Tag Archives: inspiration

If it was me…putting ourselves in another’s shoes

If it were me ___________________.
I am ____________, too. You don’t see me doing _____________.
My friend is ____________, if they were in that position I would want ____________.

In the past few weeks I have heard the fill-in-the-blanks above completed in numerous ways. In sentences about people working on Thanksgiving and people shopping on Thanksgiving. In the sentences of people who had full tables of food and warm homes and people who were seriously in need. In people defending Ray Rice and in people condemning him. I have heard leaders in government expressing opinions on people and people expressing opinions on leaders in government. And, let us not forget myriad thoughts of people about almost every conceivable position in Ferguson.

In the course of listening to the cacophony of anger, judgment, and gossip, I have noticed one sentiment, phrased numerous ways, seems to come up again and again. It’s a version of seeing things from another’s perspective and you can hear it in the fill-in-the-blanks above. We are taught to put ourselves in others’ shoes, but somewhere along the path, that adage has been corrupted.

Putting ourselves in others’ shoes doesn’t mean applying our personal beliefs, prejudices, and leanings to someone else’s life. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes at its core is about losing self for one minute. It’s trying to truly understand where someone who may be absolutely foreign and 100% different from us is coming from. It’s about experiencing reality the best we can from another person’s perspective.

When the language of putting ourselves in someone else’s place becomes about expressing what we think or would have done instead of seeking to be compassionate (literally to feel with), it is rotten to its core. It becomes just another way to advance the self-centeredness that seems to be ever-growing stronger in our society.

The next time you have the opportunity to fill in the blank on any of the sentences above, I implore you to spend a moment considering, “Do my words cause division?” Ask yourself if the “you” that you are putting in someone else’s shoes could ever really understand that person’s reality without having lived their life for a day, much less exchanged words.

We all have beliefs and opinions that we hold to be true that are based on real experiences and interactions. We all have free speech. We should share what we believe, but own it in a way that doesn’t simplify, negate, or repress another person’s life or reality to make ourselves feel better or superior. Because really, can we ever truly know what we would do if we were someone else?

The next time you fill in the blanks above consider doing it in the following way.

If it was me, I would try to do the absolute best I could do and hope others would make an effort to understand.

I am in need of support as well, you WON’T see me letting others fall.

My friend is that person I am judging in someone else’s eyes. If they were in that position I would want someone to truly seek to understand what it was like to honestly be “in their shoes.”

A New Way of Loving Myself!

I’ve had some hard days recently. I think we all at times over-commit or add new things to our lives without removing the old. When this happens it can lead to depression, anxiety, or in my case a little of both.

Now – I confess that even in good times I have a penchant for self-help books which I really enjoy, but from which I rarely find new insight. When I bought the short and sweet, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depended on It, by Kamal Ravikant (I bought it on Amazon Kindle), I didn’t have high hopes – and in a way I was right. The book’s whole message is you have to love your self. Duh! Heard that all before, but Ravikant has a way with words – a way of explaining the concept so that it’s like hearing it for the first time. The question he posed led me to some very real decisions and very new revelations.

Whenever we think of loving ourselves, it’s presented like a chore. It will be hard, but you must come to “accept” your flaws and love yourself anyway. The focus is usually on finding a way to see ourselves as “worthy” even though we may feel we are not.
But what if we instead focused on the loving?

When I think about the people I have loved over the years, I see them clearly, flaws and all. I also see that I never focused on choosing to love them despite their flaws, I just loved them, and in most cases, did everything in my power to help them get what they needed, desired or deserved. I put them first even though I could clearly see their faults. I put them first because their faults didn’t matter. If we stop spending all this time trying to get over our flaws and just focus on the act of loving, maybe we can go further than we have before.

Ravikant asked what we would do if we truly loved ourselves?

What would I do if I loved myself the way I loved all those people in my past – the people I went to bat for even when I knew I shouldn’t because I loved them, the people who I told to take time for themselves without feeling guilty, the people I found jobs for, and helped get through beauty school and citizenship tests? How would I “love” myself if they were me?

Looking from that perspective was like a lightning bolt to my soul. If I were someone I loved I would be giving myself quite different advice. If I were someone I loved, I’d say “Quit that right now!”, “Take care of yourself!”, “Market your book like you’re the fabulous writer you are!”, “Make that call!”, “Say no and mean it!” If I loved myself like I loved them I would spend hours trying to help and listen and understand instead of saying get over it, move on, you really messed that up, etc…

Instead, I tell myself to put other’s needs first. I tell myself to do what’s necessary to avoid conflict and awkward feelings. But that’s advice I would never give my God-children, my best friend, or one of my students. It’s advice that sacrifices the very things that would bring me happiness and probably success.

I have heard, “Love yourself!” over and over and over! Heck, I’ve even taught it to young women for years…but love isn’t a feeling – it’s an action. I’ve always understood that when it comes to loving others. Why was it so hard to see it about myself?

What about you? Is this revelation just new to me? Have you thought about loving yourself is an active way before – the way you love others? What difference would it make in your life?

If you were the author of your life story…

If you were the author of your own life story what would it say? I have heard this question before and have played around with it some, but I recently watched a TED talk where Amy Purdy, a snowboarder who lost both legs to bacterial meningitis, subtly shifted the words around. As she began her talk she asked, “If you were the author of your own life story, where would it go from here?”

It was an aha moment, if you will. Rephrasing the question to focus on the rest of the story instead of the story from beginning to end was liberating and exactly what I needed to hear. From previous posts you may remember my belief in letting the past be the past, but in meditating on my story I frequently still get stuck trying to force the past to flow into the future.

I have been stuck thinking that all the background information needed to be clearly laid out and have meaning. I have been stuck trying to vision my life as a whole instead of a play in numerous acts. Some plays are chronological and the acts build upon one another, some move backwards instead of forward, and still some are festivals of one acts. Being able to vision my character in a new act, maybe even a whole new play without having to integrate past scenes in order to move forward was liberating to my imagination.

When I dream the woman I want to be in this string of one acts that may one day form a whole, or may just end up as a festival of different tales, I realize that she may have similarities with the women in the other acts but she can also be exactly who she wants to be in this moment. So, humor me as I describe this woman who wants to make the next act in my play come to life.

She believes in the dignity of the human person. The dignity of every human person from birth until death. The dignity of the small child, the disabled teen, the gay young man, the middle-aged woman of color, the aged white republican…we are all part of fabric of the universe. Every part of every one of us has been in existence since the beginning of time and is sacred.

She believes in love and forgiveness. Absolute love and forgiveness available to all – even those who don’t seek it. She believes each person has a right to love and be loved and that our societies and governments become agents of oppression when anything rooted in love or compassion is denied or villainized.

She believes in a force greater than us that we all are a part of and have access to through our intuition. She believes that every person has inside of them a compass that leads to true north. It gets buried and broken by trying to mold ourselves to the wishes of others or to the expectations of society, but it is there in our core. She believes that if we follow that compass we will end up on the path to synchronicity, where we are exactly who we need to be, in the place we need to be, at the right time we need to be there.

She believes magic exists in the world. Not the type of magic that entails writing spells or cursing people, but the kind of magic that comes from the ultimate act of creation. From bringing something out of nothing. The magic of a story being told, or a great work of art, a friendship being formed or the path of a destiny being laid.

She is a creator.

If the next act of my story starts today, I am creating. I am writing. I am making art. I am collaborating to find ways to let what I have to share influence and be a part of the universal experience of others.

If the next act of my story starts today, I am no longer placing limits on what I can and can’t do out of fear or complacency. If the next act of my story starts today I am no longer limiting my love and life according to the fear of what people think or say. I am supporting and loving the people who deserve love – all people – even the people who choose not to love back.

If my story begins today, I’m not worrying about what would happen if I became successful and I am open to embracing change. Why should I fear success? Success means living a life I choose rather than trading authenticity for security and comfort.

If I started my life today, I would still be loved and supported by every single person who is important to me. None of them base their love, support, or connection to me upon what I do or how financially successful I am. I am loved by these people for the compass that spins inside of me, for my actions and beliefs that flow from my true north. I am loved because I love, and starting my life today means choosing to love on an even greater level.

If you were the author of the book of your life, where would the story go from here?

The question for 2013: Does it have to?

As 2013 approaches I find the question, “Does it have to?” popping into my head at a pretty steady frequency. The question doesn’t actually refer to the imminent arrival of a new year, but to each assumption I subconsciously make when thinking about my future. I notice that there are patterns to my expectations of what life will hold and that perhaps those patterns are limiting. The thing I love about the question is that I didn’t come up with it on purpose.  It organically popped into my head while watching a character on a favorite show struggle with what they believed to be an unavoidable outcome.  They stated “Now, this means…” and my immediate reaction was, “Does it have to?” Of course the answer to the question is no.  Our interpretation of life events, what different occurrences mean and where they take us is entirely up to each of us. 

For me the biggest assumption that I make every new year is that the year to come will in some way resemble the year that just passed.  I go into January expecting that I will continue in a job that makes me happy, live in my condo with my cats, hang out with some friends every now and then, and spend time with my family.  All of those things are awesome and bring me joy, but does 2013 have to look like 2012 to make me happy?  It would be easy to believe the fact that there’s nothing overtly wrong or challenging about my life situation means it should continue as is, but the question won’t stop badgering me. “Does it have to?”

In my work, does being good at what I do mean I have to continue to do what I do? In my relationships, does being content on my own mean I don’t pursue something new or that I couldn’t find some new level of happiness if I took a risk? In my home life, just because it’s good and easier to stay where I am, do I have to? Asking the question in regards to just those three areas opens up mind boggling possibilities to sincerely explore. I have been in a holding pattern with my career and relationships for a few years now.  It’s a pattern born from a strange cocktail of contentment and laziness.  The question “Does it have to?” pushes me to switch up my drink of choice. 

I find the question exciting.  For instance, continuing to teach while starting my Masters in Educational Technology could be overwhelming.  I could see it as something that will make my life harder and my schedule crazier, but does it have to? Don’t I have control over what I put into each area of my life? Can’t I choose to view each lesson as a joy filled experience of learning instead of a “to do” list to move me to the next stage? Another example: Does being ready to be in a relationship again mean I have to get set up, join an online dating site, or go out to more bars? Or can it mean that I intuitively listen to who I want to spend time chatting or talking with? Can it mean that I let go and just see who pops up in my life?

There’s a lot of freedom in the question, but there’s also an inherent responsibility that when denied could lead to a lack of decision-making or commitment to any one path.  Ultimately we do have to choose or we default into deciding by not deciding. Having been guilty of this quite often in the past, I feel aware enough of the consequences of indecision to avoid its recurrence in 2013.  As I make my way into the new year, I hope to examine my assumptions and self-limiting patterns in order find the meaning I am searching for in life. Good luck to you as you do the same.

Leaving the “Waiting Place”

I remember reading Oh the Places You’ll Go when I was seventeen, a graduation gift from a cherished first love complete with obligatory love letter of platitudes appropriate for the occasion. I skimmed it, quickly surmising  that said first love believed in me and I would definitely be going places in my life sooner rather than later. Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention to the twists in the road of life Dr. Seuss so aptly described. If I had, perhaps I wouldn’t have lingered as long as I did in the “waiting place”.

I think we’re fed a lot of bull as we grow up about what our lives should look like.  Some people wade through the manure easier than others.  An ailment from which I suffered that made it harder to get clarity was that of being a people pleaser.  I did a good job at faking independence and looking like I was making choices for myself but really, I went to work for the CHURCH after twelve years of Catholic school.  I was addicted to approval.

I guess I just thought that everything would fall into place and I’d be a teacher, get married, have kids and I don’t know what…that’s what all my friends were doing and I was sure that’s what everyone wanted me to do, too.  So I waited because, let’s face it – sometimes the waiting place isn’t that bad a place to hang.  I was never lonely. I was never bored.  But I was also never proactive when it came to really making my life what I wanted it to be.  I guess what I thought was “just happening” with my friends getting married and starting families was really them making choices in their lives.  And working and teaching religion was easy and fun, so I lived in the waiting place – stuck in a nice existence where I never made a choice because everything was good enough.

It wasn’t until I started writing a few years ago that I finally saw the path out of that waiting place.  It was illuminated by this creative urge that started blinking off and on.  At first it was more off than on.  Now it’s more on than off, but it’s still not as steady as I’d like.  I need it to shine bright enough that I can’t find my way back to the waiting place.  Writing woke me up and helped me say, “Wait, I never really knew if I wanted to get married or start a family and I never really wanted to teach religion my whole life.” So maybe I need to start choosing.

The actual choices I’ve made in the last few years have been full of risks I never would have taken in the waiting place.  Writing conferences, directing, performing, teaching marketing in addition to religion…they’ve all been steps away from that old molasses swamp.  I’m starting a Masters in Educational Technology in the spring and I’ve finished two books (although still haven’t made the choice to actively work towards publication).  I’ve worked on myself both inside and out.  I’m in a good place now and it’s one where I really can’t wait to see what MY future will hold. I’m leaving the waiting place behind.  Guess I should dig out that book and see what’s next!