The Dance of Life
Life is a funny thing. Some days, we cannot get enough of our similarities. Other days, we have an insatiable need to identify our differences. We want to be part of the group, but we want people to recognize us as special. We never seem to get tired of the strain of allowing ourselves to go limp with assimilation, then demanding we stretch to accommodate a growing desire to stand out from the group.
This dance goes on our entire life, but it is entirely without purpose if it never allows us to feel good enough. You can be a regular citizen of Gotham today, and Batman tomorrow, but if you do not feel that you are deserving of love, well-being, and meaning then these identities are failing to serve their main purpose: to be known and accepted by you and others.
So, how do we make ensure that our needs are met by all of this identity work? Easy. We acknowledge our similarities, and celebrate our differences. If you noticed, in my example of the regular citizen and Batman, we tend to openly commit to shared, identifying factors, but we tend to mostly mask that which makes us different. Sure, we are willing to point out some of it in order to feel special, but only the parts we believe other people will accept. We just accept Batman’s fighting skills. We do not accept the other factors that make him Batman. We need to celebrate our complete Batman to be truly happy.
Celebrating Our Differences
So, how do we go about celebrating our differences? I like the notecard method. It works because a notecard only has so much space, and it is easy to get rid of a notecard once you have performed your celebration. Notecards are also small, and easily more travel ready than a much larger note pad.
Step one. Get note cards. The color does not matter. Three inch by five inch notecards will suffice. Step two. Decide on three ways to celebrate your differences. In my experience, one way of celebrating is too few, and four or more is too many. Step three. Commit to writing down a difference immediately after it comes up. If you wait any longer, you will probably lose your nerve or forget. Step four. Celebrate immediately. See the reasoning put forth for step three. Finally, step five. Throw the note card away. True self-compassion practice requires you to be confident in your knowledge that who you are and what you are doing is enough. Holding on to your differences or similarities just perpetuates the thought that who you are is not enough and neither is your experience.
Making This Practice Reasonable
It is hard to follow this recipe every day, so I ask people to try it out for one day. Dedicate one whole day to this practice, and pay attention to the change. Notice the change that day, that week, and finally that month. Our progress towards well-being and happiness is not defined by one moment, but rather many handfuls of moments much like the goodness of a meal is decided by many bites. In the beginning, it may feel inauthentic. Ride this feeling out. Anything you do consistently will become yours. All that is yours is authentic.
I am willing to bet that if this day goes well that you will continue this practice in some way. We tend to keep up that which rewards us. Hey, we like rewards! Ever wonder why you get candy and popcorn at the movies? It is your minds way of saying, “Way to get here! Let’s celebrate with something delicious.” We tend to congratulate ourselves after movies in a similar fashion with dinner or a late night snack.
The reason we celebrate our differences is to experience more authentic and longer lasting happiness through acceptance. Just acknowledging your differences still leaves too much room to ignore or criticize them later. The body and the mind must be rewarded for bringing them to our attention, so that they are free to come out later.
Once we accept these differences, they will become a seamless part of how we interact with the world with one small exception. The exception is that we will have more kindness available for ourselves and others. The more we can tolerate our own differences, the more we can tolerate the differences of others. The former will increase the healthiness of our relationship to ourselves, the latter will increase the healthiness of our relationship to others. Who would you rather spend time with the person who likes part of you or all of you?
What are you waiting for? Break out the notecards. It is time to have a better life!
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 110. In the Books.