Yesterday, I wrote about a fellow who recently spoke at Prescott College. His name is Will Duncan, and his wisdom and words came at a pivotal moment for me in my writing and self-study. Do you ever feel like you become aware of something and suddenly notice it everywhere? Sometimes, pieces fall into place in this synchronous way, as if the universe is responding to your call for guidance. Who knows where and how our energy travels. Perhaps, the universe was responding.
I spent much time admonishing myself through the written word for passing judgment on others. Then, I listened to Will tell me that I was not alone in this learned behavior.
“In this culture, we are masters of beating ourselves up, of not accepting ourselves as we are,” he told us. His next words offered the insight I had yet realized.
“Our judgment of other people is just coming out of our judgment of ourselves.”
Brilliantly simple, yet it seemed so very clear to me. There is always something going on behind the scenes, whether or not we are aware of it.
If I think someone does not like me when I first meet them because they seem cold or aloof, there is likely something they are struggling with that has very little, if anything to do with me. They might be having a bad time or not be feeling well. I have learned to try not to take their response personally and even to ask. One student in my cohort when I was studying in Africa was very distant when we were introduced. We became very close friends in the months that followed, and I later asked her if she had not liked me when we first met. She told me that she had just started her period and was experiencing really intense cramps. Who wouldn’t be unfriendly in that situation?
I have since realized that I am no exception to the first impression rule. I went through college thinking a woman in my circle of friends did not like me. After we graduated, it somehow came out that she had not I didn’t like her. So, all this time, we could have been developing a friendship but let our own illusions dictate our realities.
In the end, we are all just human. After all.
Will suggested that we be kinder to ourselves, which will allow us to be kinder to others.
I discovered this to be true in my own path to a more sustainable existence. The more time I spent wallowing in questions of the self, the more answers I was able to find. I went through a stormy period where I was in such extreme survival mode that I was not able to take care of my own self very well, forget about other people who might have needed me. What I found in the wake of this storm was that my heart seemed to have expanded. I was able to take people into my home and be a place of support and love for others on the brink of moving through their own storm.
Of course, here I sit with a doctorate in Sustainability Education and a focus on the concept of self-sustainability, and I still struggle against my own inner critic every day. I am a work in progress.
So, how to overcome the critic? Will had a few suggestions.
1. Learn to appreciate yourself. How? Small, regular, spiritual practice.
2. What he referred to as a daily “Rejoicing Meditation.”
Here is how he described it:
Lay down in bed (this is a fun one, he said, because you can lie down!)
Rejoice in all the cool things you and other people did that day, but especially you
Simple enough, and I think the more you practice the easier it becomes to find the positive rather than focus on the negative.
In my own writing and research on self-sustainability, I have come to realize that the notion of being perfect is really to accept being imperfect. We are each perfect with our idiosyncracies and graceful in our clumsiness and stumbling. I am not sure I would really want for life to be any other way.