We spend lots of time trying to make others happy or preventing their unhappiness.

This requires one to: chose to stop doing what is unnecessary and do something constructive by living on our own terms in the present. This may involve stopping what we “should” do and making a choice on our own behalf.

In this context, our new choice is to use our judgment to override our defensive attitudes. Reality requires us to know what we are thinking and trust our own judgment. We can use our adult judgment to determine which words make sense and which are used to be hurtful. Any solution using our judgment will be good enough to get the job done.

We can get our independence back by reminding ourself that we have the power of choice. Specifically, we have power and control over what comes out of our mouth. We can catch ourself about to defend and choose to shift our mental gears. We can catch ourself about to explain, defend, debate, cajole, counter-attack or submit, and choose not to do it. We are choosing not to operate out of old carryover attitudes from the playground. We do not react, but are choosing to respond. That includes choosing to say nothing while they vent.

We can stay in the present and exercise our power of choice constructively, using our adult judgment, which our adversary does not have. Nodding our head during the tirade is a sign that we are hearing what they said, not that we agree with it. Their criticisms of our skills are not to be taken as a reflection of our worth. But it’s hard to avoid going down the path of doubt and self-criticism.

We can’t help ourself in a way. We can regain our self-respect by reminding ourself that others’ comments are merely a child’s temper tantrum; they don’t help the situation. Even if they are true, they are only imperfections. They are regrettable, and we wish we didn’t have them. We wish we had seen this coming in advance, but we did not. Yet, we are worthwhile human beings in spite of these imperfections. This part of the process is not between us and them, it is between us and us. We are choosing to liberate ourself from the tyranny of our old attitudes, such as, “I don’t want to be displeasing” or, “I have to take a stand or they’ll think I’m a wimp.”

Instead, we are making a third choice.  We are freeing ourself to act responsibly and effectively on our own terms in this crisis. We don’t have to say a word. We are able to use this turmoil as an opportunity to replace our self-doubt with mature, effective self-respect. Self-respect is the feeling that we are “worthwhile human beings in spite of our faults and imperfections.” That is reality.

A number of factors can make an event take on a high level of significance and cause stress as a result:
•​The importance and size of the event

•​The prospect of a large financial reward, of promotion, or of personal advancement

•​The presence of family, friends or important people

If stress is a problem under these circumstances, then think carefully about the event – take every opportunity to reduce its importance:

•​If the event seems big, put it in its place along the path to our goals. Compare it in our mind with bigger events we might know of or might have attended.

•​If there is a financial reward, we can remind ourself that there may be other opportunities for reward later. This will not be the only chance we have. Focus on the quality of our performance. Focusing on the rewards will only damage our concentration and raise stress.

•​If members of your family are watching, we can remind ourself that they love us anyway. If friends are real friends, they will continue to like us whether we win or lose.

•​If people who are important to our goals are watching, then we can remind ourself that we may well have other chances to impress them.

•​If we focus on the efforts not the outcomes of our tasks, then the importance of the event will dwindle into the background