People are in a mood.
Last week I was driving along a quiet suburban street and I came to a stop sign. I inched out slightly as I waited for the one car coming on my right to pass before I pulled out. The driver then indicated that he was turning into the street I was on. I quickly realized I was too far out for him to make the turn easily and threw my car in reverse and backed up. I looked at him and smiled. What happened next shocked me.
He pulled his car so close to mine if my window was down I would need to put a mask on and gave me the middle finger. He more than gave me the middle finger. He slammed the back of his hand on the window and glared at me before speeding off. So much rage over a three-second incident.
Now I have no idea what was going on with him. All I know is that his response to me in that situation was way out of line with what transpired. I was concerned for the person with him and found myself hoping that she wasn’t in a romantic relationship with him.
It seems like he isn't alone. There are many people angry right now. You don’t need me to give you a list of reasons why we feel like life is out of control and we are powerless. Watch the news. Check any social media platform and you’ll find angry people. You don’t need to go far to find someone ready to dump their pent-up rage on the first person who crosses them the wrong way. Be careful out there!
For people-pleasers being around anger can be a very difficult thing. We may have experienced misdirected, escalating or elevated anger as children. We learned to get out of the way of angry people if we wanted to be safe. We made ourselves blend in so we wouldn't set anyone off. Anger is something we avoid. More than avoid. We may believe it is bad. We may be fearful of being on the receiving end of someone’s anger. What happens when we let our fear about anger keep us from showing up honestly? We avoid doing or saying anything that will make someone angry. We make choices so we will be liked. We do everything to stay comfortable. Our belief that it is our responsibility to keep other people from getting angry can keep us from living our own lives.
If you are doing things you don’t want to do just so other people don’t get angry, you can make changes. There is freedom when you start showing up in relationships as who you truly are. It can be exhausting work trying to make people comfortable with you or like you. And at the end of the day, it isn't even you that they like. It is the version of you that you are showing them. You won’t feel safe because you will always wonder, “if they knew what I thought/believed/wanted they would reject me or be angry with me.” Learning to disappoint people allows you to be yourself - without apology or permission seeking. The truth is we don’t just avoid making people angry, we avoid doing anything that might upset them at all. We don’t allow ourselves to show up authentically because the real us might disappoint or hurt someone. Or make them angry. We start to lose touch with ourselves.
The best thing about learning to deal with your fear of anger and conflict means next time you accidentally put out too far in traffic and someone loses their mind, instead of beating yourself up you find yourself hoping their day gets better and they get the help they need. You don’t worry what they think about you - it’s none of your business.