I don’t always love people the way that I’d like to.
I’m often selfish or lacking the time to be fully present. I make rash opinions or put up barriers to hold off a new friendship that I don’t feel like I have time for. Lately, I’ve felt so consumed with my own work that I haven’t been giving myself the space to see people or remain open to them. This is the time that I find it important to bring back tools that I’ve learned to love people, hold space for the parts of them that challenge me, and to re-ignite my enthusiasm for the people that I encounter on a daily basis.
As a reminder to myself and potentially a new tool for you, here are my top five tips for seeing everyone as worthy of love:
1. Think of their past/present/hopes for their future.
This is particularly helpful when you’re in trader joes and there’s someone blocking your path with a grocery cart that doesn’t even know what they’re looking for. But, you know that you just need to grab that bag of almonds and you can be on your merry way… Or when a friend or partner says something abrasive and defensive to you.
Take the time to think of them as a 4-year old child or as a 16 year old. What did they hope for their life? What have they not been taught yet? Who were they told they could or couldn’t be? Did they feel alone? What did they rebel against? Who were they trying to please?
Then think about the fact that we age, but, to a large degree we are all still our 4-year old or our 16 year old selves. Continuously battling the wounds that were created so long ago.
It takes a great deal of work and intention to re-train our brains to choose our reactions to our environment. I would venture to say that there is no one who has truly eliminated the responses learned at childhood, we just keep practicing. Having grace can be as easy as asking yourself how you would respond to a child who didn’t know any better. Because in some ways we all are.
2. Choose what you see.
Did you know that you can determine how you view someone? I’ve been known to say, “If you look at anyone long enough, they will be beautiful to you.” Seriously! Try it. Start with yourself.
If you stare at your own naked body long enough and think about how it looks like an alien. Eventually, you will start to see the parts of your body that are alien-esque. In fact, you’ll start to think about how all bodies are in some way resembling what we think of as alien like.
Conversely, choose a part of your body that you typically like to say needs changing. Have you got it? Now, take yourself to a mirror, stare at it and tell yourself how beautiful it is. How comforting it is, how you like it’s shape, the color, the unique-ness. You’ll likely be lying to yourself at first, but, just keep going. Do it everyday for 5 days straight and then see how you feel.
Now, try it on other people. Look at the parts of them that you don’t find appealing and tell yourself they’re beautiful, remind yourself that different is good and every bit of individuality is a miracle of existence.
This same tool can be used in reverse to convince ourselves that we don’t like something. But, knowing that it exists is a really great way to get ourselves out of that thought cycle.
3. Remember your own experiences.
We are interacting with everyone through the filter of our own experiences. We make judgements based on judgements we’ve received or that we’ve learned. We set up barriers because of past wounds. Learning to see someone’s ‘annoying’ behavior as a challenge to something inside of you is a life changer.
>> Scenario: Someone blocks the aisle at Trader Joes and I can’t get to my precious almonds.
Response: Why am I in such a hurry anyway? What’s preventing me form speaking up and asking to get in there?
>> Scenario: It bothers you that someone eats unhealthy food on a consistent basis.
Response: Do you feel restricted in your choices? Do you have a fear associated with living a healthy lifestyle?
At the end of the day we can’t control the actions and behaviors of other people, we can’t avoid them either. What we can do is ask ourselves what we can learn about ourselves through our reactions to them.
4. Keep in mind that we are all trying.
I’ve said this on the blog about a million times, we are all just human beings with flaws trying our hardest. Brene Brown once said, “all I know is my life is better if I assume that people are doing their best.”
At the end of everyday I think it’s safe to assume that we are all showing up in our lives trying our hardest to do what is best for ourselves and the ones we love. That will look differently. Everyone has different values, different energy levels, different understandings and experiences. But, rest easy with the knowledge that we are doing what we can with the tools and experiences that we have.
5. Set healthy boundaries.
I’m constantly learning how to get better at this! But, a few things I’ve learned over the years…
Everyone shouldn’t get the same access to your life and your heart. Choose wisely who you allow close to you. I live by the old adage that we become like the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who do I want to be more like?
I also keep in mind my challenges. If someone consistently brings up a part of myself that I’m not ready to work on, I don’t have to spend time with them. I believe that change only happens within us when we are primed and ready. We can’t force change upon ourselves. You don’t have to suffer through relationships that don’t contribute positively to your life just because you can learn from them. Yes, take note, then keep moving forward.
Don’t form relationships out of a place of desperation. Loneliness is a beast. It’s also the easiest way to land yourself in relationships that don’t contribute positively to your life. YOU DESERVE PEOPLE THAT CONTRIBUTE POSITIVELY TO YOUR LIFE. Your relationships should uplift you, they should make you better, they should inspire you. Be choosey. Have standards. Wait for the right ones to come along.
Finally, set expectations with the people in your life. While we can’t control the actions of anyone else, we can set the expectation for how we will respond to them. If there’s someone you love who repeatedly participates in a way of speaking or behavior that doesn’t feel good to you, you can make a request for that behavior to stop.
>> Scenario: Because of past wounds, your love has a tendency to yell in disagreements.
Response: When you yell, that makes me feel disrespected and I will exit the conversation.
>> Scenario: A friend is consistently late for hanging out with you even though you have a tight schedule.
Response: When your late that is difficult for me because it makes me late for everything else I have to do that day. If you’re more than 30 minutes late, I’m going to have to leave.
The hardest part of this is following through with your word. You have to back up your statements with real action to truly express what your response will be.
Well my friends, I hope that helps us all to see each other more fully. To remember that we are all living in a complex body of thoughts, emotions and experiences. Have grace, share light and set healthy boundaries.