I was recently reminded of Carl Jung’s quote: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.”

What does that mean? Does that mean if I am irritated by an arrogant team member, I’m somehow arrogant and don’t want to face it? No, not necessarily.

Reflect and explore what irritates you

This quote is not telling you anything; instead, it invites you to reflect and explore the irritation. 

Let’sLet’s take the example of the arrogant team member and go a little deeper. 

  • What is it about that team member’s arrogance that bothers you? 
    • It could be that they are always talking about their achievements  
  • What is it about those comments that bother you? It could be:
    • You have strong values that include being humble, and his actions step on that value
    • Maybe you aren’t confident in your job, and his behavior makes you feel even less secure
    • You set very high expectations for yourself, and his achievements don’t feel like they deserve the accolades he gives himself
    • They remind you of how you show up/act similarly in a different setting or slightly different way 
    • Perhaps they remind you of someone in your past who acted this way, leading to a dire consequence

Do you find that these things reflect what irritates you the most? Still, there are a lot of potential scenarios.

How does this help me?

So, what do I do with this information? Digging deeper will allow you to understand the root cause of your irritation. Self-awareness is the key.

As I often say, “awareness leads to choice, and choice leads to change.” We can change anything if we are not first aware of it. This awareness could:

  • Allow you to change something in yourself. For example, you may recognize the root of what irritates you, understanding that your confidence in your job is low. 
  • Help you realize your expectations of yourself are higher than they need to be, and you need to adjust them slightly.
  • Help you understand that nothing about you needs to change, but the awareness could help lessen the irritation with this individual. 
  • Lead to a conversation with this individual about what is bothering you about their behavior. They might not be aware of how they are coming across.

You cannot change others. It is up to them if they want to shift, but your reaction to them could change, making your life easier. 

Growth and development aren’t always comfortable, but it leads to a better understanding of ourselves. It can also make your life easier.

The next time you find something or someone irritates you, take a moment to explore the deeper meaning. It might not change the other person, but it can lead to positive changes for you.