When you meet someone new, and it’s the first few minutes of the conversation, which topics typically come up with you?
Which questions do you pose in order to learn more about the person you’re speaking with? Which kind of questions do they ask you?
Although it depends on where you are and who you’re with, for the most part, the common questions in a new conversation revolve around these themes:
- Why are you here?
- Where are you from?
- What do you do?
Sometimes it’s annoying to answer these questions. Especially if you’re in a place where you’re going to need to keep repeating yourself over and over again. Or, if you just flat out don’t want to answer them.
This recently happened to me.
I was at a friend’s apartment for a party, and there were people there whom I had never met before.
We did the superficial introductions, and as people filtered into private conversations I found myself answering the what do you do question repeatedly.
And I was really annoyed.
People were interested in hearing but I wasn’t interested in saying. And I felt as though people were unnecessarily probing into my life.
My gut reaction was along the lines of disgust, that people are only interested in career and money-related topics, and remorse over society’s inability to desire to discuss ideas over things.
But, after reflecting on the experience, the truth is that I was simply projecting my own insecurities onto those people speaking with me.
Sure, they did care about what I did professionally, and maybe they were comparing themselves to me, but their judgments don’t affect me, and it’s highly likely I may never even see them again.
I find myself falling into the trap of negative projecting all the time.
Byron Katie’s The Work is the most powerful model I’ve learned for dealing with this.
…you may come to see that everything outside of you is a direct reflection of your thinking. It is only about you. Most of us have been pointing our criticism and judgments at ourselves for years, and it hasn’t solved anything yet. When you judge someone else, inquire, and turn it around (the concept you are questioning). This is the fast path to understanding and self-realization.
The truth is this:
If you don’t like answering the questions from other people, it means you don’t like the answer.
When you have negative beliefs or hostile reactions to people asking you about yourself, you are somehow filled with self-doubt and anxiety. For whatever reason, you’re not excited about or satisfied with your situation. You may have repressed feelings of guilt, shame, anger, or fear and it’s manifesting itself in the moment you’re having this conversation with someone who just wants to get to know you.
Have you ever been really excited about an event, or proud of something you’ve accomplished?
Have you felt the feeling where you feel your life energy pulsating throughout your body? Where you’re shaking from excitement, and can’t even sit still because the anticipation is too much?
In those situations, you may have felt the urge to tell the whole world why you’re so excited. You’re filled with so much energy, you want to yell from the rooftop just how amazing everything is.
Flip this with the feelings of apathy, despair, and when everything seems to be crashing to the depths. You may want people to leave you alone. And you certainly don’t want to embrace the nearest stranger and tell them just how great everything is.
You can feel the difference when you’re excited about something versus when you’re not. But it can be hard to be emotionally aware of how you’re feeling.
Consider the person asking you a question to be a mirror for you.
Given the fact that they are probably friendly and simply asking for information, know that the way you respond to the person is the way you feel about yourself.
If you feel that the person is criticizing or judging you, realize that it is YOU who feels critical or judgmental about yourself. If you feel insecure around this person, then it is because YOU feel insecure about yourself. And if you feel humiliated by this person it’s because YOU feel humiliated about yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt has a famous quote:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
When I first heard this, it didn’t make sense to me.
What do you mean without your consent? The whole reason you feel inferior is that you cannot control your emotions in the first place, so you automatically feel inferior, and therefore there is no consent, right?
However, this quote makes sense within the framework of projection.
The idea is that someone can make you feel inferior because you have already consented to the idea of your own inferiority with your own opinion about yourself before that person ever entered the picture.
You feeling bad or inferior around others has nothing to do with them, rather it’s all about yourself.
So if you ever find yourself in a social situation, and you’re sick and tired of telling your life story, or don’t feel excited about whatever it is that you’re doing, don’t blame the questioner.
It’s actually a sign that you need to look within and reflect on your own current life situation.
This is a clear sign that something needs to change in your life.
You aren’t happy about something, for your own sake, you better get to the root cause of it.