Recently, I sent my friend a WhatsApp message and saw that she was online. I waited for her reply, albeit white-knuckled (yes, figuratively). However, she did respond shortly afterward, and I felt ashamed and embarrassed for feeling as though I did something wrong to not be worthy of an immediate response. In situations like this, my thinking pattern goes something like the following:
“Why, Saralah? You know that she’s not doing it on purpose. You know that she’s not out to hurt you. You know that she’s very busy and usually answers you. And, you know that 99% of the time, a lack in response has nothing to do with you! Most of the time, it’s because they’re busy. You’re an adult–yet, you still find it hard to trust that when people don’t respond to you (in a timely manner) that they’re “still” your friend.
These kinds of thoughts cross my mind more often than I’d like to admit. It doesn’t matter who the person is or what the instance is–I still take their lack of response personally.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Why We Take Things Personally
I think the answer may have to do with the way that our childhood affects our emotional makeup. As children, we often do not receive quick responses and take this to mean that we did something wrong or that our request isn’t worthy without ever specifically being told why. Thus, we feel rejected and hurt.
This often leads to feelings of confusion and wondering why it’s so difficult for us to just trust people. When someone hurts us, we are less inclined to trust them. However, as children, it is difficult to understand feelings and emotions. And so, we often thought, Why can’t I just trust them? And now our minds repeat this message to us.
As an adult, this lack of trust may now manifest itself as doubting that others will respond to us adequately–since, as children, we may have often felt as though our needs weren’t wholly met. Because we have to come to expect this, we expect it now–and I, for one, experience some of this with text messages. Someone’s lack of a response mirrors my own unmet needs as a child–something to which I grew to be accustomed.
I struggle with telling myself that as much as it feels like it, it is not my fault if someone does not respond to me immediately. Because people don’t typically respond immediately and this is a pattern that I have noticed with different people time and time again, I decided that I need to stop personalizing it.
It’s Not Always About Me
I finally realized that there had to be something “more” to this habit and that this couldn’t all just be my fault. I broke things down into this clear pattern that I often follow: I would message someone, wait for their response, wait some more, personalize their lack of (immediate) response, and then go find someone else to text. But as time went on and each scenario proved my emotional reasoning to be wrong, my reaction slowly started mirroring and adding up to the facts.
I no longer jump to the assumption that a lack of response or quick response must have something to do with me or the message I sent. There are plenty of reasons having nothing to do with me about why the person may not have responded. I now realize this and am continuing to realize that–99% of the time–it’s not about me!
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