Being married to a film director (and buff!) brings all sorts of fun and interesting stories to the dinner table. A while back, my husband told me a story that so reflected an issue that I frequently hear about and work with in my practice. Here’s what he told me:
“The story goes that young, American film director Stanley Kubrick was intimidated by his all star English cast of Lawrence Olivier, Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov on the set of Spartacus.
Kubrick would watch in hidden terror as the 3 giants of Shakespearean acting would whisper amongst themselves in between takes.
Convinced they were talking negatively about him, Kubrick finally summoned the nerve to eaves drop on their conversation….
….only to discover that they weren’t talking about him at all. They were simply practicing their lines. “
Did this story make you smile? Did you think he was being silly? Maybe a bit self centred?
Well, when viewed like this in black and white, it probably does deserve to be giggled at. And Kubrick probably was a bit silly and self centred too. On the one hand, it may be surprising that a world famous, ultra successful film director would be this insecure. On the other, it may not come as that big a surprise that he is being rather self centred….
The thing is, Kubrick was far from unique. We all very easily fall into this trap. Maybe you recognise yourself in one of the following scenarios:
‘You phone your good and reliable friend up and leave a message for her to call you. She always responds very quickly but two messages later, you still haven’t heard from her. You soon go from wondering if she’s ok to being convinced you’ve done something to upset her. Maybe she hates you!’
‘The boss walks past you in the corridor and doesn’t return your greeting. She obviously thinks I’m rubbish, or I’ve cocked up somehow. Maybe I’m being made redundant!’
The assumptions made in both scenarios, I’m sure you agree, are very dramatic and based on nothing but fiction. Yet, in the moment we can all be incredibly certain of ourselves and of how reasonable, and even likely, our assumptions are.
You may think of your own examples, when you completely over dramatised the possible scenarios at play when you found yourself in ambiguous situations in the past. I’m sure you agree that upon reflection, these deserve to be smiled at too, and maybe the responses were a tiny bit self centred. No need to be a world famous film director after all!
The important thing here is that it’s not only uncomfortable in the moment of when we ‘fill in the gaps in an ambiguous situation’ and assume something bad is happening, but it very quickly knackers our confidence and self esteem.
So let’s nip this habit in the bud! Try the following:
- Listen to yourself. Become aware when your assumptions may be a bit over dramatic.
- Increase your self awareness further, by writing down your thoughts. When reflecting them back to yourself, are you being realistic?
- Remember that you’re not the person of main importance in the other person’s life. They are! So may they be practicing their lines to impress the big famous director, or not returning your call because there’s a deadline at work keeping them there at all hours, or busy in their minds preparing for the meeting with their own boss about not making her team redundant so didn’t see or hear you in the corridor… Whatever is going on, the vast majority of time, it’ll be all about them, not you.
- Find a way to stop the self doubting self talk. Take responsibility for it. You do own it! Tell it to be quiet, that you haven’t got time for it.
- If all else fail, simply ask the person you’re making up stories in your head about. In most cases, they’ll soon put you right!