Yes, And--Further Explanation
Thoughts from Dr. Zan:
There is absolutely nothing like living with a 7th grader to keep you both humble and honest. Mine continually helps to remind me that further explanation is often warranted and useful. You can practically never communicate enough or with sufficient clarity.
So, when my 7th grader observed the title of this blog on the day of the launch, his response was swift and clear, “Why didn’t you just stop after Relational Reflections? Isn’t the rest of that ‘Yes, another blog and’ stuff obvious?” Initially, I suggested that others might enjoy my attempt at humor and lightheartedness more than he does. But his comment begged for further reflection. And in truth, when I initially wrote the title of Relational Reflections, I followed it with the words “Just another blog, but…” When I looked one last time at that title that included the words “Just” and “but,” it caused me to pause. The “just, but” construction of my sentence sounded a bit like an attempt to diminish the work that Na and I were embarking on. That was certainly not my intent. Therefore, I replaced “just, but” with the more accurate and significant, “yes, and.”
How many times do we minimize, apologize, or dismiss some aspect of ourselves? Perhaps life has taught us that we must speak negatively of ourselves as a means of projecting humility. Perhaps we truly do have negative and critical thoughts about ourselves that flow freely. Perhaps we are reflecting what we perceive to be socially acceptable or expected. We may even believe that others will find us more appealing as a friend or partner if we diminish ourselves.
But I am coming to recognize that presenting myself as “less than” does not make me more appealing or accessible to others. It simply leaves me feeling less. And who really wants to connect as friend or partner with someone who devalues herself? Don’t we all feel better about ourselves when we are connecting with others who are able to fully embrace who they are meant to be?
Therefore, I invite you to be on the journey of seeing yourself, your relationships, and your endeavors not as a “just,” but as a “yes!” And, you will certainly experience more joy, love, and meaning.
Reflections from Dr. Nadine:
I teach a class of graduate students who are learning to do the wonderful work of counseling others who want to maximize their highest potential. One of my tasks is to observe the students and offer feedback on their techniques to help them improve their skills. So last night, I noticed that each of the students I observed chose to talk about the struggle between meeting her own needs and meeting the needs of others. First, I was struck by the commonality among these bright young women, all of whom were expressing the same doubts and fears and concerns about alienating their loved ones by expressing their own desires. Secondly, I was aware at how many of us see these as mutually exclusive desires. We often live as if we must make a choice between what we want and what others want.
Some of my most miserable days have been spent because I didn’t pay much attention to my personal needs. My inner authentic voice has been very small in the past. In fact, for a long time I didn’t even know I had one! I mistook what I heard from others for my own desires and passions. Part of the reason this happens for me is that I’m very relational -- for example, if there is a choice between cooking the overripe veggies in my fridge or meeting somebody for coffee, I’m more likely to spring for the beverage and the company. So in wanting to spend time with others, I sometimes missed the other messages that I was giving myself. I drowned out my other needs, the ones that would enhance the other vital parts of my “self”, like having quiet, reflective, spiritual time, or getting to the gym to exercise my physical body.
This is a slightly different twist on how we, without realizing it, can diminish ourselves. Without the gift of Zan’s 7th grader to remind us to pay attention, it’s important that we give ourselves the time to listen to that quiet, gentle voice that belongs to our authentic selves. It’s there that we’ll find our personal guide on how to honor and value ourselves, and our compass pointing us to joy, love and meaning.
A final note from Dr. Zan:
And I absolutely love that Na mentioned our compass! After last week’s posting, I received a beautiful note from someone very dear to me saying that he was working with the word compassion and striving to use it as his compass. I thought it was brilliant and impactful. Developing greater compassion for ourselves leads to greater compassion for others. I can’t think of a more effective guide.