It’s Not About Us

Comments 29

I’ve asked myself the question a bunch of times: How does some random guy in Ohio writing first-person stories about his failed marriage and divorce become someone who strangers reach out to for relationship advice? Why would anyone care what some divorced guy says about love or about marriage or about anything?

The answer materialized recently in the form of a random Facebook post about public speaking, and that answer is basically: Because none of this is about me.

I write about me and about things I’ve done and thought and felt.

And in and of itself, that matters to zero people. But because people sometimes feel alone, or like they don’t have anyone to talk to, or like no one understands, something powerful happens on the inside when they find a song, or something on TV, or a book, or some random divorced guy’s blog, and that thing they found makes them feel: This is just like me. I’m not alone. Someone else gets it.

It might seem like a small thing.

But it might be the most important thing in the world.

Because when the person you love is your world, or your children are your world, or your friends are your world, or your career is your world, the thing that connects you to that world and helps you bring light and hope and good things, instead of shitting all over it like a roid-raging Godzilla on a Diet Sierra Mist bender, is one simple truth.

It’s not about you.

It’s about them.

How a Facebook Post About Public Speaking Can be the Most Important Thing About Your Entire Life

From author and speaker Glennon Doyle Melton:

“I used to hate public speaking. I hated it because I thought it was about me. I thought it was about being amazing and making everyone think: WOW SHE’S SO AWESOME so I held my breath the whole time and tried to be fabulous and impressive.

“That’s always where we go wrong.

“Life and art and work and love: They’re not about showing off, they’re about showing up. They’re not about saying: HERE I AM! They’re about saying: THERE YOU ARE. They are not just about being seen by others—they are about truly SEEING OTHERS.

“So now, everywhere I’m invited to speak, I make sure I am fully, fully prepared before I walk on the grounds. So that with the first person I meet—from the driver to the hosts to the ushers to every person in the audience and hugging line—I can be fully present. Because those who trust me enough to invite me into the day they’ve spent months planning are not just inviting me to be seen by their people but to SEE THEIR PEOPLE. God, it took me a while to figure this out. People don’t need you to be amazing—but they do need you to be amazed. People don’t even need you to be interesting—they just need you to be interested. Want to be loved today?



“This is my speaking mantra, from the second I get out of the car: ‘Glennon – Wherever you are, be the soul of that place.’ – Rumi. ‘Then when you get back to the hotel—you can have a cheeseburger and Bravo.’ – I added this part.

“Wherever you are today, loves, be the soul of that place.”

Want a happy marriage?

Make it about making your spouse feel seen and heard. Thank you for what you do every day. What can I do today to make her/him feel grateful for me?

Want a happy child?

Make it about them. Not toys and bullshit things. Real things. I see you, son. I care about that because you care about that.

Want lots of great friends?

Be a great friend. I’m here for whatever. You’re family.

Want a happy life?

Stop trying to make it about all the ways you can be better, smarter, happier, richer, stronger, prettier, faster, thinner, sexier, taller. And maybe try making it about all the ways you can help people—those you love, and maybe even those people over there who you might if you only knew them—be happier.

I’m a self-centered, thoughtless human being.

When bad things “happen” to me, I can always trace it back to how I wasn’t paying enough attention. Sometimes to a thing. Usually, to a person.

I’ve been trying so hard to make me better. But what if Life is about making things better for others? What if THAT is how we make ourselves better?

I am often making life, including the words here, about me. I think maybe writing and life are harder when I make it about me.

The writing isn’t about me. It’s about you.

Life isn’t about me. It’s about my son. My family. My friends. It’s about people. It’s about you.

I’m so sorry for all the times I made life about me or about things, and not about you.

There’s a fire coming that we all will go through
You possess your possessions or they possess you
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side

And let the rest burn

Ashes from the flames, the truth is what remains

29 thoughts on “It’s Not About Us”

  1. completelyinthedark

    Matt, it’s sort of amazing to read this just now, after what happened on Saturday. I’d planned to join a career-shift group meetup for coffee since I had an unusual day off work and thought I’d check it out. I was initially put off because it was a group of five older people (everyone seems older than me, since I feel like such a kid all the time, and I’M ancient, which is weird)…but I made a mental note to just listen and be of assistance. When someone asked me a question, I said I would answer it only after I congratulated the woman next to me for her act of bravery in a difficult job situation. She just blossomed when I did that. Of course I felt good, but that wasn’t half as important to see how it affected her. I realized if I did that every day, I would benefit. So this post underscores a new habit I’m adopting. Thank you for publishing it! best, Mike

  2. There’s a balance to that though Matt. As someone who has been very bad at setting boundaries and very bad at doing any- no less adequate – self care, I can say from experience – you – the global you – or maybe WE is better – We have to take good enough care of ourselves so we CAN be there for others on a sustainable basis.

    Otherwise it all still falls apart. Either we break down totally and can’t keep being there or we become exhausted, depressed and or resentful. And then, even though we may still be present – we are not adding happiness for anyone.

    I’m slowly learning that when I take enough time for me – not just the minimal amount to keep dragging on – but really enough – I can be more present and do / give so much more. You cannot pour water from an empty glass.

    1. Oh yes, good reminder! It’s not all about us and life is much easier when we remember that, but some of us don’t know how to put our own oxygen mask on first when the plane is crashing. I used to have that very argument, they always tell moms to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your kids. Some of us want to help others first, but if you do that, you’ll probably just pass out and be of no use to anyone.

    2. I definitely agree with the self care part. People are worthy of equal influence, and that includes ourselves. With that said, I do like this post. It reminds me of something I read by Martha Beck, that if you worry about your looks, focus on making other people feel beautiful. 🙂

  3. So much truth right here. Thank you for sharing. It seems authentic and timely. In every part of our lives, to be honored and heard is very important.

    To be seen and heard is amazing. I would add that to be known and cherished is beyond amazing. I believe that’s what I may have the privilege of having for the first time in my life. It feels like a safe harbor. It feels like home.

  4. It’s a really good post, Matt. I still hate things like public speaking or even writing and exposing oneself, but it helps so much to remember it isn’t really about us at all. We are never as important or as unimportant as we think we are.

    I often try to do something completely embarrassing right off, get pride out of the way and after the worst has already happened, you have nothing left to lose. 🙂

  5. Wow. You just keep hitting all the nails on the head. As a woman who has done this for her spouse and kids for over thirty years, I know how they have benefited from the kudos, pats on the back and being SEEN and KNOWN. That my kids do this now as adults (three of them) is a wonderful thing. They see me, know me, and I can continue being the one to make “it” about others in my life, especially my youngest still at home. I know they (all women) also do this for others in their lives–friends, family, co-workers.

    Like completelyinthdark, I have started a new project in which I get to be creative and also show the people in my life that they are seen and heard. Even if I am never heard by my spouse, I can get great satisfaction and happiness from doing this for others.

  6. And the bonus is that by making it about others, it comes back to you in spades.

    I needed this reminder, as well. I started writing in an attempt to get outside myself….and I was doing OK for awhile, but a few things are clouding my view at the moment.

    So thank you.

    Also…by reaching out, you allow others to see that, even though their entire world is now completely different, somebody somewhere can relate. If we all stand in a circle and lean on each other, nobody falls down. (Well, unless we all do. But that’s freaking hilarious, and what better way to cope with life than with laughter?)

      1. No, way- I’m his number one fan! We both cant be his number one fan!! ( ; )…joking). I like his writing, but I really enjoy the soul of his writing . Ie- I like Matt. I love what (And how) he expresses himself in his writing, and I’m being completely serious when I say the world needs kindness like he shows and expresses. “The world needs more lovers” is a way to put it. If each of us were willing to give of ourselves a little bit to the next person, maybe they wouldn’t feel so alone. Maybe they wont feel so desperate for love. Maybe they wouldn’t feel so hopeless in life. I am ALL about what Matt wrote here, even though I am guilty as the next person of just walking by so many people everyday without even so much as eye contact.
        We sometimes don’t realize in our own every day to day struggles how lonely the next person is, or what they have experienced in life. But, when you think about it, those struggles are going to happen- we need to do what we need to do to solve them, sure, but if we can acknowledge the stress of it , and just say- “The sucks, and its going to be sucky for a while, but it wont be like this forever-‘ and then look and see how someone else is doing- find some reason to laugh, find some joy to share.THAT is a giving and generous life, and it will be returned to you. But the more stingy we are, the more self centered and “me” focused we are, the more we miss out on opportunities that can bring real joy and real life to us. Life is kind of like Chinese handcuffs that way 🙂 . ..
        PS- I love the faces on some of those fan photo’s -they are great- a mixture between freakin elation and agony. ..Oh- humans, we are so funny.

  7. Then there is this:

    This is addressed to Christians because it comes from a very well-know passage in the Christian sacred text. But, it is a word for all of us.

    “Christians, we must stop leaping to judge and criticize others, because love is patient.

    We must be more generous and respectful and considerate, because love is kind.

    We must stop over-shouting everyone who has a different worldview, because love does not boast and is not proud.

    We must stop posting sarcastic insults and snarky tweets, because love does not dishonor others.

    We must stop hiding in country clubs and calling them “churches,” because love is not self-seeking.

    We must listen to others with open minds and hearts, and sometimes hold our tongue, because love is not easily angered.

    We must forgive the people who hurt us, because love keeps no record of wrongs.

    We must stand with victims of hatred, because love does not delight in evil.

    We must celebrate when we see goodness and kindness and joy in the world, because love rejoices with the truth.

    We must help everyone who cannot help themselves, because love always protects.

    We must trust, we must hope, we must persevere, because love never fails.”

    (Based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
    – Rich Thomas

  8. Once again, another piece that hits you like a low dB wave; you don’t see it coming, but it goes right through you and shakes your innards.

  9. Matt, your final line “I’m so sorry for all the times I made life about me or about things, and not about you” reminded me of the lyrics in Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”

    If I, if I have been unkind
    I hope that you can just let it go by
    If I, if I have been untrue
    I hope you know it was never to you

    It’s always a good place to be when you reflect on when you could have been better.
    Keep it up.

  10. Matt, I apologize for the obnoxious amount of posts on my part. I just wanted you to know that despite me trying to be cute, I trust and appreciate the sincerity in what you wrote. I wouldnt be such a big fan if I didnt.
    You wrote: “I’ve been trying so hard to make me better. But what if Life is about making things better for others? What if THAT is how we make ourselves better?”

    The only thing I can say is- yes, I think THAT is the best kind of better person you can be.

    We all think that in order to be accepted we have to be a certain kind of person (really smart, or sexy, or funny- whatever), and while those things can be charming, when it comes down to it, the person and people I want to be around are the ones who know me, who love me, the ones who are willing to open their life to me. & That is the kind of person I want to be.

    Anyway, MUST. STOP. POSTING.
    Wanted to know you were heard, and I think I have said it before- this kind of kindness and love is greatly needed in the world. So glad you, and the others here, are on to it 🙂

    Have a great evening.

  11. I read your first line and said, Ohio! Me too!

    My husband and I just celebrated 14 years of marriage last week, and what you wrote is what we discussed. It took us at least 7-10 years to figure it out. Putting it into practice is tough. 🙂

  12. Thank you. I am sad because while I thought I was kind and loving so many times I forgot to make it about him. So many regrets when we look back at the breakup of a marriage. Yesterday I received a comment from a reader upset that I was taking , in her opinion, too much blame for the breakup. I wish I had been as eloquent as you were on your post. If we knew then what we know now we could spare the pain for all involved and instead live and love ?

  13. “I’ve been trying so hard to make me better. But what if Life is about making things better for others?”

    Yeah, I’ve come to the same conclusion. It is in being good to others that we become better people. Which is why I am so passionate about preserving marriage. I often say that marriage is a microcosm in which we learn to be better people, and by that I mean “better to others”. When I was confronted with the shitty ways that I treated my husband, it opened my eyes to the equally shitty ways that I treated others around me. It made me realize that the stranger in front of me is no less deserving of the love and kindness and compassion that I try to show towards my husband. Learning, within marriage, how to be better to my husband has had a ripple effect – it’s opened my eyes to just how much pain the average person is carrying around, and I can add to their pain, or perhaps in some small way, ameliorate it.

    The universe does not, in fact, revolve around me but what I radiate out to it, does in fact, matter a whole lot.

  14. this is exactly why I harass you to write more….because when you write, it’s about me. …oh wait….(wink)

    AWE-SOME post! Made me think about a couple of things….things that don’t have anything to do with my divorce….you’re so tricky that way.


  15. Hi. I am a shitty wife. I came into the marriage healthy, strong, smart, and capable. Thirty years later I am none of those things. My health degraded seven years ago and I never recovered. I am a shitty wife because I am tired. So tired. Too tired. I am tired of being sick and in pain. No, I am not dying from anything. No. I am not the only person living with mental and physical weaknesses and a handful of daily mefications. Yes. I have made it about me. I made It about me by not finding It within myself to participate. I got caught up in the pain. I got caught up in what I can’t do. That is why I am a shitty wife.

    I am invisible. That is the family coping mechanism. That is their survival.

    I don’t know what to do.

  16. Wow Liza. It sounds like you are really struggling. It also sounds like you are reaching out for help. I don’t think anyone here is a trained therapist or anything, so if youre not already talking to a therapist, or going to a group (I love group counseling) it may help.

    There are a few things that you wrote that I can identify with on a person level. #1- degraded health, #2- not finding it within yourself to participate, focusing on what you cant do #3 ” I am invisible” , and that is how you survived.

    I wish I had a ton of resources to share with you, but I don’t. I just have my own experience…(Read: repeated mistakes that takes years to really look back and learn from,) . In fact I am currently in review of my last “WTF is going on with my life and what did I do to cause it?”

    It’s good that you are looking back on it, and I hope you writing here is a sign of hopefulness. It should be.
    If I look at the exact spot that I am in right now, I can let it make me think I’m a loser, my life is meaningless, I’m just F’d up…you get the picture.
    I can compare my life to others and it seems like all the above is true.
    But its not.
    My life doesn’t look like everyone elses and even thinking about that and trying to explain that, really can put a roadblock up instead of clearning path.

    I have done that a lot, tell the same old story over and over again. I’m not saying the story isn’t legitimate, it is. but there comes a point when you realize that same story that you tell yourself has lead you to this exact spot, and its not something you like or want.
    I am learning to tell a different story.

    I’m not suggesting denying the circumstances, if you are sick and in pain, then that is a real thing, but like you mentioned- focusing on what you cant do , can be like a black hole ready to suck you in.
    Finding those little rays of joy, and contentment can help.

    My health is 110% better now and has been for a while, but I spent almost 2 years in a hyper-thyroid state (I didnt know I was sick) …that culminated in a hyper thyroid crisis. I was exhausted all the time, couldn’t sleep, I was on edge, crying and just tired- bone deep tired and feeling like I had nothing to give.

    So, if youre sick, Take Care of Yourself!! It is a must.

    The whole participation thing, and the being invisible thing has me intrigued.
    I really do identify with that a lot. (Not that you would get that from me here- I have alot less inhibition writing fairly anonymously here than I do in real life. ) But, I do identify with that for various reasons.

    Once, several (like more than 20) years ago, I was renting an apartment. The girl who helped me was about my age, 8 months pregnant, and showing me an apartment while she had one untied shoe. She had to hold onto my shoulder and bend her leg so she could reach her shoe and tie it. She was the most adorable thing you could come across. I liked her. She was very nice and helpful to me. I wanted to express my appreciation to her, so I got her a Thank you card. For some inexplicable reason I looked at the card and decided not to sign it. I cant remember the exact thoughts that were going through my head but I vaguely remember a mixture of maybe she wouldnt remember me, and fear that she would think it was weird that I left her a Thank you card.

    So I just wrote her name in it and put it in the mail slot (because there was no way I would actually go in and talk to anyone!!)
    There are tons of things like that throughout my life that I regret -because she and I could have become friends. Maybe I would have gotten rid of all this shame sooner if I put myself out there- if I participated. We miss out on a lot when we don’t show up.

    Even, and especially, in a marriage it’s easy for us to take the other for granted. That they’ll always be there. Its easy to think the relationship will always be the same.
    So we withdraw, we even really don’t care at times- I get that.

    Youre right that youre not the only one who is going through some pretty serious crap, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. It is.

    An idea that I came across that has brought itself back to my attention again and again is how each of our lives do have a effect on the world around us. You are important, even if life isn’t ALL about you (the main idea of this post).

    I don’t know the details of your circumstances, and I don’t know the very legitimate obstacles you face, But I do just want to encourage you that it may take being very intentional, daily, to open yourself up to hope, and to tell yourself a different story, – but it can be done.

    I hope some of this made sense, I hope it helped a little. I don’t think it is “the answer”.
    I would really reach out to a counselor a group that you can see consistently.
    It can really help a lot.

    Love 🙂

  17. My mother and I were talking recently about Mother Theresa and how she had a crisis of faith lasting the majority of her life. This came back to me as I read your piece. This woman, who made her life about helping others, felt seemingly alone in her own consciousness. We all believe we fail, fall short, don’t live up to, etc. because I believe it is our human nature to do so. We want to be the superhero, feel like “the man/woman”, measure our success, feel connected/loved/cherished. Even the most selfless woman I’m aware of in my lifetime, who made her life’s work about those around her, wanted to feel that she mattered. We can make our lives about those around us and focus on their well being, and still feel empty inside. I guess the trick is getting the self-satisfaction out of making others feel the way we hope to feel ourselves…valued and worthy.

  18. Read this from Richard Rohr the other day: “The path of union is different than the path of perfection. Perfection gives the impression that by effort I can achieve wholeness separate from God, from anyone else, or from connection to the whole. It appeals to our individualism and our ego. its amazing how much of Christian history sent us on a self defeating course toward private perfection. Union is instead about forgiveness, integration, patience and compassion. The experience of union creates a very different kind of person. ”
    While the words are overtly religious (And I sincerely apologize if that is off putting to anyone. ) I think what he is saying here applies across the board– just some truth about the human experience, and a little bit about how we tend to get it wrong.

  19. I’ve accidentally ended up here but I don’t feel it was an accident. I think I was supposed to read this post. Gotta love the suggested posts provided in the WP reader. I come across various blogs that I may not have seen prior to the last couple of updates the apps done. I must say reading this was great! It demonstrated how we never who we’re talking to whether it’s a blog post or video or podcast. Things like that are amazing!

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