Last weekend I was on a call with my mother (Hey bebbez!!) and she told me about a health issue she was having.
In the most annoying display of concern ever, I took it upon myself to jump up onto my high horse and lecture her about how she should really take it easy at work, how if she were to die she would be replaced immediately (dramatic much?) and how she should really put herself first.
Even I could hear how annoying I sounded to myself, but once I had picked up that steam, I just couldn’t find the power and strength of will to stop.
The next day was Monday; I wasn’t feeling well (hadn’t been for weeks), and finally decided that I would visit the doctor. But since it was Monday, and I had work on Monday evenings, I would visit the doctor the next day, on Tuesday.
Immediately (and I do mean immediately!) my annoying lecture came back into my head: “You need to take it easy at work! If you were to drop down dead, someone would replace you the next day. You really need to learn how to put yourself first!”
My lecture – as it turns out – was not meant for my mother.
It was meant for me.
I’ve been noticing this pattern more and more and more and more in my life. Common wisdom has described it as “When you point a finger, four more are pointing back at you” or one saying I used to really struggle to understand, “It takes one to know one.”
I had been sick for weeks, and – although I had done a lot to try and get better – I wasn’t really prioritizing it the way I knew I should have. I was busy, and I told myself that these things were important, unconsciously making the decision that they were more important than my own well-being in the present moment. So when my mother started telling me how she wasn’t well, my mind latched on to moment to get the message out to me the only way it could…through her:
You need to take it easy at work!
Fortunately, I heard it this time around. I cancelled class. I went to the doctor instead.
This method of our mind, to see in the outside world what goes on in our inner world, and – particularly uncomfortably (lol) – to see what we refuse to consciously acknowledge in our inner world … is known as projection. Here is a beautiful video on the topic.
What we see outside is a reflection of our inner state. But I’ve found that applies not only to what I see, but extends to what I say. Whatever advice or message I have for others is really just something I need to hear myself.
It may not always be as straight-forward as me literally needing to take it easy at work, but I’ve found that if I spend enough time and examine myself deeply enough, I will find ways in which I am terrible at something I am advising another person to do.
This can help you understand why, for example, church people are such alleged hypocrites. We might expect that someone who preaches a message would be good at it, but I have found that, on the contrary, the complete opposite is true. If they were good at it, they wouldn’t be talking about it so much.
The kicker, though, is that if you sense someone is a hypocrite, it means you are – in some way – one yourself.
Ah yes, this is the magic and freedom of projection.
It can really help to remember that the advice other people give, is meant for them.
But, ultimately, all your power lies in acknowledging and really understanding that the advice you give to others is really meant for you.
And that advice is, of course, meant for me.