“My readers – and I get 400 emails for a day, my readers normally they say, well, you understand me, and I answer, you do understand me also. We are in the same level.” – Paulo Coelho
How do we get people to meet us where we are? How do we meet them where they are? Without judgment, assumptions, or anything else of that nature. How do we all get to the point where we can meet one another wherever we are? I have had quite a few conversations recently with numerous people on this topic, and I can’t help but to wonder if other people have this struggle in their lives as well.
Meeting someone where they are requires knowing a little about them, it requires being open-minded, and it requires letting go of assumptions, pre-conceived notions, and judgments. And sometimes doing that is not so simple for either party involved. On one hand I want people to know who I am, what I’ve been through, how I feel, that I try hard, that I feel misunderstood, that I don’t feel like I am good enough most of the time, etc. But then on the other hand, society tells me that people don’t care, that I shouldn’t share this kind of stuff, that all of that doesn’t matter, that I should suck it up and overcome any adversity I am faced with in life, and that I don’t have it bad in comparison to many others. In short, society is telling us to not even bother sharing our stories. And I believed what society told me, almost without question, until recently.
What I have come to believe now is that whether those things society tells us are true or not, it doesn’t negate what I’ve been through or how I feel, though it often feels like it does, or is supposed to. We all have different struggles, of that there is no doubt, and we all react to and cope with our struggles in a variety of ways. But it isn’t so much about comparing whose struggles are worse, as much as it is about recognizing we all struggle and then seeing what we can do to help one another where we each are.
There is a tremendous desire within us as humans to have other people know us…know our story. There are too many assumptions made about us by others and too many assumptions made by us about others. Again, it’s what we are taught throughout our lives, both consciously and unconsciously, to believe is normal or correct. As Brene Brown says in her work, we are wired for story as humans, and so when we are faced with the lack of a story, we will make one up, even if it is not true or flattering, whether it is about ourselves or others. It’s what we do, whether we realize it or not.
Life is about building relationships, but to do that we have to get to know each other and share our stories…certainly not every detail, but we need to share some things. We need to feel heard, understood, and validated. We need to understand from where each of us has come. We all can get swallowed up in the daily monotony of our own lives – we stop noticing, we stop asking, and sometimes we even stop caring. But we need to change that.
Most of us have spent so much of life feeling like we can’t get things right, like the cards are stacked against us, that we aren’t good enough in some way, etc. Then we look around and notice those who have it worse than us in some way and we mentally berate ourselves for thinking we had it so bad in the first place. And to make matters worse, sometimes there are others who will do this to us as well. And so we go back to keeping quiet, continuing to struggle in silence so to speak. What a vicious, unhealthy cycle.
I’ve spent much of my life trying not to feel, trying not to care, and numbing myself, both because that was what I had learned from society and because it made things easier to deal with, but eventually that stopped being effective for me and an alternative became necessary. I needed to share where I am, hard as it was to do after keeping it to myself for so long. A hard habit to break for sure, but I knew it was what was necessary to heal and to grow.
We all have stories. We have all struggled. We all have felt unworthy or not good enough in some way. That is probably one of the great universals among all of human kind in this modern era. So much of this pain and struggle that we experience can be avoided by just becoming aware of our collective struggles…by getting to know one another even just a little before passing judgment or passing by e another in indifference. Education and compassion are two of the most powerful tools we have available to us. Use them for your own sake as well as the sake others. Meet yourself and others where they are. Know we are all on this journey called life together.