There is no one alive who is Youer than You!

One day last week as I was getting my daughter out the door for school, I took a peak at the homework she had done the previous afternoon. 

It was some of the cutest homework I’ve ever seen, much better than anything I can remember from my elementary school days (eons ago in the 70s).

Gold star Mr. Z!

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She had to respond to a few statements like:

 I am proud of myself for ______.

 Something I like about myself is ______.

Once I got past how absolutely adorable her eight-year-old answers were, I was slapped over the head by a realization.

When does that very important aspect of self-discovery, and self-acceptance (through calling it out in ourselves) turn into bragging, boastfulness, self-indulgence, egocentricity, arrogance, or narcissism when we become adults?

As a parent I am working so hard to build a sense of self-worth, love and acceptance in my kids. I want them to grow up to be whole-hearted people who see the intrinsic value in ALL human life—the homeless guy at the corner, the teller at the grocery store, the politician, the person who has severe medical issues, even the people we might perceive as being “jerks” or jackasses.

That brings me to this question…I honestly wonder if it’s even possible to really see the value in other people if we don’t first love, honour, accept and value ourselves…I’m talking about deeper, more abstract, innate value—our birthright. I’m not talking about the way our society tends to value and appreciate others based on accomplishments, contributions or how people make us feel.

That kind of value is so fleeting/conditional - like sands through the hourglass.

It's VERY easy to fall off a pedestal. Nosediving off a flimsy house of cards pedestal is never a good experience (especially if the person didn't want to be up there in the first place). When we see this happen, our first thoughts tend to be along the lines of; “well clearly I was wrong about this person. They’re just a _______(fill in the blank with whatever expletive you prefer).” Respect can sometimes be so ALL or NOTHING, you know? 

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I have been on both sides of this scenario, and it sucks. I suppose the experiences have helped me to expand my thinking. To become more profoundly aware that we are ALL flawed beings—very capable of making mistakes. Right? No one is perfect, and if we find our reactions to people’s mistakes filled with contempt, malice or animosity, then maybe it’s time to reexamine our life theories. Do we want to be treated with grace when we make mistakes? I know I do…

In turn, when our self-love and self-acceptance is dependent on what we do, our accomplishments, and other people's perceptions, we are left open for a lot of insecurity, self-loathing, frustration, and isolation. Especially when we inevitably muddle things up. What if we loved ourselves just because...? 

On the other end of the continuum, there’s the fear we will all become egocentric schmucks if we build up our self-esteem too much. (However, I actually think arrogance and superiority is more often tied to insecurity than pure ego.) So I believe that all the qualities that keep us down-to-earth, unpretentious, kind AND strong, courageous and confident can all live together under the same roof. Especially when we realize:

  • We always have room to grow.
  • We know that we aren’t always right. When we give up the need to be right in every circumstance.
  • When we honour multiple truths—realizing that other people have their personal worldviews that are just as “right” for them, as ours are for us.
  •  We remember that we can always learn something new from everyone we meet. This is so important in creating a level playing field with people.
  • We know that we aren’t any more valuable or important than anyone else, and vice versa.

As a parent I want my kids to be the kind of people who learn to get back up after they fall—to be vulnerable, integrated, and authentically themselves.

Accepting of who they are. All the bits—the Yoda, Jedi Knight bits, and even the Jar Jar Binks* bits.

I want to guide them to honour and accept other people’s journeys to whole-hearted living. To have grace for others—even when showing grace, and forgiveness to a “jerk-face” really sucks, and is the hardest thing in the whole world to do. Growth is pretty much always uncomfortable. Learning grace and forgiveness is growth—it’s plain old hard to do.

I am not OK with the idea that someday my kids will go out into the “real world” and they might come across someone who decides that they have been given the task of “cutting them down to size.” How defeating, hurtful and traumatic is that? You know what I mean, think of the teacher in Whiplash, or Mr. Strickland in Back to the Future. Certainly some feedback is good, but that…not so much.

I want my kids to have confidence, and tenacity. I certainly know that their sense of personal value and worth will waver, and be challenged in this life, but I pray every day that they will maintain their sense of self throughout those struggles. I want this for my kids, and I want it for me too.

I want it for all of us.

I’m starting to see all experiences as being on a different part of the same continuum. We like to categorize things into “good” and “bad,” but what if instead, we reframe to look at all experiences through the lens of learning and growth?    

  • What can I learn from this?
  • How can I integrate this experience into my life?
  • What can I leave behind?
  • What did I learn about my character, and resilience through this experience?
  • How can I honour this experience?
  •  How do I heal from it, if I need healing?

Back to the original point of my post—my daughter’s homework:

Is there a specific point in time where it’s no longer considered socially acceptable to acknowledge what we like about ourselves? What we are proud of? Does that change at 10, 16, 18, 21?

Who knows when the change happens…but I’m calling bullshit on the whole “modesty” thing.

Many of us have scars, of the emotional variety. Some are little—hardly noticeable, except in certain light, or triggered by specific events. Some of our scars are huge, glaring, interfering with everything we do—the result of trauma, or incredible difficulty.  I know that wading through this quagmire created by all of our hurts, requires a lot of inner work, and it’s not an easy journey. However, choosing to see the extraordinary parts of ourselves, our strengths, our resilience can't do anything but help. 

You are enough.

In the wise words of Brene Brown, “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

 

Do you believe that?

You are enough, just as you are—right now. Not after you lose that last 10 pounds, get that promotion, get that job, write that book, or find your life partner. Right now. Sometimes this is easier for me that other times.

You are enough right now. It sometimes helps to say it a few times to sink in, you know.

The inner work to get us to the place of radical self-acceptance and self-love is a long journey. If you are new to this, I encourage you to walk into it one baby step at a time.

 

Let’s start with the homework my eight-year-old brought home last week. This is your mission (should you choose to accept it).

Please think about these statements, and fill in the blanks:

  • I am proud of myself for _______.

 

  • Something I like about myself is _______.

 

  •  This is one of my strengths _______. 

 

*The writer of this blog post does not in any way support the character of Jar Jar Binks as being an authentic player in the Star Wars universe. Just to be clear...in case there were any wonderings about that. 

Multiple Truths–Beyond the Absolutes of Right & Wrong

“You’re going the WRONG way!”

This pops in my head often when I’m a passenger and a friend is driving a different route than I would normally take. Thank goodness I usually (not always) have enough social intelligence to keep that thought to myself, but it’s still often there.

The thing is that it’s natural to think that “our way” is the right way.

We live in a culture that thinks in absolutes.

We learn at a young age that there is a “right” way to do something and a “wrong” way.

Well, I have calculated out that my route is the fastest, most direct route to our destination. Plus I drive that way all the time, so it feels weird to go a different way. So I must be right…right?

Yes, I am right.

My friend might not be interested in the quickest or most direct route. Maybe she prefers to avoid a certain intersection, or a left turn into busy traffic. Perhaps there is a special tree or plant that is in bloom that gives her joy when she drives past it. Who the heck am I to say that she is wrong?

She is right too.

Obi-Wan : " So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view. "   Luke : " A certain point of view? "   Obi-Wan : " Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. "

Obi-Wan: "So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view."

Luke: "A certain point of view?"

Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

Whoa. In a culture of absolute thinking, how do we make sense of this? The logical response to me being “right” is that you are “wrong.” How can we both be right and have almost opposite thoughts about the same thing?

This might sound a bit silly when we think about it in simple terms like what route to take to get to Starbucks, but this kind of thing happens ALL the time about much bigger things – like politics, religion, parenting, relationships, how we should live. With a big election coming up in both Canada and the US, social media is, and will become even more bombarded with everyone expressing their strong opinions about who we should vote for.

Everyone has an opinion about most things.

 

I have been on a journey of changing my “either/or” thinking to “both/and.” I admit that sometimes it’s really, really hard. Especially when I believe strongly in something…which if I’m being honest—is most things.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of worldview. A worldview is basically the lens through which we see the world. It is composed of ALL of our life experiences:

  • The city we grew up in. Was it rural or did we grow up in the city?
  • The country we lived in.
  •   Our cultural background.
  •  Our religious background.
  • How our parents raised us.
  • Our birth order in our family. Did we live with both parents?
  • Our family’s socioeconomic position.
  • Our experience of death.
  • Have we experienced abuse or bullying
  •  What access to the media have we had, what books have we read?
  • What kind of education did we have?
  • What's our experience in the workforce?

The list goes on and on.

We all have a reason for believing what we believe based on our worldview.

All of us do.

Often we hold onto absolutes to try to make sense of the world. So we put things into categories—categories created around our particular worldviews.

Our brains naturally make judgments. Simple, yet important ones like how to get to work—if I needed to use my GPS system to get to work every day, that would be a problem. Thankfully I don’t have to read the instruction manuals on how to use my iPhone, computer, TV, stereo or stove every day. Relearning how to use those things every day, would be a real problem. Getting anything done would be nearly impossible, because I would be consumed with figuring out how to live over and over, every single day.

So our brains “just know” some things. Without having to be particularly mindful about them.

Putting things into categories and living on auto-pilot is a big problem when we become mindless about people, relationships, and communication. Have you ever put someone into a category, or have you found yourself labeled a certain way by someone? Once that happens, it’s pretty close to impossible to break away from that label. That label sticks, until we are mindful about honouring multiple truths.

When we label someone as always _________ (you fill in the blank)…That person will  ALWAYS meet those low expectations for you.

We see what we look for.

 

So our negative thinking and gets reinforced over and over again… “See, I knew that person was ________.”

I would have to say that labeling someone as in a good way is much better, as long as we don’t put them on an unrealistic pedestal that could come crashing down…but that’s another blog post.

I’ll explain in a bit more detail what I mean…You see someone’s behaviour, then your perception of the behaviour gets filtered through your worldview. If it doesn’t fit with the what you perceive as being “right”, then you give the person a general label. Usually those labels aren’t good. You know the ones I’m talking about – reckless, manipulative, impulsive, always needing to be right, uptight, dramatic, intense the list goes on and on…

Ellen Langer (Professor of psychology at Harvard) says, “the things that are happening to me are a function of my view on them.”

 

I’ve been labeled before and it doesn’t feel very good. Again those labels are based on the perception of a small amount of data. It’s impossible to know what is going on under the behaviour. Everyone has a story—a lot of which is unspoken. To think that we know what’s happening for someone else is based purely on our assumptions. Unless they have chosen to open up to us, and even that is a just a piece of the whole puzzle.

The truth is that everyone’s behaviour makes sense to them at the time, or they wouldn’t have done it.

So where do we go from here?  

Another thing that Ellen Langer talks about is universal uncertainty—you don’t know, and I don’t know. When we think we know, or someone else knows “the answer”, conflict almost always ensues.

There’s a hilarious scene from Napoleon Dynamite where Napoleon, Kip and Uncle Rico are watching an old home made video of Uncle Rico throwing a football around. To be honest, I watched that movie, but I found most of it kinda annoying…but this is still a good little clip.

Napoleon says, “this is the worst video ever made.” Kip retorts, “Napoleon, as if anyone could ever know that.” That line often comes up in my house , and it always brings a deep laugh to the conversation. The thing is that it’s kinda true. There’s a lot in life that is grey, ambiguous, left up for interpretation…

Have you ever gotten caught up in reading online debates on facebook or other social media pages about silly things that people get so adamant about. The comments people make can be so hurtful and destructive—so absolute.

I believe that this whole idea of worldview, and honouring multiple truths can change the way the world responds to conflict.

After all conflict in and of itself isn’t really the problem that creates disconnect in relationships, it’s how we react to conflict that’s the problem.

 

Embracing this type of thinking is indeed a process. I’ve been on this journey for a while, but I still have much to learn, and I find myself learning more every day.

These are the ideas that are helping me become more mindful and open to holding multiple truths;

  • Realizing that what I know, think and believe is a function of my worldview.

  •  Everyone else has a worldview that they also feel strongly about, for good reason.

  • When I make a judgment I need to realize that I’m filtering it through my worldview. Be mindful of the reasons why I am thinking the way that I am.

  • I need to suspend my judgment and be open to hearing other people’s perspective and why they think they way they do.

  •  Remember that I see what I’m looking for. If I’m looking for someone to screw up, I will see them screw up (and likely miss all the things they do that deserve celebration).

  • Know that there is always more to someone’s story than I will ever know.

  • Let go of the need to be “right.” I don’t have to change my mind on what I think, but I want to be open to the other person’s perspective. I don’t need to feel compelled to make believe what I believe.

  • Be open to expanding my thinking. When I listen with the intent of understanding, not changing the other person, I can expand my thinking.

  • I want to be aware of words that communicate an absolute. Words like “you always”, “you’re right”, “you’re wrong” the list goes on...

  • Celebrate differences! Rename negative behaviours to something more positive. For example, turn “reckless” into “spontaneous.”

  • Be aware of the power of words, labels and categories.

A wise friend of mine once said, “if both of us think the same way about something, one of us is redundant.”


There is immense beauty when we are able to see a situation from a different perspective, and honour multiple truths.

 




Playfulness: Who says boring things have to be boring?

Let's face it. There are a lot of things we have to do in life that aren't that fun.

Drudgery = 

  • Waiting in line 
  • Traffic
  • Grocery shopping with a screaming two-year old
  • Needing to do any sort of activity with a government agency (unless you are a CIA agent, then that could potentially be a lot more fun, albeit dangerous)
  • Writing reports
  • Attending meetings that just seem to go on and on...and on...and on–you know what I'm talking about
  • Doing tasks that are a part of our job description, but if we had a choice we would rather pull out our leg hairs one at a time with tweezers then do them

The list goes on, and on, and on. 

We don't have a choice sometimes. Life can certainly be a snorer. The drudgery can even escalate to stress, overwhelm, anxiety and depression if we're not careful.

Some tasks are just the furthest thing from fun. 

But...yes there is a but coming...

Wait for it....

Unless we MAKE them fun!

But how do we cultivate an attitude of fun when something is driving us up the wazoo, and all we want to do is run away to a tropical place and sip a margarita on the beach?


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” 

                                                   ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


I really admire Ellen Langer, she's an expert in the field of mindfulness. She's been studying it since the '70s. Long before it was the trendy philosophy it is now. She defines mindfulness as "the simple act of noticing things". 

One of our family playful moments. In a Photo Booth that wasn't working. So we used my phone to take a picture. 

One of our family playful moments. In a Photo Booth that wasn't working. So we used my phone to take a picture. 

 

 

So I'm proposing that if we lean in and engage, rather than check out (i.e. pulling out our phones and playing solitaire) and approach life with an attitude of playfulness, we will have more fun. 

 

 

 

A couple weeks ago I was sitting at the clinic with my kids waiting, and waiting to get a blood test. I clearly chose the busiest time of the day, which happened to be around nap time for my two-year old. It was not a pleasant experience. I tried to engage in conversation with some people around me. I typically find that when I choose to strike up conversations with random people I meet in public, they are little golden moments that really brighten my day–adding the little sprinkles on the ice cream sundae of my day. This day I couldn't engage anyone. Everyone was glued to their phones. Everyone. It made me a little sad.

Those moments are missed opportunities for a little ray of light to break into the drudgery. Instead we fill our heads with distractions that we hope will alleviate the drudgery.  

I'm going to encourage that the next time you find yourself in a place where you are bored or frustrated, think of how you can mix it up. How can you inject a little fun into whatever you're doing, whether at home, on an errand or at work.

There is always fun to be had. We just have to look for it, and snatch it up.

Here's a little video I took of my husband putting oil in the car one evening. We drive an older car, and it burns oil. I get frustrated every time we have to put oil in, because it seems like the demise of it's drivability is looming.

I get frustrated every time, except this time. 

If you want to see Matt Pond's actual video for this song, Here it is: Matt Pond - Love to Get Used

So what about at work? 

A long time ago, my workplace hired Teresa Pippus to lead a workshop for us about creating joy in the workplace.

It really stuck with me. How do we inject fun into work? We tend to approach work very seriously, almost solemnly sometimes. I'm certainly not suggesting that we don't take our jobs seriously. Some jobs can have serious consequences when we goof up. I'm saying that we can have a bit more fun. Shake things up. Approach things a little differently, instead of the same old same old. 

Laugh.

Express gratitude.

Celebrate. 

Honour strengths. 

Back to Ellen Langer–she suggests that if we rename "work" to "play" it can be the difference between drudgery and delight. Delight it a much nicer word and it evokes warm fuzzies in me.

The video below is about the Fish Philosophy. For those of you from the Pacific Northwest, you have likely have heard of the Pike Place Fish Market. It's a bunch of people throwing fish around and having a really good time. The thing is this business was on the verge of bankruptcy, and everyone hated their job. 

Until they learned how to have fun at work.