We live in a broken world where we’re too afraid of each other, and ourselves, to ever fully show up. Even those who love each other and want to support each other hold back. Many of us grew up being told we’re not good enough. We’ve been told we’re to this or to that and love was always conditional. If you don’t do as I say, then you’re not really part of this family.
We grew up learning that a certain type of person is good enough and a certain type of person isn’t good enough.
These messages aren’t always intentional. Many times a parent means well, but the message they send is so far from what they meant it can be hard to reconcile the two different messages.
Parents know kids can be mean, so when a child cuts their hair on their own, the parents try to prevent some of the backlash by ‘fixing’ the hair. Unfortunately, this can easily lead to the child hearing that unless they look a certain way, the parent doesn’t think they’re worthy. In most cases this isn’t what the parent means, but what we mean and what the child hears isn’t always the same.
As we grow, some people can pull out the real meanings behind words and grow to recognize the ways they’ve misinterpreted their parents over the years. Many people can’t.
The same is true for all the things we’ve brought into ourselves over the years. The words and actions we interpreted as mean may not have been intended to be mean. If we don’t learn how to find the good in other people’s intentions, then we continue living believing the worst. This slowly chips away at us until we believe that everyone is out to get us.
Right now most of us are somewhere in the middle. We want to believe the best in others, but it’s so hard because so many things rub against our raw spots. We struggle to keep ourselves together. The way that provides the most success is to keep people at arms length – or farther.
We feel so deeply lonely, we feel as though everything is wrong, we feel as though something’s not right, but we don’t really know what to do about any of this.
Maybe you’ve heard that having a community helps. Maybe you’ve heard that people with the most friends do better. Maybe you’ve heard these things, but you still don’t know what to do.
The way out of loneliness isn’t easy. But social media tells us it should be. So when we struggle, we believe that maybe there really is something inherently wrong with ourselves.
The truth is all the Positive Thoughts and Coaches on social media who tell you how easy it is are selling cosmetics. They’re not selling lasting change and they’re not selling strength. You get 3 seconds of insight followed by an even deeper quagmire and no idea how to get out.
Some people are really good at saying the right thing in the right moment so that it feels inspirational and it feels like this moment is the moment my life will change. But change doesn’t work like that.
Ability to change requires a person to have a vision of what they want, know what the first step toward change is, and to also dislike what they’ve got enough to want to take action toward what they want. All of that goes against the resistance we have to change.
- You want a better relationship, but getting that relationship means talking to your partner and being willing to see how wrong you are. It’s a lot easy and more comfortable to continue being upset at your partners actions than it is to take responsibility for how you contribute to the specific dynamic.
- You want more friends, but that means you need to be willing to go out or talk on the phone, or return texts. But it’s so easy to continue keeping people at arms reach. After all you can clearly see all their faults…often those faults you see go back to the faults others used to point out in you. But you grew out of those faults, so why can’t they?
We get stuck in the mind traps that say others are unworthy. We doubt our own worthiness to begin with, then question others worthiness which leads to our own sense of worthiness diminishing even more. It’s the worst whirlpool to ever get caught in.
And this is why the hope that someone will say just the right thing at the right time is so constricting. We have these ongoing thoughts in our head that undermine any single phrase someone might say. We need to constantly prove those thoughts wrong in order to continue moving toward what we actually want.
What Can We Do About It?
The first thing we can do is literally prove ourselves wrong. In order to do that, we need to know what the negative or destructive thought is. Then we need to prove it wrong. It’s really, really easy to prove those thoughts right. Especially if we’ve been having these thoughts for a while. Our brain has already been trained to look for proof that the bad is true.
At first that’s hard. You may find 27 different bits of proof that the bad is true and only a single thought that might prove it wrong. Cling to that single thought. Put that thought on a pedestal. Over time you’ll begin to see new bits of evidence that shows that thought is true.
A little caveat: This is not to say look for proof that you’re right. Thoughts of justification or righteous indignation lead to more division between people. Look for proof that the thoughts that pull you together are true. You might be right, but that isn’t helpful.
What if you are right?
Listen and understand the other person’s perspective so that they feel like you understand. This means they usually say something along the lines of ‘Yeah, that’s right!’ not ‘Yeah, you’re right.’
There’s a difference.
When they know you’ve heard their side of things, then they’re more willing to listen to you and more willing to let go of the fight.
That’s not to say you’ll always get what you want. Sometimes people want different things that are incompatible. But when you listen fully to the other person, they’re more likely to listen to you.
We feel closer together when we feel like the other person understands us.
Our world is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.
There are so many wonderful and beautiful moments shared by so many people. I see time and time again proof that our world is getting better each day. We break through the cycles of fear when we learn to find the good in the people around us, and the world as a whole.
Fixing our world cannot happen in one fell swoop. The reason it can’t is because there are 7 billion people on this planet and no two of them fully agree on everything. Even someone with the best intentions can hurt someone else. The antidote is to look for the shared humanity within others.
All others, not just the ones you agree with.
Couple that with looking for the ways in which each of us individually are wrong and we begin to see our world through rosier glasses.