Last week, I took a morning walk to one of my favorite cafes in Medellin, Café Ubicuo. I sat down at a table on the patio, greeted my favorite barista, Andres, and ordered my usual americano and omelette. As I waited for my breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice the surrounding tall bamboo trees and lush plants that seem to give the big city of Medellin a welcoming, small town vibe.
A few minutes later, my breakfast arrived. The scene couldn’t have been more perfect… or so it seemed. I scooped up my cheesy omelette to take my first bite, but just as the sweet moment of silence and serenity I had been waiting for all morning approached, the conversation behind me became much louder and stopped me in my tracks. I put down my fork and turned around to get a good look at the two Americans sitting about eight feet away from me. Their loud and abrupt chatter annoyed me almost as much as the way in which they were speaking to Andres. This did not sit well with me. I didn’t feel hungry anymore.
It wasn’t that this couple was saying anything hurtful or acting totally outrageous. What bothered me about the situation was the way in which they were speaking to my favorite Colombian barista. They spoke as if they owned the cafe, and as if they were entitled to be loud, and the center of attention. It was as if the coffeehouse was devoted to them, and everyone needed to hear their conversation and feeble attempts at speaking Spanish.
I felt frustrated, and then, embarrassed. How could these people from my country be giving Colombians such a rude impression of Americans?! I wanted to turn around and tell them to shut up. It was at that moment that I remembered a humbling truth that haunts all of us in our most profound moments of disgust, embarrassment, and anger: the mirror of relationship.
“When we have a strong negative reaction to someone, they are likely reflecting traits that we also possess but have been unwilling to embrace. We spend so much time denying that we have a dark side, and then end up projecting these denied qualities onto other people.” - The Editors of Chopra.com
The high-maintenance Americans sitting behind me were really just a reflection of the darker side of myself. Maybe it was me that deep down wanted to be the center of attention. Or maybe I was mad at myself for acting similarly in a previous situation. Ugh, I ordered another coffee.
I took few lessons away from this little scenario.
1. Energy is Shared
Whether we realize it or not, we all share the energy that is inside each of us with the world. This happens automatically, without us even thinking about. It’s automatic, like breathing. We can’t control what others will think of us, but we can control what we are sending out the world. Keep your energy in check; send out caring, compassionate, and humble vibes.
2. Learn About Yourself
The mirror of relationship is a hard truth to face, but an excellent tool that can be used to learn more about yourself. Whenever you react strongly to someone else’s words or actions, ask yourself, what about this interaction is really bothering me? Is there something inside of myself that is causing me to react in this way? What can I take away from this situation to make myself a better human?
3. Become a Hermit... Just Kidding
Most importantly, when indulging in your all time favorite breakfast, sit as far away as possible from others, so your meal doesn’t turn into a deep philosophical and psychological conversation with yourself.
Accepting the Darker Side
In case you were wondering, I was able to enjoy my breakfast after all. It seems that once you accept the darker and weaker sides of yourself, you have a much easier time accepting those parts of others. The next time you get aggravated with someone, take a good, hard look at yourself and ask yourself: who is it that I’m actually aggravated with?