A few years ago I had dinner with a bunch of friends at a local restaurant. It was arranged by a good friend of mine who lives overseas and was back in town on business. I was excited to see him again and catch up around a good meal, but from the moment I arrived, and pretty much for the entire evening, he gave me the cold shoulder.
I was confused and a bit hurt. What had I done wrong? I wondered. I know I haven’t been great at keeping in touch, and I know he’s been going through a tough time, but is he so hurt as to not speak to me?
When I got home I told my wife what had happened. I admitted to her that I hadn’t been a good friend, and that night made a conscious decision to be more intentional with our friendship. Then the next day, my friend called me up to see if we could meet for coffee. He wanted to chat.
Oh, here we go. Now he’s gonna let me have it. And I probably deserve it.
He told me that he was really struggling with another friend of his who was also at the dinner, and that he just needed my advice.
Sorry, what? You’re not mad at me? And last night wasn’t about me at all?
In fact, my friend went on to tell me just how much he appreciated our friendship and the effort I had put in to stay connected.
I had completely misread the entire situation, and made something that had nothing to do with me all about me.
My capacity for self-centredness knows no bounds, apparently.
The whole thing made me wonder what other false narratives I was inventing in my head. How many people have I been offended by when I actually just misunderstood them?
Since then, I’ve been careful to follow up on every story I tell myself about somebody else or about someone’s attitude towards me. And it’s been remarkable. I’d say up to 90% of the time, I’ve got the wrong story floating around in my brain.
Unwarranted insecurity. Unfounded suspicion. Unnecessary negativity.
Imagine how much of this negativity floats around in our brains because we’ve made up a story in our mind, convinced the narrative is true.
It’s not all about you, Batman.