The night of my epiphany, I was roasting potatoes in my smoky kitchen and humming to “Stairway to Heaven.”
My husband called out from the other room to tell me to stop tossing the potatoes. He bluntly said, “They aren’t ready yet—don’t let the heat escape from the oven.”
And that’s when it hit me—that moment of objectivity. I became acutely aware of my reaction and my sentiments in that instance. The annoyance I felt, the cringing feeling that ran up and down my spine. They could’ve only originated from my ego—hell-bent on protecting itself.
I would not defend myself or give in to my ego, however. There wouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction, not that time. I didn’t tell him to go flip his potatoes (figuratively) or try to reassure him I knew what I was doing either.
Instead, I sunk. I deflated, truthfully. I felt the awfulness I would’ve avoided if I had pushed back. I sat with my feelings that said, “I’d done something wrong, terribly wrong.”
Yes, I know it’s strange that I’m talking about roasted potatoes like this…so personally. I mean, why on earth would anyone take this cooking situation to heart. But that’s the thing—this isn’t about the potatoes at all.
It’s about believing I’d done something “wrong” or “bad,” and it’s about feeling as if I haven’t measured up in some way. And it’s about my desire to prove myself “right.”
Therefore, if it wasn’t the potatoes that brought this to my attention, then it would be the driver who dislikes the way I merged—and can’t stop honking and waving their arms at me. Or, it’s the boss who implies my sincerest and best efforts are subpar. Or the baseball coach who decides to place me last on the lineup.
When I sank into my wrongness, I realized my need to explain my mistakes reinforced the belief that I wasn’t good enough. It insisted that if I’ve done something wrong, then I mustn’t be worthy. Thus, I must show this is untrue and ascertain that I’m not a total mess up.
Defensiveness is like walking into a room undressed with a sign that says, “There’s nothing to look at here!”
It is every time we believe we must wave off feelings of inferiority or fear our shortcomings may come to light. It’s about having to be right and declare we haven’t misstepped. It’s about being flawed and believing it isn’t an option.
Certainly, there are times when we must defend ourselves, like when we are wrongly accused or if we’re being abused or harmed. But those defenses come from a place of knowing or justification. There is no ego involved, nor a hiding of our imperfections.
Most times, all we need to do is listen—not only to another’s dissatisfaction but, intently, to what our heart has to say.
My heart pointed to an old emotional wound I’d carried—one that said I was always falling short (especially in the kitchen). The awareness I found in my potato experiment allowed for much healing in and out of the kitchen.
Our hearts will always tell us that being infallible is impossible and that there is no shame in being human. And it may remind us that, sometimes, we must let others think whatever they’d like—without the need to control or shape their beliefs.
“What others think about me is none of my business.” ~ Wayne Dyer
And our hearts will always inform us when the time is right for another person to be heard and validated. It will let us know when we need to take ownership and when amends are warranted.
The heart will always instruct us to forgive ourselves, no matter how grave our misjudgments.
Our hearts will free us from a hypervigilant ego that believes it must protect and deflect rather than listen and learn.
I’m done defending myself.