They’re Your Buttons

Recently, someone asked me how they could prevent people from pushing their buttons. More specifically, they asked me “How can I choose not to react when people attempt to push my buttons?” It’s a great question and she asked me to write more about this, so here I am. The truth is you may not like the solution because it’s all about you and has nothing to do with the other person. Why? Because they’re your buttons!

That’s right – they’re your buttons. You already know this because when it happens, you say “I wish they’d stop pushing my buttons” or “I don’t know why they push my buttons.” And if they’re your buttons, then you decide when or if they get pushed. No one else can really push your buttons because they’re your buttons. This fact alone is empowering and reminds us that we control our buttons and no one else can access your buttons unless you let them.

There are typically two ways that people “push” our buttons. First, they say something about us that is less than flattering – something that you logically believe isn’t true. Second, they tell you that something you’re doing is wrong or that you should be doing something different. Here’s an early hint on the path to leaving your buttons unpushed – when someone else is shoulding on you, it’s a form of shaming. They’re essentially saying that something about you or your choices is not good enough, because you should be doing something different. And since shame is an inside thing – it really only comes online when you believe that you did something wrong or that you actually are bad (toxic shame) – you have complete control over those buttons.

Reader Warning: If you’re not ready for a harsh truth, then stop reading now. Here it is – when someone is able to push your buttons, it’s because some part of you believes what they’re saying or suggesting about you is true. I’ll say it again – you respond when someone pushes your buttons because some part of you believes it. I know – you may intellectually say that what they’re saying isn’t true, but if you knew in your deepest heart that what they were saying wasn’t true, the buttons wouldn’t get pushed. Their words would bounce off of you like a bullet off of Superman.

This is a difficult truth, but the most empowering truth because the path to relieving your buttons is to let go of the beliefs you have (deep down) that you’re somehow not good enough, that you screwed up or that you’re bad.

Here’s a metaphor to further ground this truth about buttons. Imagine that you had a broken rib. I’ve never had one, but I understand that they’re incredibly painful and that the rib is very sensitive. Now imagine that someone (these people that push your buttons) take their thumb and push on your broken rib. Naturally, you react and it feels like they have pushed your button. Critically, for someone to push on your rib they have to be pretty close to you, and typically the people who we allow push our buttons are close to us in some way.

There are two possible solutions to this rib pushing problem. First, you can try to convince the other person to stop pushing on your rib, but that’s not likely to work. For some reason, they like pushing your rib (i.e. button) or they don’t even know they’re doing it (it’s unconscious). Second, and here’s the magic, you can heal the rib. Once the rib is healed, even if someone pushes on it they’ll get no reaction because it’s nothing more than a nuisance. Thus, the key to your buttons is to heal the parts of yourself that are tender, which means shifting your self-beliefs.

If someone suggests that you’re a bad parent, then focus on the ways that you feel you’re coming up short as a parent. If someone suggests that you’re a bully, then explore the parts of yourself that bully others or where you believe you’re a bully. If someone suggests that you’re not a good friend, take a look at the ways you’re not being the friend you want to be. Whatever buttons are susceptible to being pushed, look inside yourself and find the parts of you that need to be healed or at least need to shift what you believe about yourself.

If your buttons are getting pushed and you’re reacting, then start with what you believe about yourself. Not what your head tells you, but those parts of you that you may not always want or like to admit exist. If you want some help for this inside exploration, ask yourself this question when someone manages to push your buttons: What are they really trying to say about me? Once you have that answer, ask yourself this question: In what ways do I believe that to be true about me?

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll get the answers and clarity you need to do the inside work so that other people will no longer be able to push your buttons. Just remember — no one can push your buttons because they’re your buttons.

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