Hurt people hurt people

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It was 5:30am when my alarm started going off. It was Friday, and I was ready to have a killer workout before heading into the weekend.

I jumped out of bed, walked into the bathroom, and did some light stretching for a few minutes. I was still feeling a little sore from yesterday’s trip to the gym. "I probably didn't eat enough protein afterward," I thought to myself.

Nonetheless, I decided I’d work out the parts of my body that didn't feel sore. I got dressed and before I knew it, I was in the gym doing a quick interval workout on the elliptical to get my body warmed up before I hit the weight room. While on the elliptical, I mentally mapped out my lifting session.

"Today will be a “Back n' Butt” day," I told myself. I am eager to train my back because I set a goal a couple of weeks ago to do 5 pull-ups by the end of the year.

And of course, the butt part is explanatory. What girl doesn't want to get her rear in gear? 😊

I typically like to start my back workouts with face-pulls on the cable machine because they really help warm up the back muscles and get the blood flowing.

I approached the machine and noticed a young woman lying on a yoga mat about two feet away from it. She didn’t appear to be actually using the apparatus, but she was doing some sort of floor circuit workout in front of it. Her position in front of the machine was slightly inconvenient, but thankfully there were two sides to it, and I had just enough room to squeeze into the side further from her and angle myself so that I don't get in her way. I stepped towards the machine and started setting it up.

"What are you doing? I'm using that!" she said in an agitated voice.

"Ah, sorry. I didn't realize you were using it. Is it okay if I work in with you?" I asked.

"No, you should wait until I'm done with my circuit," she replied. From her tone, I could tell that she was annoyed with me.

"Is it okay if I work a couple sets in while you're doing your circuit?" I asked.

"No, you can't," she said. And then she turned back to her mat and continued her workout. Clearly, she wanted nothing to do with me.

I was confused. Maybe she planned to use the machine at some point but she wasn't using it now. But she decided no one could use it in the meantime? It didn't make any sense.

Now I was annoyed. I turned to her again and slid some of that attitude back at her. "Umm, have you ever used a public gym before? Do you know what it means to "work in a set"?"

"Yes, I have used a public gym. No you can't. You should wait until I'm done," she demanded.

I stood there puzzled. I was honestly in shock.

"Your attitude is ridiculous," she went on to say.

"My attitude?" I asked.

"Yeah yours," she responded angrily.

I was overwhelmingly confused and could feel anger bubbling up inside me. "What in the world is happening right now?" I asked myself. She reminded me of those mean girls in kindergarten who never shared their toys.

I took a beat and realized that a standoff with her was going nowhere, and that I was on the verge of letting this surly young woman ruin not just my workout, but also my day. I didn’t want that. So I changed my tack, and took a deep breath.

"Are you really using both sides of this machine? Can’t I just use one side please?" I tried asking politely again, wondering what she'd say.

She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and mumbled some kind of curse under her breath. She was doing everything she could to make it abundantly clear that she didn’t want me there anyway.

I put a smile on my face and decided in the moment to just let it go.

Honestly, in a normal scenario, I could not have cared less about waiting my turn for her to finish her circuit. Waiting wasn't the issue. Her attitude was the issue.

If the young lady had explained me to politely that she preferred I wait to use the machine, I wouldn’t have hesitated to walk away and find another machine to work on. It really isn't that big of a deal at the end of the day.

Instead, she decided to have a sour attitude about it and demand sole access to the machine until her time was up. She made me feel like I was wrong and that she was right, so my human instinct was to push back and fight, rather than help her. But before the moment got any more heated, I realized I had a choice to not let it.

Reactions are a choice

At any point in time, we have a choice of how we want to act. And the choices we make influence how other people react to us.

My choice to push back against the woman's insistence that I wait for the machine was a direct reaction to her choice to make me feel like I was the bad guy. Her choice to be rude and unaccommodating to me was likely a reaction to something going on in her life about which I was completely unaware.

We cannot control other people's behavior, much as we wish we could. We can only control our own reactions to their behavior.

In some cases, people’s reactions to us can be a reflection of our own attitudes. It’s a classic example of how the energy we put out into the world is reflected back at us, aka “you reap what you sow.” In other cases, people’s reactions to us are only a reflection of their own inner turmoil. A classic example of how “hurt people hurt people.”

Maybe the young lady at my gym was already having a bad day and I became her scapegoat, or maybe she suffers from the negative cycle of expecting negativity and thereby creating more negativity around her. But, no matter what reasoning she had for her behavior, I realized that I was in control of mine. I made the choice to not personalize her negativity in a way that ruined my day or outlook.

Attitude is everything

If you carry a negative attitude and assume the world is out to get you, you are likely to perceive people and events with a threat mindset and react accordingly. Your bad attitude might offend or hurt someone and cause them to react poorly to you, further perpetuating your (now self-fulfilling) prophecy that the world is, indeed, against you. You get what you give.

I know some incredibly talented people who have terrible attitudes. They operate under the assumption that they deserve respect based on their pedigree, age, accolades, or a status symbol. They don’t understand that the world doesn’t owe them anything. People have to go out and earn what they want—be it respect, responsibility, or love.

But often, these negative people find themselves constantly disappointed—lacking in respect, responsibility, and love. Dissatisfied at every turn. The entire world, it seems, is against them.

Similarly, I also know utterly average people with unbelievably positive attitudes and they often end up with the entire world on their side. The energy they put out comes back to them in wonderful ways.

Think about it. Which would you rather have? The world against you? Or the world moving mountains for you? Either way, you are in complete control at every moment in time. It can be wonderfully liberating (or mildly terrifying) to realize that you (and you alone) are responsible for your actions and reactions, your attitude and your perspective.

So choose wisely, and see what happens.

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Why am I sharing my travel stories?

Founder & CEO of TruStory. I have a passion for understanding things at a fundamental level and sharing it as clearly as possible.

Preethi Kasireddy
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