accept myself, flaws and all.
While it has gotten me into more disagreements than I would like, standing up for people who are marginalized, who are misunderstood, who aren’t able to protect themselves, is a vital part of who I am. It’s instinctive and pretty much in my DNA. As I often told people when I was volunteering in the foster care system, I only do things at 100% and if you mess with “my” kids, you get mama bear on steroids. Marrying into a very mixed-race Jamaican family has also given me a new perspective on how people who aren’t white are treated. And it pisses me off regularly, invoking the same passionate response.
And so, I wonder, what to do with this … on the one hand, it’s important to me to stand up for others, on the other hand, that gets me into hot water at times.
You’d think that I’d be better at handling being misunderstood at 43 years young. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at understanding that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and there’s nothing wrong with that. I literally have this frame right in front of my face every day to remind me of this:
With all the work I’ve done on my own heart and mindset and with all the progress I’ve made towards understanding who I am and accepting myself, I was a little surprised recently at how the reminders of unresolved disagreements affected me. It’s probably very human to want to react and defend oneself and I do try to take two steps back and think through why.
As my kids say, it’s not fair!! Taking the high road at times is just plain excruciatingly hard.
If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you’ll know that I often use writing to work through issues and feelings and what to DO about them. And this topic is no different, so here we go …
- Check your bias. We all come from somewhere and our background and experiences will affect how we look at others and ourselves. For instance, I have a bias towards people who are more educated — I have to check myself and watch my reactions based on this factor.
- Know yourself. As I’ve written before, I’ve taken a bunch of different personality tests and find a lot of good information from the various tests. Knowing our own motivations or core desires has been really helpful for me to understand the why’s behind my instinctive reactions. Even if there are difficult things to deal with as a result, we can feel comfortable that we have honored our core values and perhaps communicate that in a way we can feel heard.
- Have trusted people to provide feedback. We can’t be objective about ourselves and always need others to help us put experiences into context and to help us look at situations as objectively as possible. My husband checks my responses regularly and it helps me to respond more thoughtfully and with more care.
- When you can, let it go. This is a really hard thing for me. Unresolved issues are like a thorn in my side and I struggle to let things go, especially if I feel something is undeserved. But sometimes its just best to move on and leave that issue or that person behind.
- Trust that the people who know you best won’t be swayed by the opinions of others. Each of us have people in our lives who know us best. This can be family or friends and they are worth their weight in gold. No matter what is said or what accusations are leveled, they are in our corner because they know and love our hearts. They ask questions and they aren’t swayed when it counts.
At the end of the day, feeling misunderstood, feeling as though you are not seen, is pretty soul shriveling. As I have learned over and over, saying no to something means saying yes to something else. And saying no to the places and people where we are not seen means we have more time and more space for those who do.
And that’s something I can get behind 100000000000000000%.