Don’t Take Their Shit With You

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Sometimes people don’t know how to let go of their baggage without throwing it directly at you. It’s in those moments you have a choice to take their shit with you or leave it right where they threw it. 

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It was the turn of a new year and I was excited. I’d paid off parking/speeding/failure-to-stop tickets, civil-duty-debts, and earned my driver’s license back from the state of California after having recklessly squandered the privilege during the last of my teens and into my early twenties. I’d changed. I’d grown up. I’d learned to take responsibility for my actions and go after what I really wanted.

I’d saved enough money for a down payment on a car, and while I knew I’d be stretching my money, I also knew I didn’t want to wait until I was 35 to own a car I loved, like my mom had waited. I’d buy the car I’d eyed for the better part of a year, the Acura Integra, and I’d be happy.

I lived with my grandparents at the time, which allowed me to get back on my feet after a break-up left me without a home to call my own. Once I’d made my car choice, I told my grandmother and she suggested I ask my grandfather to help me with the negotiations. I walked into his stamp room, where he spent most of his time when he wasn’t watching ESPN in the living room.

I walked in expecting to get advice on negotiating price with a car dealership, and what I got instead was an earful of venomous rage at my selfishness in buying such an expensive car at such a young age. He hurled names like “ungrateful bitch” at me and wondered aloud how I had managed to keep any decent friends, considering the conniving, manipulative, and generally horrible human being I turned out to be.

Baggage thrown.

All I knew how to do at the time was to walk away.

Don't Take Their Shit With YouAt the time I had no idea how to not take my grandfather’s baggage with me. For years I allowed his voice to whisper, speak, yell into my ear, confirming all reports of self-doubt in any given situation. Until I took to heart the words of my grandmother, shortly after the incident relayed above: “Don’t you dare listen to that crazy old man, Dian. He can’t see past the tip of his giant, misogynistic nose, but that’s no reason for you to wear his glasses, too.”

The reminder there isn’t to assume everyone is misogynistic or crazy when they lash out at you; it’s to wear your own glasses, see through your own eyes, your own filters, and ultimately respond in your own way rather than react to whatever’s been thrown at you.

That night I simply walked away. Not because I was doing the right thing, but because I didn’t feel strong enough to throw anything back at him, defend myself, or even feel good about myself. I froze. It’s easy to do that when people lash out. In fact, that’s what they expect—to shock you and then continue carrying out their attack until they win. But that’s just it.

No one wins when baggage is being flung around.

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People lash out because they’re in pain, because they’ve got something going on inside them they don’t know how to deal with, because they see or perceive something in the person standing in front of them (or on the other side of the video screen/phone line) they can’t stand in themselves.

In my grandfather’s case, I can only surmise that he was hurt that I would try to take advantage of him. Only, I had no idea that his plan was not to simply help me with negotiations at the car dealership, but to actually buy the car for me.

And still, the damage had been done.

After that exchange (even after my grandmother’s words of wisdom), I walked around with self-loathing and self-doubt, thinking it was the truth because I had seen myself through my grandfather’s older, wiser glasses.

Except, everything he said about me had to do with him, not me.

If you take nothing else from this post, take this:

Other people’s baggage has nothing to do with you.

Their baggage has to do with them.

Don’t get sucked into their bullshit. If you find yourself on the receiving end of someone’s verbal punching bag, instead of taking a swing, take a deep breath and a step back.

Walk away and leave the baggage behind. There’s just no pleasing some people, and trying can be futile.

Tell the person that you’re stepping away for a moment; don’t ask for permission. Walk away or hang up the phone without saying a word if you have to. And don’t bring their baggage with you.

You’re not disrespecting the person in your face or on the other end of the line by walking away—you’re respecting yourself by excusing yourself from a volatile situation.

Know where you stand and be willing to stand for who you are. Get curious about where you stand. About the situation, about each person’s role in the situation, and about what you can and can’t control in that situation.

When you’re ready to return to the conversation (whether minutes, hours, days, or even weeks later), be clear about what you want to get out of the exchange. Be clear in both your thoughts and communication.

If that backfires and you wish you hadn’t returned to the conversation, just refer back to not getting sucked into their bullshit. Their baggage, their bullshit is not about you, remember?

You have a responsibility to your wellbeing, not to their baggage.

  • One of the hardest lessons for me to learn in the past few years was that not throwing baggage/shit back at someone is NOT me being weak or “saying” their words are true about me. The second lesson was that walking away from someone is NOT me disrespecting them, but respecting myself. Two hard lessons that required lots of self-exploration, self-love, and deep breathing. And on the other side of that learning … much peace and compassion.

    • It’s not always easy to take that step back. You’re so right that walking away doesn’t signify agreement with whatever their arguments or beliefs are about you. There’s no need to stand up to a brick wall. Great lessons to have learned!

  • Sherri

    Awesome post, Dian! You always have such great insights.

  • Pingback: Thursday Thought: Respect — Authentic Realities()

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