It is silly, isn’t it? Taking some random non-verbal cue from a stranger and internalizing it? She does not know me. I do not know her. Her lack of response has nothing to do with me.
These type of encounters fade in a few minutes, but what about those conversations where the person is an acquaintance or a good friend or a family member? How often do we take what people say to us, react, and then blame ourselves for their behavior? There are a handful of times where I’ve internally reacted to an acquaintance’s observation on my parenting, career choices, or preferences. After these brief moments, I tend to blame myself to justify their inappropriate comment or observation. This is precisely the mental gymnastics I need to refrain from. Most people are just dealing with their own emotions and vulnerabilities and their reaction or non-reaction usually points to some insecurity within themselves.
I think about my lack of exchange with the Indian woman on the plane. Maybe right before I smiled at her, she had a massive argument with her husband or she was attending the funeral of a loved one or she was travelling for the first time away from her family in India. I don’t know. What I do know is that the next time I gravitate toward being hard on myself because someone “hurt” me, I need to call a mental time out.