At the end of 2014 I had a variety of encounters where I walked away feeling shame.
Shame is the emotion connected to the thought “I am not enough.”
The gist of these encounters:
Friend: “Here is this great* thing I am doing.”
Me: Spiraling inside because I am not doing that great* thing. (Insert shame here).
After a handful of these encounters, I took a long look at why I was reacting this way. I realized the feeling happened when conversations steered towards areas of my life where I already felt “not enough.” Their sharing only triggered my shame.
I believe that most of these people were not intentionally trying to make me feel inadequate, though I am sure some were. Regardless, what I realized is this: I am not in control of their intentions, but I am in control of my reactions.
And this was the moment I realized the power of “good for you.”
“Good for you” is my new response to these encounters. The phrase reminds me that when people share a great* new thing for their life, it may not be a great* new thing for my life. “Good for you” is a step in helping me to resist the shame in my own life while at the same time changing my attitude towards the other person.
The gist of these new encounters:
Friend: “We switched out all refined sugar, gluten, and dairy. I feel amazing.”
You: “Good for you.” (Instead of questioning your last caloric intake, you cheerlead a friend who feels amazing).
Friend: “We are using cloth diapers because it is so good for the environment and our budget.”
You: “Good for you.” (Instead of a shame spiral about your bank account dwindling due to Huggies or because the idea of cloth diapers makes you gag).
Mother-in-law: “You know, our daughter potty-trained both Sally and John in a weekend.”
You: “Good for her.” (Sure your blood pressure may rise, but it was great for your sister-in-law to potty train in a weekend. But potty training is hard and maybe this will help shake off the resentment towards your in-laws).
Saying “good for you” helps me pivot away from a shame spiral. Instead, the response helps me to draw a boundary. I can protect myself from spinning questions in my head wondering if their great* thing should be great for me. I can better support my friends and the new things they are trying.
Saying “good for you” is both good for them and good for me.
*Great for her does not mean it has to be great for you.