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Posts Tagged ‘validation’

In one of my favorite movies, The Incredibles, there’s the following exchange between a kid who can run superheroically fast, and his super-powered mom:

Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

To me, that’s always been a perfect two-part summation of how, culturally, we can help keep each other down.  For the first part, there’s a strong pressure to “fit in”, and not make waves.  Sure, we talk about how everybody should strive to be the best there is, but once someone starts hitting that inspirational high, we then start trying to tear them down.  Part of it might be jealousy, and part of it might be lashing out in the internal fear that we could never be allowed to reach our own heights.

There also seems to be a cultural impulse to attack people who stand out with the accusation that they’re doing something arrogant and selfish for contradicting the way “everybody” expects a person to think and act.  It’s like there’s a strong resistance to anything disrupting the comfort zone of the “status quo”, sort of like how people say that in America you can have all the Free Speech you want so long as your speech won’t matter.  It’s standing out to make a difference that inspires other people to start embracing their own specialness, that’s where you start to get into trouble.

And that leads into the second part.  Everybody truly is special.  The problem is that for too many people, “special” is some kind of competition where only the winners qualify.  It’s as though “special” has to mean “significantly better than almost everybody else at something rare or spectacular”, and that you have to be the right kind of “special” to get that supreme validation as a uniquely valuable person.  That is so completely backwards.

Special means, essentially, “pertaining or peculiar to a particular person/thing, distinctive, unique”.  And that’s you.  That is absolutely, completely you.  You are a genuinely unique assembly of hopes and fears and skills and doubts and loves and dislikes and pleasures and pains.  Your world may have a lot in common with a lot of people, but only you have exactly your way of being in it.  You are special.  And this matters.

Naturally, this gets challenged.  People scoff, “Well if everybody’s equal, then how can you say that each person is so specially important?  Doesn’t that mean none of us matter?”

This makes me think of some truly beautifully intricate puzzles I’ve seen, where each piece is actually made up of smaller complete pictures.  It’s the combination of the arrangements of the tiny sets of pictures that shows the larger picture on the puzzle when you step back.  Can you picture what I’m talking about?  Now imagine if even one of the pieces was missing.  Is the puzzle still complete, or did that piece matter?

I’ll talk more tomorrow about just how much it matters.

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Today I’m blogging off a comment I put down for Jo Ann J. A. Jordan, one of WordPress’s many genuine poets.  While writing it, I realized I want to tell this to everyone, and for them to feel the truth in it. Let’s see how this goes…

One of life’s tragedies is that we feel as though we have to seek permission to honor in ourselves the ways we follow the calling of our souls.  It’s like we don’t have the right to be who we know we must become, unless some group of people with sufficient authority grants us their permission through honors or awards.

Alan Watts got it right when he said it’s a mistake to to try to separate something being done from the thing that’s doing it.  As I ended up writing it once, truth lives not through nouns, but through verbs.  We are what we do.  If one writes, one is a writer.  If one sings, one is a singer.  If one dances, one is a dancer.  If one creates, one is a creator.  That’s because a writer is one who writes, a dancer is who sings, and so on.  Descartes had it backwards: I am, therefore I think.

Somehow, we lost that.  I won’t get into my theories on how this happened, but we got trained to look outside for validation.  This oppressive need for outside validation is part of what makes people arrogant and obnoxious over whether they or others have a rightful claim to particular nouns.  Some people get pompous and ridiculous over nouns they seize, further discouraging the humble among us from feeling like we can use them.

Forget about all that.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is who you do, because this is what creates who you are.  You create to feed a hunger in your soul.  Let it feed you.  Don’t question whether you have a right to how good the soulfood makes you feel — it’s yours.  You need it.  EAT IT.

Would it be great for more people to find and enjoy and reward you for your work?  YES!  Is that needed for it to be valuable?

No.

You are a part of this world.  That means your presence inherently makes a difference in what the world becomes.  You can’t escape that.  When you care for yourself and find value in this, then your difference is a good one.

And that’s what matters.

So please, do what brings you joy.  Remember to smile at yourself, and feel the warm glow of doing what you cherish.  That right there is the greatest service to world peace.

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.

Thich Nhat Hanh

And because I promised, a poem on sports for the Poem a Day challenge:

My doubt falls away

I no longer need to win

Running is the race

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