Look For The Awesomeness Of Others & Learn To Find It Within Yourself (When Self-love Still Feels Hard)
“I’m looking for a world where love will no longer be extraordinary.” – Patch Adams
hen I used to commute to school, I spent a lot of time waiting for trains at the Munich central station. I always had a book with me, or some other form of distraction, to keep myself entertained.
Sometimes, however, I just sat there and watched the people around me.
Munich central station is a huge place, and it is needless to say that hundreds and hundreds of people frequent it every day. I used to (and still do) love imagining how many ‘coincidences’ had brought us all into each other’s lives in that particular moment, as we stood waiting at the platform.
As I looked at all these people, I started playing a little game with myself. The game had two rules:
- I had to find one thing I liked about every person I looked at
- Even if there was nothing, I had to look until I could find something
Sometimes what I liked was a handbag, a haircut, a smile, or a certain colour someone was wearing. Other times, I admired the courage someone was demonstrating by dressing radically different, or the openness with which someone responded to my gaze and smiled back at me.
It could be something I loved about their body, their clothes, or the way they behaved in this weird situation; a situation in which hundreds of people were crammed onto one narrow platform, trying not to look at or interact with anyone.
And, even if there was nothing I instantly liked about someone, I accepted the challenge of finding something anyway.
It has been nearly eight years since the first time I started playing this game, and I never thought that it would have such a big impact on me.
Nowadays, the first thing I do when I meet or watch someone is play this game. However, since I am all grown up and need more complexity, I have added a new rule:
3. I celebrate at least one thing about this person (and tell them)
Here is an example of how playing this game can radically change how we look at other people:
One day, I was having lunch on the terrace of my favourite restaurant, when two women and a Chihuahua passed by. One of the women was wearing a full mane of bleached blond hair, a bright pink top that showed most of her belly and tight leopard print leggings. Oh, and sand coloured UGG boots.
Now, as I am only human and I have my own huge ‘tin of worms’ when it comes to stereotypes, and other mean things to think about people, my initial thought response to seeing her could have looked something like this:
“Omg, she looks like a Barbie doll, but not in a good way; she must be a real girly girl! Everything about her looks so fake and bitchy. She must have an eating disorder; look how thin she is,” etc. etc.
I was judging her by the rules with which I was judging myself. I, for some reason, believed that wearing pink made you look like a ‘dumb girl’ and weak, at the same time, wearing tight leoprint leggings, UGG boots and a Chihuahua dog accessory, was something for shallow bitches.
Thus, even if I had wanted any of what this woman had, it was so riddled with negative (and false) accusations that I would never have allowed myself. Thereby, I stripped myself of choices that might have made me happy based on MY internal beliefs.
If, however, I looked at her from the context of playing my game, the thought response could have looked something like this
“Wow, I love how she has the courage to wear such bright colours; looking at them makes me feel so happy. I love how she has found a style of make-up and hair that makes her feel good about herself. The dog is so cute and I truly appreciate how lovingly she is taking care of it. Pets are great, I am so happy I have my cat. Just think of how great it must feel to just present yourself to the world in a way that makes you feel happy and confident. She moves as if she knows how to take care of herself.”
There is a radical difference here, even though I am describing the exact same woman.
Instead of looking at this woman through the lens of my own limitations, beliefs and experiences, I looked at her through the eyes of a person who was genuinely interested in seeing everything that was amazing and magical about her.
By doing this, not only did I shift they way I felt about her, I also shifted how I felt inside myself.
In my first version, I felt Icky, snide, and mean, and I had absolutely no compassion or empathy for a woman I didn’t even know. In fact, I was passing on MY pain of being (mis)judged, misunderstood and trapped, to her; because, why should I be the only one who has to suffer the restrictions and negativity of ‘the system’?
On the otherhand, during the second version, while playing the game and imagining all the wonderful things I could about her, I felt happy and excited. I was wondering how I could create the same feelings of happiness I thought she must feel in her pink top and favourite print, into my own life. Thinking of how I could celebrate this woman made me feel so full of love and compassion. And, in that moment of inspiration, I might have just walked up to her and told her that I think she is beautiful and that I admire the way she presents herself.
I have actually walked up to a lot of women and men in the last years and said exactly that. Most of the time, they are so surprised that they don’t know what to say. But, as we part our ways again, I know that I was able to give them some of the love back that they inspired within me.
I am left full of love. Love for others, and myself.
“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Over the years, this game has transformed into a natural and authentic habit and is the dominant way I choose to look at people.
Of course there are also people that I feel resistant towards, and playing the game on them affords a lot more effort (especially if I feel passive aggressive and don’t WANT to think good things about them, because I feel entitled to my negative feelings).
Nevertheless, just by making this game my general response to people, I have been able to not only be more open and vulnerable towards them, I have also been able to love myself more and more.
Self-love is an ongoing process and something that we give ourselves every day.
However, it can be hard sometimes to know where to start and what to do. This game is a perfect way to start inviting self-love into our lives, because at first it is always easier to find something amazing, or likeable in other people.
For most of us, when we start our journey towards more self-love, we are so full with negative self-talk and loathing that it would be unrealistic to straight away shift our attention to how amazing we are. It wouldn’t be authentic, and it wouldn’t stick.
By focusing on all that is amazing in other people (known or unknown), we slowly learn to use this ability for ourselves too. The more we celebrate the achievements and uniqueness of others, the more we will be able to celebrate ourselves. The more compassionate we are towards others, the more compassion we will have for ourselves.
And the more we love ourselves authentically, the more we will be able to truly love others.
“People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Does self-love still feel hard to you? Play the game and let me know how it went!
Photographer: Miss Fiona <3 Model/MUAH/Styling/Idea: Cat De Pillar
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