Do you like it when people seem to be able to read your mind? I can see how that might come in handy under certain conditions. But for me, it always stinks because they do it when I’m thinking of something I don’t want them to know. All I can think is that I have the worst poker face. My facial tells must be obvious. I usually can’t stand people reading my mind when I’m unenthusiastic or reluctant about something, unless the person is sympathetic to what I’m feeling. For example, I once did a short apprenticeship-like program to be a dog trainer for a certain company. As part of it, I had to monitor 30-something dogs that were part of the daycare side of the business for a certain number of hours. There were other employees who were specifically hired for the daycare monitoring, too.
One of those employees asked me to cover some extra hours for her. I hesitated for just a moment because I really didn’t want to, but I agreed to do it. A part of me felt I was overqualified for that type of work, even though I still needed to do it for a certain number of hours. I never said it out loud. It would have been rude and foolish. But, somehow that employee got the sense from my momentary hesitation or body language that I felt it was beneath me and told it to the boss. When the boss confronted me about it, I was livid by the accusation. But, I wasn’t angry at myself for feeling superior to that work, I was angry at the snitch for basically having read my thoughts and used them against me. I didn’t stay there much longer, for numerous reasons, and felt like an incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I left.
Another time, I took a shiatsu class as part of a massage therapy certificate program. The instructor said we had to be careful when performing it on pregnant women because certain pressure points could be harmful to the baby. We just so happened to have a pregnant woman in the class. I was partnered with her once and was reluctant to practice on her because I was brand new to the technique and didn’t want to be responsible if something went wrong. I spoke nothing about it, but she read me like a book. She said something like I didn’t want to partner with her because she’s pregnant, did I? This will sound strange, but I felt violated. It was like those thoughts belonged to me and she had no right to know them unless I chose to let her in on them.
When I’m in a situation that makes me anxious, my face becomes more rigid and it takes great effort to change it to match what I’m feeling besides the anxiety. Someone might tell me something I like or that makes me happy and I smile. However, because of the presence of the anxiety battling for control of my facial muscles, my smile can come across as fake and insincere. They might be giving me a compliment and I’ll smile and say thank you. But, I’ll know they interpreted my smile as fake because they follow up by saying they’re serious or they mean it. Then, I’ll have to reassure them my positive feelings are sincere, too. It upsets me because I don’t want them to go away thinking I’m ungrateful or a jerk when I’m not. Someone having false interpretations of me or my intentions is frustrating to me.
I’m working on a few ways to counteract those feelings. Firstly, I’m working on not placing so much importance on what other people think of me, especially those whose opinions I have no reason to value anyway. Secondly, I’m working on accepting into my being that other people’s opinions and reactions to me are not under my control. This one seems to be especially challenging. Thirdly, I’m working on the anxiety piece so as to reduce the dissonance between my words and body language, thereby reducing the chance of being misinterpreted.
I realize I need to work on not just my feelings toward people reading me, but on some legitimately called out flaws as well; feeling above certain work being one example. After all, if God can humble Himself enough to become a tiny baby, I can stand to monitor some dogs.