Friday, November 16, 2007

So Sorry to Bother You...

I’m a big believer in common courtesy and being considerate of other people’s feelings. Rude and selfish behavior is one of my pet peeves. It just isn’t that hard to think about how my actions affect other people and try to modify them accordingly. There don’t seem to be enough people who try to do this in today’s world, in my humble opinion.

I think that I, however, sometimes go a little too far in my efforts to make other people comfortable. I know I’m not the only one who suffers from this particular affliction. I bend over backwards to not cause others even the slightest inconvenience, and often suffer a bit as a result. There is one particular experience I’ve had repeatedly that demonstrates to me that I need to moderate my behavior in this regard.

I love the window seat on airplanes. Always have, always will. I love to be able to look out the window and see what I’m flying over. I like to lean against the wall of the airplane when I decide it’s time to take a snooze. I’m very comfortable in that spot, with one exception. I really don’t like to ask the people next to me to let me out when I need to go to the rest room! I hate the thought of disturbing other people. Actually, I don’t get up very often at all. I don’t need to stretch or move. The only time I must get up is to make the occasional trip to the restroom. Yet, at times I have suffered mightily, because the person next to me is sleeping, or has their laptop out, or just looks very comfortable. I don’t feel OK about asking them to move, just so I can go the restroom! It because apparent to me that I have an irrational discomfort of asking people to do this small thing for me. I think it is related to a lot of complex internal psychology, but the bottom line is I believe other people’s comfort is always more important than my own.

While that may sound admirable, I don’t believe it’s healthy. I think there needs to be a balance between feeling like its ok for me to have needs and wants and being respectful of other people’s comfort.

The truth is most people on airplanes don’t mind getting up to let others out of their seats. It is an expected part of air travel. They don’t take it personally, and most don’t think less of the person in the window seat for having need of a biological break, especially on the 5 or 6 hour flights that I commonly find myself on.

It is some sort of irrational desire on my part to be the perfect seat mate and to have no needs or wants that might inconvenience anyone else in the slightest. I realize how absurd this is! Even with the awareness, though, it is a hard pattern for me to break. Since I became aware of this pattern, I have chosen to ‘engage’ with it by always getting up at least once per flight. It is my ‘practice’ at asking for another’s help in meeting a need that I have. It still isn’t comfortable, but it is no longer excruciating. I have even awakened someone when the situation warranted it. It is getting easier for me to take care of myself, and realize that I’m not being uncaring or thoughtless when I do.

We all have the right to have needs and wants as part of our human experience. We also have the right to ask others to help us, when they can, to meet those needs. There is no shame or weakness in doing so. In fact, people are often delighted to help us. It makes them feel good to do something kind for another person. Finding that line between concern for other and concern for self is a process we all must participate in. We don’t want to be too far off center in either direction.

Balance is good!

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