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Knowing Myself Series Part 4: Letting Others In (Managing Annoying Me)

By Ilene Marcus February 24, 2023 Mindset

If you want to learn how to swim, you start on dry land. Walking slowly in, you acclimate to the water, literally letting it wash over you as you wade in. Eventually, the watch is up to your shoulders, covers most of your body and you put your head under – finally, you are in the water. Your whole body is surrounded by water.

You might continue to practice out of the water on stroke mechanics, strengthening your muscles, and breathing techniques. You may stay in the shallow end for a while or use a small pool or bathtub to practice. The point is at some point you must get into the water.

Letting others in is like getting in the water. They are entities outside of yourself, you are not in control, and you can get in deep quickly. Each person has their idiosyncrasies that, often, might not sync up with yours.

You May Ask – I Deal with People Every Day, How Is This Different?

It’s different because you will make it different. You want something unlike what you have had before. You are working on your relationship with yourself and have made progress. Hopefully, you are experiencing less confrontation and more acceptance. Fewer obstacles and more going with the flow, not because it’s easier, but because you are making choices you value and want.

Let’s review and for some of you catch-up:

Now, we are ready to get into the pool and party! It’s time to get into the water with others.

Spoiler alert, although we are ready to be in more intimate, loving relationships we still must grow, hone and practice knowing ourselves. The truth is we are never finished with steps 1, 2, and 3 – the goal is for them to become part of our baseline. Part of who we are and how we choose to see the world.

On to Getting in the Water

Learning to value myself and balancing that with living with another is a tricky situation for me. That’s a big part of why I am writing this series. To remind me of where I started, what I have learned, and where I ultimately want to be.

Thus far, I have learned that being in true partnership with another involves two core abilities. These are both keys to Managing Annoying Me.

This is a very delicate operation, and we need to start with some common definitions and understandings. Something I defiantly learned in dealing with others. Are we speaking the same language, coming from the same understanding? It’s ok if we are not, it’s about each standing in our own depth in the water – I love when an analogy carries all the way through.

An example of this is understanding the exact body of water we are talking about. I may have a mountain lake in mind, while my partner is talking about the Pacific Ocean or a built-in swimming pool. All water although defined by diverse attributes.

Wanting to be in an intimate relationship, I have found that I must travel two roads. I was reluctant to go down.

Facing Deep Dark Hurts

Deep Dark Hurts are my personal core issues, the bud of the bud, the core of the onion (if the onion had a core). This is the historical hysterical baggage that I drag around with me and which keeps repeating in every interaction, relationship, and situation. These are at the root of the patterns in my life that keep me stuck.

As I started to love myself, and see who I am, I started to connect to my emotions. Then I had to see how I reacted. What I did in response to every situation. This is when I had to become willing to address whatever is going on. Having a new awareness that lets me not look at the deeper issues and trends of my behaviors but that I had to be willing to face these behaviors. To own them. When I love myself, I can be more honest with myself.

Often this starts with my Core Beliefs. These viewpoints that I have, although they are not immutable, have permeated my understanding of the world and how I fit in it. Each of us has our own, developed from our unique journey, starting at birth all the way through who we are now.

For me, I believed that friendships were always a rocky road, and I had to give more than I got. I would go as far as to say, I often felt I had to sacrifice my zen to be in a relationship. What a gift to be able to let go of that type of thinking.

Once I love myself, I can see all of myself and that is when I can be truly honest and know that it is time to change my beliefs that don’t serve me anymore, as a mature older woman with perspective.

Changing My Behaviors

Practically speaking, what can I do when I have feelings and am upset about a relationship, a conversation, or anything involving a relationship with another?

This is where I have learned that triggers are a good source of information on where I need to go deeper.

Understanding Triggers?

This is another word I believe we can benefit from defining. A good friend of mine recently said this word makes it worse for her; she feels like someone is holding a gun to her head and she had to act quickly.

It’s the total opposite for me. Triggers to me are what get me started. I can react and pull the trigger and go like a speeding bullet down a rabbit hole, or I can pause, step back and not react. I view it as having my finger on the trigger. For most of my life on this planet, I chose to shoot first and think later, literally pointing the finger or gun at anyone instead of me. I did this to defend my feelings.

Now, as I face my core beliefs that drive my feelings, triggers are information. They present a choice. Most importantly, I do not have to defend my feelings anymore. Choice and control have returned to my universe.

Changing my behaviors is not – I repeat NOT – about pleasing others. It’s about becoming a better me, who acts like a woman of dignity and grace under all conditions. It’s a way for me to be true to my beliefs and to show that to others. To be kinder to those I love and value.

Practice Staying in the Water – Managing Annoying Me

If I want to be in a relationship with anyone – friend, partner, family, peer, or even myself – I must practice staying in the water. I must apply what I have learned about facing my deep dark truths and then changing my behaviors. I must be able and ready to take another action than what I may have done based on my triggers.

Now that I know the result of my “usual” action, I must take an unusual action. After years of coaching CEOs and founders about growing their businesses, I must take my own advice: What got you this far will not get you to the next level, to where you want to go. I had to change my reactions and actions to bring them in alignment with my underlying beliefs to act differently.

I have learned this usually boils down to three key observations I must make, which are not mutually exclusive. Each choice is to be applied situation by situation. This is part of our new approach, there is no one-solution-fits-all policy. Meaning, what I might do today might not be what I do a month from now, depending on the situation.

Invoke Goldilocks

The first thing to do on all accounts is an honest appraisal. What is really going on? I call this Goldilocksing or right-sizing the situation. Remember the story where Goldilocks enters a home she finds in the woods, tired, hungry, and sleepy? She finds the one item that is just right for her. First, she wants the biggest, then the smallest, and finally, she settles on what is just right.

The kicker is, she forgets or ignores the fact that she is trespassing and not even in her own home. What a lesson! It shows us that we must find what fits us, is the right size for us, and corresponds to our situation.

The bigger lesson that is often missed here is what belongs to us. What is ours to worry about, to use, or to be involved in and make decisions about? Maybe we are reacting to situations, policies, and relationships that aren’t ours to change or worry about.

How often have we worried about the wrong thing? The key here is to take stock of the situation: is it an emergency or something we won’t even remember in a few weeks? What is ours to make decisions about?

Situation by situation, I must assess the circumstances with honesty and integrity and proceed from that place of understanding of my role, my place, and my purpose at this time, in this situation.

See My BS – My Blind Spots

Even the most high-tech of high-tech cars have a blind spot, a sightline we cannot see, a view that is not obvious. Sometimes it’s just a small sliver, and sometimes it can be the size of a ball field. When that blind spot comes into my vision, when I finally see it, I am left shaking my head, thinking, “How did I miss that?”

And that’s when the fun begins. When I can finally see and become aware of what I did not see before, I gain a whole new perspective. Usually, that perspective involves becoming humble.

Case in point, I was getting annoyed at one of the people I was working with on a town committee. They were always quick to say no and then wanted to discuss why they said no, repeatedly. Finally, when I saw my blind spot, I recognized what I didn’t see before – I always started with Yes.

So, that person was reacting to me; my blind spot had created the situation! The following week, I let the conversation start with a discussion on everyone’s points of view. I let go of my blind spot of always starting with yes, and we started to make real progress. What a relief and a gift!

Start Stopping Today

One thing I have surely learned over the years is when it doesn’t feel right. What has been a slower learning curve is what to do about it. I have learned that figuring it out can take too much time. Letting it be can just make me act crazier because it’s not what I feel. And addressing it directly… well… that doesn’t always go in my favor.

What’s a woman swimming in new waters supposed to do?

Start Stopping. Today.

When it doesn’t feel right, when I am overwhelmed, when I can’t seem to find my balance, I just start doing it differently. Today. Not tomorrow, when I believe all my ducks will be in a row. Not next week, when something else is supposed to happen. Just right now.

At that same town meeting, I opened my mouth and was about to say, “Yes, I am sure we can do that,” I knew it didn’t feel good, and I started stopping at that moment. I said, “never mind.” I couldn’t believe that I had started stopping right then. It felt a little scary, a lot of good, and I didn’t end in the same place I usually did – alone on dry land without anyone else around me.

What’s Next

What are you waiting for, get into the water! Channel Goldilocks and know what belongs to you, identify your blind spots, and bring your willingness to start stopping and the desire to be different and it will be.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you used to letting others in your life, or is this something you find difficult? What gets in the way? Is there something you’re afraid of?

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This article really spoke to me. It was very insightful and honest. Speaking to trying to change our own behaviors this article put into words what I experience enough times to bother me. I have a bad habit on some weird subconscious level of being woken up in the early morning hours flooded with guilt for having said things the day before. On the day I said them, I hadn’t even thought of them again. Those things somehow haunt me in my sleep physically causing fear in my chest. I spend several minutes trying to suppress them so I could fall back to sleep. When I wake, I know it wasn’t anything gossipy, it was information given without malice or agenda. Is it my instinct telling me I may have divulged something about myself or a neighbor or a colleague to someone else? Or is it my overly empathetic tendencies for others’ feelings which haven’t yet or may never be impacted by my conversation placing too much responsibility in my hands? Does this happen to anyone else? And does anyone have perspective on second guessing oneself in your sleep? What is that?

Toni Stritzke

There is so much to unpack in this article. I think I need to read it every morning.
I just had a late night spat about buying the correct bananas. So the article made me laugh.
The things we get upset about!


You got it – it’s all about bananas and not going bananas! Stay tuned for part 5!


It’s all about not going bananas! Managing annoying me – stay tuned for part 5.


“We are reacting to situations that aren’t ours to change or worry about”… .Wow! This sentence is so true! Loved this article.


What a great nugget to pick up! Thanks

Lori A Simonelli

I loved this. Great points and the approach made it easy to hear.


Thanks stay tuned for part 5 and check out my videos on you tube!

The Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is the author of Managing Annoying People and runs Aligned Workplace, speaking and training Leaders and Founders to attract and retain great employees. An emerging literary writer, her goal is to make you smile just a bit more. Please visit her website at

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