I am a self- improvement, self-development, be a better person than you were yesterday, contemplate the spirituality of life and lifelong learning junkie. I fully admit it, and as a matter of fact, I love that about me. I have come across many valuable nuggets of information over the years…ideas that have seeded in my brain to slowly grow into life altering paradigm shifts and simple ways of understanding myself better.
I saw this picture on facebook today and felt called to write about it. This concept is probably the most valuable concept I’ve come across in my own path of self-growth. The idea that what we see in the world and in others is really a reflection of our self, is a life changing concept. How? With just a little analysis of how we think, judge and define the world, we can begin to learn a great amount about ourselves…and then use that knowledge to become the person we want to be! Want some examples?
Think of someone that has a quality you admire. Maybe a friend of yours is generous with her time, she volunteers hours of her time every week to a charity organization and you admire her for her generosity and compassion. Maybe your brain stops there…you admire her, that’s why she’s your friend. You clearly have a generous and compassionate heart also; otherwise you would not be able to recognize those characteristics in her. Maybe you are comfortable with your contributions to the world and all is well. You just learned a little about yourself.
But maybe you feel that you don’t have the same opportunity to demonstrate those qualities because you have a full time job and family responsibilities. Maybe you feel guilty that you didn’t even make the time last week to drop off your clothing donation to the homeless shelter. Again, you clearly have a generous and compassionate heart, but because there is some negativity in your judgments, there is surely a larger lesson underneath. If this were me (and since I’m writing this, there is a good chance it was), I would set aside some time to journal or meditate on what is going on in my mind. I may consider how good it feels when I donate my time to charity. I may consider my priorities regarding how I spend my time…maybe I could spend more time doing charitable work or maybe something else is a higher priority. Or, am I feeling guilty because I’m unjustly comparing myself to someone else? Maybe I’m simply not giving myself credit for all the things I do to support various programs and groups. As I take a closer look at what generosity and compassion mean to me, I will start to see how that is impacting my thoughts and judgments. I can either change how I prioritize my time so that I can do more, or I can simply acknowledge that I’m doing all I can do right now and understand that life is not a competition. I am generous and compassionate….it may just look a little different on me than on her; and that’s okay!
So, that was an easy example. Now let’s think of something negative. Maybe you have an acquaintance that really drives you nuts. Maybe he has no sense of responsibility, doesn’t pay his bills because he doesn’t want to work, he looks to others to bail him out of hot water (including you)…and this drives you insane! Why? Because, you are always responsible. You went to college, you have a full time career, you have always taken care of your responsibilities and you would freak out if you couldn’t pay a bill, taking on secondary work if needed. Off the top of my head, I can think of 5 different people that have come into my life over the years that, to some degree, fit this example. I didn’t see myself in these people at all, as a matter of fact I resented them. Hmmm, l bet there’s a lesson here.
Now keep in mind, my perception is not truth, it’s a reflection of me. So, what I think I see in all of these people is possibly not the exact truth…maybe one of them was just immature at the time and eventually grew into his responsibility. Maybe one learned from an abusive relationship not to trust himself, and copes with this self-doubt by leaning heavily on others. Maybe one lost a loved one early in life and unconsciously decided not to waste precious time on responsibilities. Bottom line, their truth is probably very different than my perception.
But regardless of what the truth is, how is what I see in them a reflection of me? I’m ultra-uber-responsible…right? This idea is clearly nonsense. But probably not…
The truth is, if I react so negatively to this idea on irresponsibility, it must be in me somewhere; I just don’t admit it! This is one of my shadows…an unconscious part of my personality that my ego completely denies. At some point in my life, I learned that responsibility is good, and irresponsibility is bad. I learned to stop identifying with the irresponsibility in my nature. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, I just don’t admit it. This doesn’t mean I should run out and quit my job, but recognizing that this exists in me, allows me to experiment with letting go of responsibility. It is freeing for me to let go of control every now and then…recognizing this shadow reflected back at me has been a gift.
In all honesty, this is much easier to see in someone else…we all know someone that seems to think they are positive when they complain non-stop, or someone who would never admit they are angry, even though anger exudes from their pores. It may be easier to see other people’s shadows, but until you start looking at your own (reflected right back at you in the people around you) you cannot grow. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to what you are seeing in the world!! If you can identify something in the world, it in some way exists in you.
Wow, what seems like a simple concept is very complex. Play with it, contemplate it, journal about it…use it as a tool to learn more about yourself! The more you know about you, the easier it is to live in a manner that makes you happy.
Tracy Martorana is a Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, Meditation Instructor and Herbalist...hoping to inspire you to live your life from a place of Holistic Wellness.