By Kim Saffran
With all that is vying for our attention, locally, nationally and beyond, at what point do we decide how much information is enough? We like to stay informed, yes, but at what cost? A dear friend of mine basically ‘checked out’ regarding their “screen time,” deeply limiting their exposure to, well, everything. Perhaps, you’ve thought about it, too. Most would say this is healthy. I tend to agree. I’ve grappled with it (still do) but more so the thoughts and feelings I’m left with when I check in and connect. I won’t lie and say that I haven’t been incensed. I have. But, in doing so, I’ve also realized how critical it is to shift in the other direction and find the quiet spaces in which to exist. Those that are meant to soothe and heal us, allowing for the possibility of restoring us to the gentle beings that house the good in us.
One method of evaluating whether we are doing enough is our tendency to compare ourselves to others. It is quite common and the ease and frequency with which it occurs may seem like a conditioned response. While, as a measure for self improvement regarding our achievements and aspirations, yes, comparisons can prove to be a valuable tool.
Other times, though, we embrace the belief that we’re coming up short somehow, should our imaginations take hold. But here’s the thing. What if who we are, what we’re doing along with what we’ve done is simply good enough? Perhaps the pressure to tick off all of the items on our task list in a timely and efficient manner or facing head on myriad responsibilities of our lives, shouldn’t tie into the communication loop, from which we seek valuable feedback, sending the message that we are not measuring up. Personally, I believe we are.
But, for context, as individuals, how we process, feel, produce and evolve occurs on different timelines, with varying approaches and having different looks, understandably.
The pressure to conform or to achieve what others have, or do, can be not only debilitating, but exhausting, leaving us in a state of rumination, exhausting us further. If we are not the same person, is it fair to aspire to or expect that we achieve as others do if our tools, experiences and conditioned thoughts are so different? As mentioned, we may learn about things we’d like for ourselves through comparison but the ease and effort with which we attain such things speaks to our individuality and, also, our ability to see ourselves as such.
“Auto piloting” our way through the hours until we reach the end of the day, sometimes without fully appreciating the impact that we may have on our lives-and others, may be a clue. Allow me to explain.
Just recently, I was on the phone with a CSR (customer service representative) and felt the need to acknowledge my slight irritation regarding my call. When he responded wishing that more people were like me, I was surprised and questioned him. He mentioned that most people yell and scream at him but that I was being incredibly nice. Certainly, it was good to hear but being so inclined to believe that my slight irritation was a failure in some way, I hadn’t taken into consideration how subjectively I was viewing this. I hadn’t even taken into account how another would experience it.
Realistically, we spend so much time preemptively labeling what we do without fully appreciating the very action and the positive impact it may, actually, have. Perhaps, the ability to be present and patient could assist us in viewing our lives in the ways they play out more objectively. Forgiveness of self is another incredibly healing tool, but that’s a topic for another column.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if the ubiquity of our society to produce, to keep up and to illustrate norms could, somehow, act as a gentle reminder that the good in us need not follow the conventional path but, rather, simply emanate from the very unique individuals we are? All the while, with no need for comparison.
Perhaps, the following may sound familiar:
- Offering to hold a door for someone who is moving slowly or is elderly and needs just a few moments.
- A well-meaning smile and ‘hello’ as you pass someone on the street.
- A quick love pat for a dog out on a walk. Or a cat. Trust me, you just made their day.
- Wishing someone well and offering to be there as a means of support and encouragement.
- Calling to check in with someone simply to say ‘hi’ and to see how they’re doing.
- Making room for something or someone in your life you may not have thought about previously but, due to your years on this earth have learned that your heart is bigger, deeper and kinder and your abilities are much greater then you’ve given yourself credit for.
Many years ago, I had a poster called, “Desiderata.” I had read it daily as I found the words not only calming and insightful but educational. Throughout the years those words supported my ability to wonder, question and, ultimately, grow.
One line stands out and holds quite a symbolic importance to our propensity to check ourselves against others: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
This may sting a bit. Honestly, how are we to so easily accept that there are persons greater than ourselves? It simply is a fact of life. And, that’s okay. Perhaps, the “greater” is in just one area. You have your undeniable strengths as well — always will and, chances are, there are people that love you for it, maybe more than you know.
If there were ever a time to check in and acknowledge all that is right about us, this is it. Too often, we place a greater focus on how we react to unprecedented times and events rather than the skill and tenderness with which we’ve survived it. A central component to this is the quiet, beautiful gift that resides in us. In all its unshakable eloquence, it is, and will continue to be — the ever-evolving, unmistakably unique good in us.
Kim Saffran is a health educator and program manager. A nature lover and continual learner, she seeks to help empower others live their best lives.