6 More Lessons That Have Changed The Way I Cultivate a Greater Sense of Self...

"The way people use a place mirrors expectations."  

And I'd like to think that not only applies to places, but also to you and me.

You are as much a "place" as anything, and people are constantly taking in how you treat yourself.

In turn, they're interpreting the answer to the question, "what is the expectation here?"

How does ____________ feel about herself?

It's one of the greatest and most profound questions you answer for people, and the greater the sense, the clearer the interpretation.

This notion of expectations based on how places are used came from The Street Life Project, a study that was conducted in the 70's by urbanist and professional people-watcher, William H. Whyte.  The whole point of the project was to find out why some places "worked" for people and others didn't, and what the practical implications might be about living better, more joyful lives.

Interestingly enough, the number one activity found in the study, even aside from all the diverse activities that transpired, was people-watching!

People watching other people.

Humans doing, or at least interested in, what other humans are doing. It's practically law.

I'm using this as a metaphor here to show us how important it is to set the example for others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.

The way you use your "place" mirrors expectations.

And people ARE watching.

So, when we talk about the fact that we want a greater sense of who we are - a greater sense of self - we commit to really expansive, far-reaching work because we're educating other people who come in contact with us on-the-regular how to treat us.  If that's not really important work, I don't know what is.

In the first installment of this series, we talked about 4 of the 10 lessons that help us cultivate a greater sense of self - those were friendliness, forgiveness, humility, and gratefulness.

In the final session here, I'd like us to explore 6 more ways we can cultivate a greater sense of who we are. Self-acceptance, social acceptance, unity, empathy, wisdom & patience.

Self-Denial vs. Self-Acceptance

Currently, in my life, there's a relationship that's a bit complicated. (Pretty sure I'm not alone on the planet in this, right?)

And with this particular relationship, I continue to find myself saying "it is what it is." And while that term sounds lackadaisical, whimsy, and irresponsible, it's actually not. I have resolved the fact that, to keep from complaining about it (because I happen to love this person dearly), the only thing left to do is have full acceptance of what is. Now. In this moment. In the present.

And some days, I feel like I fail miserably. Others, I do pretty well. It's a moving target.  I am choosing to honor what I feel in my heart and cater to the love that exists, not deny it and attempt to control or create my own outcome.

When we deny ourselves to benefit ourselves, that's a different kind of self-denial. We're not talking about healthy sacrifice here. I'm wanting us both (you and me) to get to a full acceptance of what is - the self now, here, today. Who are you? What do you want to feel and why?

Seeking advice or wise counsel is always a good idea, but at the end of the day, are you happily honoring who you see in the mirror, or do you even recognize her?  Is she living for the 10 different people she talks to on the phone, or for herself?

Say yes to feeling it all - whatever that 'all' may be - is the only way to really feel free.

Social Intolerance vs. Social Acceptance

There's really only one question that I feel can help you be much more socially accepting of things that bother you, are annoying, or feel disrespectful - that question is this: what is the lesson here?

I have started asking this of myself when I feel that annoyance rise up in public, or I'm forced to attend certain social conventions that make me cringe (and I would've rathered stay home in my pajamas).

Instead, "what can I learn?"  And actually waiting for the answer to come, instead of going about my business.  Here's some lessons that have come through for me in those types of experiences:

  • It's not all about you.
  • Because you need to cultivate patience.
  • You haven't learned it all
  • People need your energy and spirit
  • Life beckons us to listen to others
  • No one's story happens in isolation from the broader world
  • Through discomfort, we learn how to most enjoy comfort

Try this next time you feel social intolerance rising up - I'd love to hear what lessons come through for you - I know I always look forward to learning my next one...

Separation vs. Unity

Before I talk about unity, I have to clear something up.

There's a marked difference in 'isolation' and 'solitude'.

Isolation (what we're labeling separation here today) is not healthy and it's from the ego. It might have these thoughts:

  • "I don't want your help."
  • "I don't need your help."
  • "I can do it on my own."
  • "There's no way you can know more or know it better than me."
  • "I don't need anyone else's opinion."

Perhaps you can add some others you might be able to think of in the comments today, but these are some. And we've all been in isolation - where we reject literally everything that tries to come in. And if you and I think about it, there's nothing about isolation that gives or serves another human being (besides maybe not surrounding them with how miserable you feel, and that's hardly really giving - it's sparing).

Solitude is the opposite of isolation, interestingly. And when solitude is done well, it can serve others well, and create the unity that serves all involved. Some thoughts from solitude:

  • "I just need to replenish, so I can get back at it."
  • "I want to re-focus, so I'm more clear on what they need."
  • "I need some time so I can be my BEST there tomorrow."
  • "I need some peace & quiet, so I can have a blast and host this party the right way."
  • "I want to spend time alone, so I can meet some awesome people later."

Do you feel the expansion and the health in these thoughts?  For me, it's really fun to teach and even more fun to learn.

Because as an introvert, solitude is the pathway to unity. It's what provides me the energy I need to connect with others and my environments in the BEST way possible. And the entire time, I'm honoring myself and others - I'm not isolating and grimacing.

Cold vs. Empathetic

This past year, I've learned the MOST from teacher and author, Dr. Brene Brown. Her research has changed my work, how I view myself, and how I enter into new relationships. And one of my new favorite quotes is by her.

"Talk to yourself like you would someone you love."  

How better to cultivate empathy with others than to self-practice?  Yet you and I both forget this - often we're harder on ourselves than we would ever be on someone else.

If you're not naturally empathetic towards others, I'd like you to start listening to how you talk to yourSELF. See what tone you're taking, and how it shows up and why. Was your Mom that way with herself (or another female voice you were influenced by), so you have learned it over time? Have you had a lifetime of unhealthy relationships? Have you maybe created unrealistic expectations for yourself to try to control outcomes & henceforth, think you're powerful enough to prevent failure? (Yes, I'm in your head right now!)

Observing your SELF behavior will likely answer a lot about your behavior with others. The more we learn about another person's behavior, the more we can understand our own and vice versa.

"When you look deeply...you will see that the person you call your enemy is also suffering. As soon as you see that, the capacity for accepting & having compassion for them is there." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Madness vs. Wisdom

When I think about madness, several things come to mind.  Drama, unhealthiness, messy relationships, fear, disorganization, etc. and I immediately see the root below each of these as well - selfishness, lust, competition, laziness, and perhaps a lack of self-control.

None of us is exempt from feeling these things, but ultimately they cause pain & suffering. All of the above simply feed our egos, making us feel temporarily honored, but knowing deep down, we aren't succumbing to "to thine own self be true."

I've heard it said that "wisdom is nothing more than healed pain" and I couldn't agree more.

I always like to add "yes, and knowledge applied", because knowledge and wisdom work together. It's not always about "what we know" or "what we learned." It's about how those two compliment each other.

"For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." --Proverbs 2:10

Intolerance vs. Patience

This paradox so beautifully parallels what we discussed earlier with social intolerance & social acceptance.

However, whereas with social acceptance, the question is "what is the lesson?" (in order to resolve what we're about to have to endure), patience carries us through those moments. It could possibly ask "how do I use the lesson for the highest good?"

I'm reminded here of a quote:

"We waste so many days waiting for the weekend. So many nights wanting morning. Our lust for future comfort is the biggest thief of life." --Joshua Glenn Clark

And he's not talking about "waiting for the weekend" being aligned with patience here - it's actually waiting in impatience - not appreciating very much of what's right here in front of my face because I'm SO focused on tomorrow or what "could" happen.

True patience allows us to enjoy ourselves and each moment as if we asked for it to happen.

I'd love to know - when it comes to you really honoring who you are, and being comfortable with yourself and your decisions, which one of these really rings true for you?

Also, if there's a different strategy you use to really gain and keep a strong sense of who you are, please share it!

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash