Recently I heard second-hand a relative disparaging the martial art I practice.
It really got to me for a couple of reasons.
First, I struggle to understand how someone can make self-assured pronouncements on subjects they are profoundly unfamiliar with. I’m bewildered and don’t know where to begin.
But beneath that, if I’m honest with myself, I’m sensitive about my proficiency in the art. I’ve been training for a long time and I don’t think I’m as good as I should be.
That’s not to say my relative’s opinion had anything to do with me or my proficiency. She didn’t say I was bad at it, she just disparaged the art itself in a sweeping statement.
She’s never seen the art, she’s never seen me practicing, and as far as I know she’s never done a martial art nor is she interested in them.
But that doesn’t stop part of me thinking that if I were just more proficient then I would change her mind…in much the same way that part of me thinks I can change people’s minds by providing logical arguments supported by facts.
When was the last time that happened?
You create your reality
So despite my irritation at this person’s opinion — no, because of my irritation, I have to acknowledge that this is my creation.
My insecurity and self-doubt is making me react to people’s words regardless of what was meant by those words.
And I don’t just mean my self-doubt about my proficiency in martial arts; I mean my self-doubt in thinking I need proof, evidence, and convincing arguments to validate my own beliefs, perceptions, and feelings.
The reason it bugs me so much when people make ignorant and inconsiderate pronouncements with full self-confidence is that I don’t allow myself the same privilege.
No matter how much research or experience I accrue, I always err on the side of self-doubt. So it’s galling to hear someone just say what they think, without fear, shame, or hesitation.
These interpersonal conflicts are so valuable because they highlight areas where we are resistant to our own wellbeing and expansion.
This person’s comment would not upset me except that I hold myself hostage to rules they refuse to follow.
They may be ignorant, but they don’t care. I know more than they will ever know about martial arts, but I’m the one feeling constrained.
Must ignorance be contemptible? Is life about being as knowledgeable and rational as possible?
Well this particular episode is not. This episode is about whether I make my happiness conditional on other people, or really accept that it doesn’t matter what I or others think, say, or do.
No one can assert anything into my experience. This came about purely because I was primed to react.
But I’ve chosen to clean it up instead, taking it as an opportunity for expansion, freedom, and joy.
It doesn’t matter what others think, say, or do, because it doesn’t matter what I think, say or do either, so long as I feel good.
No one is measuring the validity of my words, thoughts and deeds (and if they are they’ll be disappointed). There is no measure more objective than how I feel. If other people say disparaging things, why is that my problem? I don’t have to agree with them and they don’t have to agree with me.
The best part is feeling good whether we agree or not, whether our opinions are based on deep knowledge and experience or not. It really doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have the power to stop me feeling good.