Last weekend I made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s because I needed something last- minute. I approached the freezer case where two young boys, probably around 11 and 8, were horsing around. They blocked my access to the case, so I just stood waiting until they moved on. The elder boy caught my eye and said to his brother “Move over, there’s an old lady.” Without hitting the pause button (something I always encourage my clients to do before reacting to words that hurt), I looked him in the eye and blurted out “I am not that old!”
In retrospect, I have been thinking about how often our identities can be quaked – over important things and other not so important things. If I’m honest with myself, I believe I wanted to teach him a lesson which I’m not convinced was mine to teach. He was, after all, trying to do the right by getting his brother to move out of the way. And who dubbed me the “Minister of Manners” anyway?
What was the lesson in the middle of a grocery store for me? You can’t find your value and your identity in another person’s perception of you.