As I picked up my daughter recently from a playdate, she got in the car and proceeded to tell me one of her friends had lied to her that day. This was my cue to turn off the radio.
"Lied to you? Are you sure?" I proceeded to ask. Yes, quite sure.
Julia told me her friend (the one who lied to her) told her not to worry if she didn't get invited to her birthday party because, well, she wasn't having one. As it turns out, the lie was that she did have a birthday party. And Julia wasn't invited. Welcome to middle school.
You see, at Julia's playdate earlier in the day, Julia saw left-over birthday party favors strewn about in her other friend's bedroom and was innocently told, "Oh, that's from so-and-so's party last weekend."
To which Julia replied, "Wait, she told me she wasn't having one."
To which her friend replied, "Oh, sorry."
So, Julia was now looking to me for answers. Why had her friend lied to her, and why wasn't she invited? She thought they were good friends (having just been over to her house not too long ago for a playdate).
The first thing I did was empathize. I told her, "that sucks." It sucks to be left out. I told her I knew the feeling she was experiencing and there was nothing warm and cozy about it. You hurt, and question if people really like you. You think of everything you've ever said to or about that person to see if there's anything maybe that could have resulted in you not being invited to the party. It's a terrible feeling, and I reached over, grabbed Julia's hand and said, "Honey, I get it."
"Thanks, Mom," was all she said.
There's a great book I read called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz that came to mind as we continued home. The "Four Agreements" are simple life "rules" Ruiz believes will result in a happy, fulfilling life, if accepted and practiced routinely. They are:
1. Be impeccable with your word
2. Don't take anything personally
3. Don't make assumptions
4. Always do your best
So, as I'm helping Julia sort through the pain of being left out of her friend's party, I turned to Agreement Number Two: Don't Take Anything Personally. This Agreement means that nothing others do is because of you. More specifically, what others say and do is a projection of their own reality. You will only stop being a victim of needless suffering when you become immune to the opinions and actions of others. Period.
In other words, your positive reactions to the actions of others, especially when they don't coincide with what you would expect (or wish) them to be, is your ticket to serenity.
Jules and I talked about this. We talked about how you cannot control what others do, but what you can do is control your reactions to their actions. It's a simple lesson really, but, then again, it's not. Because if you're like me, if you're like my daughter, our default setting when something like this happens is, "What did I do wrong?" Or "What could I have done better?" Or any number of self-probing question into our past actions to reason why life threw us a curve-ball.
As we pulled into the garage, I was feeling pretty good about our chat, and the fact that Julia's default setting had adjusted to serve her well. Julia was smiling again. She told me she understood what I was saying, and that she was ok. Then she ran off to find her brother so they could play.
I was left to think of the quote from the book The Confidence Code which says, "Sometimes it's enough to tell someone that confidence is a choice you can make." I'm pretty sure that's what I had just done. And I'm sure my daughter had listened. And that's a great feeling.