We live in a world that is full of opposites: light and dark, good and evil, old and young, rich and poor. It's easy to see ourselves this way too- through the lens of either/or mentality. Especially if we tend to be self critical, we may need to look carefully at what we believe when it comes to thinking we are ALL THIS and NONE OF THAT.
I've been guiding clients to see themselves with greater clarity for almost 20 years now. Most people resist this at first. They have gathered all of the evidence to prove what they believe themselves to be. Usually it's not a high opinion of themselves. We are after all - our own worst critics.
For most of my life I've been fascinated to learn about and observe human behavior. Attempting to understand myself and others has been a lifelong pursuit. As I approach my sixth decade, I am much less harsh about reviewing and labeling my actions than I was in my younger years.
I describe myself as a curious seeker. I love asking questions and moving to new levels of awareness. I've taken multiple personality tests and proficiency exams to try to know more about myself. For many years I talked with therapists and psychics regularly. I wanted them to help me see my blind spots and offer guidance as I made decisions or rebounded from pain and heartache.
Even after years of insight into myself and my behavior, I still have a tendency to look for ways to criticize and find fault with something I said or did. I do offer myself more self compassion than when I was younger but I have a well developed perfectionist side to me that can get loud and demanding. This reminds me of the tendency we humans have to categorize our behaviors into ALL or NOTHING categories.
If I have more self compassion, why I am still looking for my flaws?
If I am not an 'emotional woman' why is it that I feel things so deeply?
If I have relied on my strong intellect to reason and make decisions, why is it that I've also been quite impulsive?
These questions are examples of how we may see ourselves and others through a narrow lens. That narrow lens can judge and place people in a box that's often labeled incorrectly.
I grew up with a mother and two older sisters who I viewed as emotional women. When I discussed topics of interest with my brother-in-laws I noticed how much easier it was for me to talk with them than it was my older sisters. Early on, I made a decision that this was because of their intellect. That's when I started to see my intellect as a strength and my emotions as a weakness. Over time I worked to strengthen my intellect and deny my emotional feelings.
Couldn't I have both - valued emotions and a strong intellect? Not if I've been viewing and judging from the lens of 'either/or'.
Several of my journal entries have reflected how this either/or thinking was more prevalent within me than I realized. Thinking that something was absolute or black and white. The truth is, as humans we are multi-dimensional complex beings.
Have you ever known someone who was quiet and timid to have a huge temper tantrum or melt down?
What about a friend who claims to be non-judgmental but in the moment they are telling you they don't judge people, they are judging you?
Is it possible that we are not that easy to label because we have multiple responses to the various ways we take action and make choices?
Consider how you view yourself and how others have labeled you. If someone said you were mean and hurtful, did you believe them? Perhaps you have been mean and hurtful at times. I'm sure we could also find evidence of your kind and charitable nature.
Currently, we are seeing the conversation around political beliefs being placed into the boxes of opposite views. Some may label one view as completely irrational and another view as absolutely logical. It is likely that there is more middle ground than folks are willing to see as they seek to find evidence that proves they are right.
My hope is that we can have grace with ourselves and how harshly we judge our mistakes. AND allow others space to be more than just one way or the other. Let us begin to practice more inclusive views rather than seeing ONLY through the either/or lens. What about acknowledging that we have all made poor choices at times AND we have all made good choices too. No one is all bad or all good.
As humans we are all in this experience together. Viewing the expansive journey of life as either/or continues to strengthen separation. Love is inclusive not exclusive. I hope to see people and my experiences more through an expanded view of LOVE 💗