The Power of Perspective
“FML!”, a woman posts to Facebook, “I got rear ended on my way to work and was 45 minutes late for a major presentation. Ugh! This day could not get any worse.”
One of the first persons to read this was a former co-worker whom she did not maintain a relationship with after she left her past employer.
The woman reading this had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and still trying to confront the fact that she herself, now had to deal with a very harsh reality, was incensed at the fact that she could be so whiny about her small, trivial, “first world problems” and her lack of perspective.
Unable to get over her anger, as she was already dealing with a lot, she decided to step out for a walk and grab a cup of coffee.
She ordered her usual mocha latte and angrily grabbed a seat while she waited, which must have been apparent as the gentlemen sitting next to her mentioned something, not because he genuinely cared, but because he found her attractive and thought of it as a great way to strike up a conversation.
“A bit of a rough morning?”, he asked.
“Ugh! Rough week.”, she replied.
“Oh no!”, he proclaimed, only half in earnest. “Do you mind me asking why?”
“Well no, I guess not”, she shyly stammered back. “I’m a bit upset this morning, because I saw an old co-worker of mine complaining on social media about getting rear ended and that she was late for a meeting or something stupid”.
The guy said back politely, “Well that doesn’t seem like something to be so mad about.”
“Well no, it’s really not, and normally I probably would’ve paid it no attention, but, I recently…”, she stopped herself for a bit, realizing what she was about to say, but decided to move ahead anyhow as he was just a stranger, “…I, uh, I was recently just diagnosed with MS, you know, Multiple Sclerosis, it’s a neurological disease, and it just irritated me so much that she was complaining about something so trivial while I’m sitting at home trying to deal with the fact that my health, and probably my life, will never be as good as it is now.”
The gentleman, who also happened to have a tumor the size of a baseball in his stomach and was about 6 months away from dying at that very moment, was a bit turned off by what he saw as her relative selfishness, so he politely replied back, “I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis, and I hope your day picks up.”, and walked away.
As he started walking to work, he got a bit angrier and more put off by her remarks, “because he doesn’t go around just telling people about his cancer, and if she’s upset by her former co-worker’s trivial remarks about getting rear ended, how would she feel if he told her he was dying of stomach cancer? How trivial would her MS seem at that moment?”
This man was a higher level executive at a boutique corporate consulting firm and there was only one employee, a, junior level consultant that he felt comfortable enough to confide in about his cancer, so when he got to work, he asked the employee to stop in his office.
When the employee got in his office, he went on a tirade (much of which was induced by pent up fear over his impending death) about “this woman” and “her nerve”, and “how she has no clue what other’s are going through”, and “should probably just keep her mouth shut about her own shit.”
The junior level consultant sat there and listened intently and then had no choice but to simply agree with what he was saying, knowing that he just needed to vent, and that, as a lower ranking employee, his opinion wouldn’t matter regardless of what he had to say.
“Thank you for listening.”, he stated, “You know you’re the only one in the office who knows about this, so I appreciate your support.”
“You’re welcome. You know I’m always here, even if it’s just to listen.”, he replied, and walked out of the office, over to his cubicle, and called his wife back, so they could discuss the next steps of treatment for their 3 year old son with terminal Leukemia.
This chain of events, and similar events, are happening everywhere and everyday of our lives. I hate to admit that at some point, I’m know I’ve negatively contributed to one of these chains and exchanges where I was feeling a bit too sorry for myself and lost all perspective of one simple thing….we all have our own shit….all of us.
It may take different shape.
Show up in different ways.
Or have various levels of severity (to which it is never your place to decide whose shit is less worse than yours).
The fact remains the same, that all events are objective, and nothing, or no one, can do any harm to you if you do not allow it.
This begins with feeling sorry for yourself. No one wants to hear about your shit, trust me.
If people who know about the things you’re dealing with and are going through, check in or ask, by all means, fill them in, let them know, because they care and they’ve proactively opted in to this conversation.
However, if not, and if a person doesn’t know (this includes and is especially true of social media) then I politely urge you to keep it to yourself.
Spewing your problems to someone who didn’t ask is the metaphorical equivalent of you turning over to them and projectile vomiting on them with no sense of guilt, admission, or even permission.
I understand this is a bit much to swallow, but it’s the truth, and often times, the truth is a sonofabitch.
You lose perspective. You get so wrapped up in your own bullshit, that not only does it seem like the most important thing in the world, but it makes you forget that there is in fact, a “rest of the world”.
You lose perspective. Which means you lose empathy. Which means you lose the ability to truly connect.
If you lose the ability to truly connect with others, you’ve truly lost it all, even before the stomach cancer takes your life.