In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a quick little post on kindness, love, acceptance and generosity.
Recently, my balance has been a little shaken. I’ve experienced art created by my friends and colleagues that continues to challenge me deeply. Other friends are dealing with difficult new realities, coping with circumstances that feel simultaneously too demanding and too personal. Personally, next steps are starting to look a little hazy, as I struggle to find a happy medium between conflicting motivators and the desire to be a “somebody*.”
For a millisecond, I felt alone. Then, hundreds of conversations with different friends over the past year or two flooded back, and it hit me:
We’re all just squishy people, trying to figure it out.
That’s not to say that we’re not strong or capable or inspiring. We are all of those things and more. It’s just that we don’t give others (or ourselves) enough room. We self-doubt, and become numb to others. Essentially, this is a call for more social grace and more generosity.
It goes a little something like this:
- People are a lot more similar than they are different. The devil’s in the details, but in general, we have the same needs and similar desires.
- We are both stronger than we know, and more sensitive than we acknowledge. Be tough on yourself for the sake of your integrity, but gentle with yourself when it comes to your health and flaws.
- Hustle for yourself, not approval. There is almost nothing as rewarding as setting yourself a goal and meeting it, but this reward is diminished when you’re acting for someone else’s approval. That’s not to say we should disregard other opinions or be selfish. It’s just that, in order to feel satisfied and substantial, motivated and motivating, our goals need to be aligned with our core beliefs.
- You can’t understand someone else’s story unless you let them tell it. Listen better. Assume less. Give space, verbally and mentally, for others to express themselves. I had no idea all the things I didn’t know – of course – but am thankful to have been made to feel very small and very blinded recently. I’m better for it.
- Sometimes the best thing you can be is present. A friend in need is a friend, indeed.
- Stay humble. Ambition is one of the things we love best in others; it’s a powerful and inspiring trait to see. That said, be careful about believing the myth of your own persona. You’re special and unique, and you can change the world – but so can everyone else.
- Ask for help when you need it. Vulnerability is so difficult, but if you need a little affirmation, or a little tough love, or a little guidance, ask for it.
- Be careful about validating yourself through your sacrifices, or through your status. Sarah wrote eloquently on this in a recent text conversation: “Any cut-throat, competitive microcosm of society is going to have a certain air of superiority about it. I think it can create a really inauthentic, almost selfish or self-centered environment and no one truly wants to live that way. That isn’t happiness.” She also noted that when you cut it down to the quick, the only thing that’s separating ourselves from each other is our egos. Sacrifices need to be considered – but fundamentally, you need to be happy enough with them that they don’t force a false martyrdom.
We’re just people; be the best one you can be. (Of course, take all this with a grain of salt. After all, I’m just a squishy person, trying to figure it out, too!)
*Tim of the 12 Kinds of Kindness Project writes beautifully on just this subject:
“When I was younger, I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to grow up and be a nobody.’
But that’s utter bullshit, because we’re all on a journey. We’re all the heroes of our own lives. Many have their dreams deflated and derailed because of external circumstances, like my mother’s unexpected pregnancy, or one of my best friends’ substance abuse. Or maybe someone important to them, such as a family member or a teacher they once had, told them that they’d never amount to anything. It makes me think of the Ian Maclaren quote, ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.'”