On the whataboutmeeeees!

About a year ago, my wonderfully crafty sister, Jill, made us this awesome “Family Rules” board. She laid down the strips of paper and stenciled in the top, leaving the rest of it blank for Rob and me to fill in with a few pithy gems. It was quite a process, choosing which rules we wanted on display in our home. We wanted it to be a family project, but as the kids shouted out their contributions, (Chew with your mouth closed! Don’t forget to flush the toilet! No pouring sand on your sister’s head!) we realized that their literal brains weren’t going to be much help. We brainstormed, wrote and rewrote until we thought that perhaps we had included everything we wanted to. And we committed to go through one “rule” a week with our kids, explaining why it was something we valued and wanted them to learn about.

And while all of the principles on that board are important to us, I would have never guessed which one would be the most referenced, the most pointed to, and in many ways the most difficult for our kids to live out. Maybe the concept of generosity, or serving others with joy, perhaps? Nope…


How could a rule where we basically tell them to party down with each other be so challenging? Why is it that when one of them falls off their scooter or is made fun of on the playground, they rally around and protect each other…but when one of them gets to go to a party, wins a special award, or is praised for their hard work? Tears. TEARS, people! “It’s not fair!!! What about me?” Now it very well could be that our 4 delightful Dixon children are just a smidge more competitive than most. You know, apples falling certain distances from trees and all that. But I do think that there is something in our human nature that causes us, when we see good things happen to other people, to immediately ask the question, “What about me?” And it is that very self-focus that we are trying to fight against when we ask them to CELEBRATE.

Seeing the kids struggle so much with the concept certainly had me examining my own ability to be happy for others. In the writing world, I have been blessed to meet so many amazing people. And in the land of social media, we are able to share just about everything with each other. We pull each other back up to standing when we’re told our work isn’t enough, we inspire one another when our writing hits a wall, and we tell each other to press “send” once again when the rejections roll in. And these are people that, for the most part, we have never met! But what about when someone lands an agent, sells another manuscript, or wins an award? Are we able to cheer them on, and genuinely CELEBRATE them without asking, “What about me?”

While in theory we adults should be somewhat more emotionally mature than our kids, it is easy in a moment of weakness to want to crawl into the darkest corner of our homes and wallow in the whataboutmeeeees! Or the shouldabeenmeeeees! Or the williteverbemeeeees! Take this absolutely somewhat autobiographical example…

So maybe your friend Sally sold another book. And maybe you’ve been trying for a year to sell your second book and maybe you’re going crazy thinking it’s never going happen and you’ll just be a one-hit-wonder and never write anything else that anyone wants to read EVER and go on to die as that lady who on a fluke wrote a book once but wasn’t really a writer. And you go ahead and dissolve into a puddle on the floor, in tears…TEARS, people! all because this amazingly wonderful thing happened to your friend Sally.

How does this make any sense?

But it happens. And when we get in that place, we have to take a deep breath, and tell ourselves the same thing we tell our kids.


That’s right. It has nothing to do with you. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Isn’t that just freaking wonderful?


How freeing! If we can take this in and turn our focus outward then I think we can truly start to celebrate with one another. Sally just sold a book! That’s amazing! And as we make a daily choice NOT to ask, “What about me?” I think it becomes more and more natural to be genuinely happy for those around us.

So I’m trying to train myself not to ask, “What about me?”  And I am hoping that as I stare at those family rules on the wall, and repeat “CELEBRATE WITH ONE ANOTHER” over and over to my children, that perhaps I’ll not take quite so long to pop the champagne, blow up some balloons and throw an absolutely spectacular party for Sally.

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  • Elizabeth Stevens Omlor

    Great advice Amy D.! It is freeing to just look at the success of those we care about and I do believe that the more we do that, the easier it is to forget about our own wants. Allaboutmeeeeee? Fugetaboutchyaaaaaaaa.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       oh my goodness, you crack me up! I love it, and am stealing it…fugetaboutchyaaaaaa…

  • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

    Fantastic post, Amy, and so completely true!  What great advice to remember that another’s good fortune is not your misfortune, that what happens to or for them is not about you.  I’m all too familiar with that “what about me?” feeling.  (And if it makes you feel any better about the one year you haven’t sold a book, it’s been three times that long for me :) so hang in there!)

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Thanks so much, Susanna! You are such an encouragement and I know it is silly for me to be in a dither about a year. That’s like a week in publishing-time!

      • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

        It’s like a minute.  It’s like a second.  Or actually even a millisecond! But it feels like a millennium doesn’t it? :)

        • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon


  • http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com/ Donna L Martin

    This is a great post, Amy!  It’s also the reason behind my wanting to promote so many authors at my Children’s Festival of Reading booth last month (http://donasdays.blogspot.com/2012/05/festival-time-in-tennessee.html )…because it WASN’T about me…but about celebrating the successes of my new writer friends…;0)

    Donna L Martin

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Hi Donna! The Children’s Festival of Reading booth was such a great thing and I know so many people appreciated being included. I only wish my book was further along in the process so I could have participated!

  • http://www.flowering-minds.com/ Darshana

    Excellent post! Will be bookmarking and sharing. Great advice that another person’s success means nothing about your own wins or losses.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Thank you, Darshana! I wish it was more natural to think of others first, but I guess it is just another way to grow!

  • Bethany Telles

    Dang, Amy… You nailed this on the head for me. I mean, SO much so, I thought this post was deliberately meant for me! It’s hard, as a writer, to see all your friends get those agents and/or contracts (because you know, they’re ALL getting them, and it’s only YOU who’s still sitting on the bench), and not feel a teensy bit sorry for yourself. But you’re right; The goal is to celebrate with others and focus on their accomplishments, the way you would hope they would for you.

    Great post, Amy. I’ll be thinking about this for years to come. :)

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I’m so glad it spoke to you, Bethany! I really wrote it for me, since it is how I have been feeling lately and it is just so silly. I was actually a little afraid to post since it felt a little vulnerable, so I am really glad to hear that I’m not the only one!

  • Mirka

    and wise.

    found that some people in our lives are there to pick us up, while others only
    for celebrations. But recently I discovered that a few of the generous
    pick-uppers don’t hang around to celebrate.

    strive to be both.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Yes, Mirka! I do want to be both and have it come from the heart. So glad we are all works in progress and can have grace for each other!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jlyoung2007 Jennifer Young

    Hi Amy, I love all the quotes on that sign. I’m very inspired to copy this idea! Hope you don’t mind.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I’ve definitely been there too. lol.
    I think it’s all part of the “growing as a writer” process.

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

      Thanks, Jennifer! Feel free to copy away! It was actually a fun process to sit down and figure out things to write that reflected our family values, so it could be fun for you to write some too!

  • Rena J. Traxel

    I love this post. I sometimes come down with a case of “what about me,” but it hasn’t stopped me from being happy for my friends.  Next time one of my friends accomplishes something I will remind myself that it’s about them and my time will come. 

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I love that it is so natural for you to celebrate with your friends! Thanks for stopping by, Rena!

  • http://stacysjensen.blogspot.com/ Stacy S. Jensen

    Enjoyed this post. It’s a great rule to have and follow in any household, workplace, etc. 

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       Isn’t it amazing the things our kids can teach us? I am always blown away by how I am trying to show my kids things and realize that I don’t have it all figured out. Glad you enjoyed the post, Stacy!

  • Tara Lazar

    Oh I witnessed this just last week. It was my daughter’s last softball game and her friend’s mother was the coach. The mother asked the younger sister to play with the team since we were a few girls short. Well, the older sister was in tears through most of the game. Her little sister got three hits, made a few outs, and played very well. Many of us cheered her on since she was two years younger and much smaller than everyone else. But this upset her older sister who felt that it was HER team and her sister didn’t belong there and her sister shouldn’t be playing so well as to make people clap. It was a tough scene. I felt so badly for the older girl, I kind of understood, but also I didn’t understand why they couldn’t play together and be happy for one another. Do we adults not model this behavior enough? Do we put others down when they accomplish something of which we’re jealous? I don’t know what it is, but CELEBRATE ONE ANOTHER is a wonderful thing to teach and to live. I just want to know how to do it so others take notice!

    • http://amydixonbooks.com/ Amy Dixon

       I wish I could say I have no idea what you are talking about :-) But I think one of the reasons this idea resonates so deeply with me is because I have memories of feeling like the little sister in your story…like I had done something wrong, when I was just going out and having fun. I have 4 sisters, so there was bound to be competition growing up. I think we were all just responding to very normal human emotions, but I decided when I had kids (and 3 girls, at that!) that I wanted to be more intentional in shepherding them through those emotions. And yes, I think we adults are not the best at modeling it all the time.

      Thanks for stopping by, Tara!