Ignorance is like a dark cave. If we don’t truly know ourselves, we can become as lost in it as those we guide. Our judgment becomes obscured by buried feelings, false conclusions we were taught and internalised, and personality aspects we never explored. We become vulnerable to uncaring people who perceive that which we’ve hidden from ourselves, and who won’t hesitate in harmfully using their knowledge. Knowing yourself can be scary, because our faults aren’t pretty and accepting them isn’t easy. But, if we don’t accept them, we can’t address them nor truly love ourselves for who we are. They don’t disappear, and self-ignorance becomes one of them.
My approach is:
* Remember I’m not as bad – or good – as anyone says I am. Or, if you prefer, “Memento Mori”.
* Reflect (but not dwell) on my past & motives. Why did or didn’t I do certain things? My past gives context to my present.
* Remind myself “no one’s perfect, I am as deserving of love & understanding as other people”.
* Imagine I’m observing a stranger, who’s really me in disguise. How do I feel about this stranger and her behaviour? Can I say “I accept & love you for who you are” to that same stranger? If I can’t, I’ve a problem, because I can’t run from myself.
* List my virtues & vices. Vices are often virtues which have fallen from grace.
* List my likes & dislikes, so I know I’m not tabula rasa. Blank slates don’t have opinions. I don’t need an opinion on everyone, and I’m sure not everyone wants to hear them, but I like knowing where I stand & what I enjoy.
* Talk to others about self-acceptance, especially if I’m having trouble. Sometimes a stranger can see what I can’t.
* Practice self-honesty by confronting what I fear about myself (if this is scary, that’s okay; you’re ready when you’re ready). My fears may or may not be justified, but there’s only one way I can know for certain.
Like so many things, self-acceptance grows with time. If you already know yourself though, then…
We change others by being who we are. Isn’t that something? People naturally imprint on each other, it’s a way we learn. When you’re true to yourself, people see you aren’t ashamed of who you are. We can’t “be ourselves for others”, since being yourself starts with yourself and finding dignity with yourself, not awarded by others. Dignity isn’t avoiding things “beneath our station”, but realising our station doesn’t reflect our worth as human beings. Confidence encourages acceptance, even if we’re not popular, because it says “my validation derives from the worth of my beliefs, not popularity”. The brighter we burn, the more others see this.
My approach is:
* Remind myself that, if I can imprint on others, others may imprint on me if I’m not self-aware enough.
* Stand up for what I believe in. There’s nothing wrong politeness or compromise (usually both good things), unless I’m compromising myself.
* Be honest & forthcoming about my fears, doubts, & flaws. Not everyone respects them, but everyone has them. That being said, I feel there’s nothing wrong with being private & keeping personal secrets. So, I do my best balancing both.
* Have boundaries. There’s a line others shouldn’t be allowed to cross, that’s self-respect. Saying “No” may take practice (I didn’t learn right away), but it’s not wasted effort. Self-sacrifice isn’t wrong, but if I don’t have a self in the first place, then what am I sacrificing?
* Practice speaking my mind. The internet’s a good place for this (safety in anonymity), but not the end – it’s a beginning. Balance this with thinking before speaking.
* Ask myself: What are my goals? what do I want in life? what is my PASSION? Others may have opinions regarding my limits, but only I can know my limits and learn how to exceed them!
* Find someone who I needn’t hide myself from, so I get accustomed to being who I am. Encouragement doesn’t hurt!
* Find outlets for self-expression; they aren’t limited to painting, music, writing. My ‘art’ is whatever calls to me.
Those who know us become surrounded by who we are, which is why we should…
Live By Example
When we strive for better selves, others follow. Treat others as you would wish to be treated! Be a force others aspire to! Part of our struggle is being judged with no consideration, compassion, nor tolerance. By raising the bar we not only encourage others, we dispel negative myths about who we are. Even if others don’t follow our example, we won’t have lost anything by bettering ourselves; living by example isn’t exemplary if no serious self-improvement is sought.
My approach is:
* Be responsible. Remain aware that my actions aren’t unimportant. No matter how small, others may learn from them – good and bad. No matter how small, once done they’re done forever – and raindrops make the ocean.
* Remember that, when I’m alone “no one would know”, my true character is revealed.
* Set realistic & attainable goals for self-improvement.
* Observe the virtues of others I admire; if others can learn from me, then I can learn from others. There’s nothing wrong with asking advice so long as I’m not dependent.
* Read, study, and contemplate ethical & moral questions. Not finding answers is okay, people have been asking these questions for years.
* Reward myself & others for doing good deeds & having good traits – they need not be tangible rewards. Express gratitude. If I see someone doing good deeds, say “thank you”. This positively reinforces good behaviour, and good deeds shouldn’t go unrewarded nor unnoticed. Or if you prefer, “credit where credit is due”.
* Be mindful of my actions, they may become habits (an ounce of prevention… well you know the rest).
* Put my ethics & morals into practice; if my words don’t match my actions, something’s not right.
We mustn’t forget, perfection isn’t possible. What’s possible is…
We want change, but we can’t force change. When pushed, they push back harder. We must accept and love people for who they are *without* expectations, otherwise they won’t have courage to *exceed* expectations. Acceptance gives people time for consideration without pressure. Acceptance says “no matter what you believe, we won’t mistreat you” – a powerful message for people who’re terrified that we herald civilization’s downfall. Acceptance is like planting a seed and not burying it with bricks. Part of acceptance is not disrespecting them; treat people seriously. This may not be easy, but most people won’t engage others who don’t consider their views, treat them condescendingly, or invalidate their life experience. Especially regarding name-calling, we shouldn’t begin nor reciprocate such behaviour.
My approach is:
* Give others the ‘Benefit of the Doubt’. Like saying,” could you maybe explain that further? Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you.”
* Consider my past faults & flaws. No one’s without them, were’ not so different in that regard. I don’t blame myself for having made mistakes, so I shouldn’t blame others for making them too.
* Be considerate & respectful, and not condescending. If I wouldn’t like being spoken to or treated like this, then you probably wouldn’t like it either.
* Never stop trying to understand how someone thinks & why, and what their life’s been like. Our past needn’t define us, but can give context to who we are and what we do.
* Not forgetting that acceptance doesn’t mean “I don’t mind being denied my rights”, but rather “I won’t hate you for being different”.
* Identify ways in which we’re similar, and go from there. Afterwards, I consider their differences, and how I can learn from their different point of view.
* Find their attributes which are wholesome, or that I admire. Historical figures aren’t bad starting points, because sometimes proximity makes a difference.
* Never forgetting “thank goodness we don’t have to be roommates!” …unless I DO have to be roommates. Then I concentrate more on my other pointers, because it’s probably just as difficult on them as it is on me. With time, this still works for me.
If we can’t expect others to be adults, we shouldn’t join them. Instead, we can “lead the classroom”, which requires…
I’ll be especially forthcoming: patience is painful. If you’re a parent, you already know this! Regarding our opponents, patience asks us “journey with this person, who dislikes you, disagrees with you, resists truth, has no respect for you, and might never accept you” – a journey as long as it is logically labyrinthine, as some minds resemble Escher’s drawings. Patience is offering a hand every time they fall, gently presenting “another way”, but never saying “I told you so”. When your patience is tried – and it will be – take a breath, distance yourself (if not impossible). There’s nothing wrong with this. Patience grows as we exercise it; we can’t expect having much at first. We aren’t less deserving of our own patience, and we’re not any less for being human.
My approach is:
* Remind myself that impatience not only doesn’t help, but usually makes things worse. With time, patience extended becomes patience reciprocated. Impatience isn’t different.
* Keep my mind focused on my long-term goal & reward. For me, this is “helping you reach your HIGHEST potential as a human being”, to the best of my ability. What this potential may be, we can find out together.
* Distinguish between patience and idleness/apathy, as well as impatience and drive. For me, patience is “I know my current limits, I accept I’ve done all I can – for now”. Drive is “No matter how long it takes, I will find a way or I will make one”.
* Consider subjects I’m ignorant in, or when I’m not eloquent, or my inconvenient personal traits – and how others are patient with me despite all this. What seems easy for a musician may not be for a carpenter, and vice-versa.
* Not forgetting that patience doesn’t mean “I won’t resist abuse”, it means “Honest mistakes don’t deserve punishment”.
* Recognizing my emotions when I feel frustrated, so I can put emotional distance between myself and a situation. I must be careful not to avoid nor bury my feelings (repression makes things worse), but neither let them influence my temperament nor calm. And in the end, my frustrations can also lead me to a greater understanding of myself.
* Engage in patience-developing tasks, like gardening.
* Love others. Truly and deeply LOVE them, for who they are AND for their amazing limitless potential as human beings, with no expectation of reciprocity. Love them for how far they’ve already come and for where they could possibly go. For the good they’ve done, and wrongs they haven’t done. For who they’ve loved. Love for love’s sake.
Pulling weeds and plowing earth isn’t easy, but gardens don’t bloom without care, and won’t bloom quicker even if we don’t like waiting. I don’t ask this of anyone who doesn’t want to; we must be willing to do this for others as much as ourselves, if not more. I strongly feel these virtues shouldn’t be pursued as “Ends justifying Means”, but as ends themselves. That we shouldn’t accept or be patient with others expecting a long-term reward, but because ALL human beings are deserving of what we’ve not been given. So, no matter what course our movement takes, we’ll have done good.
I believe understanding is love’s key; our relationships are built on preternatural understanding, and the stigmas we face stem from misunderstanding. But, my beliefs can’t speak for everyone, and my approach may not work for everyone. There are many paths in our world; this one is mine. I’m grateful for anyone who wishes to walk it with me.
When people understand “We’re not so different. We’ve the same fears. We’ve the same dreams. We want the same things in life”, I feel then and only then will we have equivalent rights – regardless of law.
Thank you for reading. I hope my words were helpful, and that you’re well.