Tangled fishing line

We go about our lives quite tangled up with other people’s lives, whether we want to admit that or not. We carry with us tangles from our past connections, and tangles from worries about future events that haven’t even unfolded yet. These tangles affect our choices and decisions and feelings all the time, if we let them.


This has been on my mind for a while, as I’ve been learning to see my own tangled self. I wrote about taking back your strings not too far back, but with the context that we let other people twist us up with their own choices. The more we come to see this, the more we can help ourself get untangled.

Yesterday, I let someone’s tangle frustrate me. (Let’s be honest: every day, we let people’s tangles get in the way.) With great visibility comes no small number of critics, and though I’m learning every day how to let people’s criticisms be their own, I’m still occasionally susceptible to prodding. But why should I care about someone’s opinion of me? That comes from their experiences, their tangles, their view of the situation. I don’t know this person, and yet, I carried around frustration all day, slept, and then woke up thinking about him this morning. How un-useful.

I spoke with someone else yesterday whose choice of spouse caused both sets of grandparents to stop talking with her for over a year (tradition thing). Here she is, happy and in love, and looking forward to starting her new life, and because it didn’t follow the tangles of her culture, her blood relatives chose to cut off connections to her. She didn’t tell me this with sorry, only a sense of the fact that it’s unfortunate, but with a smile on her face for what she did have: a loving husband and a future.

We can’t choose how our relatives feel about us. We can’t choose how our loved ones think about us and react to us. We can’t alter how those people at work speak about us when we’re not there. None of that is ours.

You Own Your Head

What you can do, however, is work on yourself, is accept yourself as you are right now, is start to fuel your own personal inner fire of belief without any external sources. It’s not that you don’t value the thoughts of friends and people you love, but instead, that you accept them as simply that: thoughts and input from the outside world. If every time you speak to a group of people, they yawn and look away, accept that maybe you’re boring them, but don’t take it any further than that. Don’t read minds. Just take that information and decide what you want to do about it.

In the above example, maybe you’re talking to the wrong people about the right stuff. If you’re passionate about dance but you’re talking to a bunch of farmers, maybe that’s not a good fit. (Maybe it is.) But own your head, and don’t let their tangles snarl you.

We Are All Ugly Ducklings

I heard somewhere recently that most every “popular” kid growing up in school ends up being the “average” adult, and that most of the most famous and celebrated people in our culture were the “weirdos” and the marginalized when they were in school. And yet, everyone walks around with that huge sense of inadequacy. It’s rampant.

I once met a billionaire. (I’ve met a few, but this is the story of one.) Here he is, very successful by many standards, and about to speak at an event, and I said something to him, partly in jest, and he reacted with a fear that maybe people wouldn’t like him. But he was an ugly duckling, like so many others, with weird views that didn’t match those of the people who fed him their tangles. And he went on to succeed, but still he carried that seed fear of being inadequate, because of all the tangles that had wrapped around him over his life.

Untangling Takes Practice

If you want to untangle, it’s a matter of staying vigilant. Everyone’s opinion is a tangle. Every emotion someone brings to your situation is a tangle. Every judgment someone makes is a tangle. Every PRAISE you get is a tangle (Wow, I almost forgot to mention that praise is every bit the same as something negative. The more you believe your own hype, the more tangled you become in other people’s affirmations).

Watch for them. Accept the tangles as theirs. Note that you don’t get to judge the tangles. You bring your own to them; don’t doubt that. But just accept every thought, opinion, value, and emotion outside of your own as someone else’s tangle, and then try to steer clear of them. Yes, we’d love for the people we love to be happy. But even that isn’t our duty. It’s not our job to make people happy. It’s our job to live in such a way that we hope to positively impact other people’s happiness. (See the difference?)

Are you ready to start untangling yourself?

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