Does Asymmetry Bother You?
Are you the type of person who needs to adjust things when they are not perfectly symmetric?
When you see a crooked picture frame on a wall, do you feel the need to straighten it?
Do you find yourself concerned with “fairness” and count things to make sure that everyone gets
the exact same amount?
You are not the only one!
I had a coaching call with a client the other day who told me about a tile in her bathroom that is poorly
placed and how it drives her to tears.
Tears? Over a tile? Hmm…
“What else drives you crazy” I asked?
“It drives me crazy to see the scrapes on the baseboard where the cleaners bump the vacuum.”
“Messes! Messes drive me crazy!”
“And what happens when there is a mess?”
“I get cranky and give everyone a hard time. I yell at them until everything is cleaned up.”
“What else are you using as your excuse to thrash about emotionally?”
She stopped in her tracks. “What do you mean?”
We all do this from time to time. We grasp at things that are often insignificant and, in the grand scheme of things, unimportant, as our “valid” reason to be upset with the world, with others and with ourselves. We hang on to those things for dear life as our “very good reason” to be unhappy. And then we create stories to magnify our justification.
We say things like, “if my kids respected me, they wouldn’t leave a mess,” or “I didn’t raise them right – I should be more strict,” or “the cleaners don’t care about their work – if they did, they wouldn’t scrape the baseboard with the vacuum,” or even “if he really loved me, he would know how much that tile bothers me, and would have it fixed.”
We hand over our emotional state to arbitrary circumstances, giving them control over our joy and our well-being.
So how did I coach this client?
First of all, I explained to her that her tears had nothing to do with the poorly placed tile, but were caused from her expectation that everything needed to be perfect in her world. I showed her how this frustration showed up over and over again in many areas of her life (I had several journals to pull from).
I also outlined the relationship between her thoughts and her emotions, and helped her to understand that she was actually the creator of this frustration in her life. We discussed the concept of “perfect,” and I helped her see that nothing is ever truly perfect, and that perfect is merely a matter of perspective.
Then I helped her see the tile a little bit differently.
“From now on, this tile will be your cue to lighten up. It will be a reminder that even though life is filled with imperfections, they have no bearing on your mood, your joy, or your well-being. The tile will remind you to laugh at yourself a little bit and be grateful for all the amazing luxuries that your life affords you – hot water for a shower, coffee, a beautiful home, an amazing loving family, etc.”
Wow – imagine that. Using the asymmetry in life as a cue for gratitude. It’s a powerful trade, and one that can profoundly change your life. Try it!