I’ll be the first person to admit that I’ve done my share of immature, child-like things well into my adult years.
I’ve been unnecessarily rude to people I disagree with. I’ve doubled down on my nastiness over and over again. And I’ve dismissed valid criticism thinking that since my intentions were good, my words didn’t need to be.
And now I’m sick of that toxicity.
This is not a political post. But I think we can agree that public behavior has reached a critical tipping point. Every day we’re burdened with headlines that are cruel, upsetting, and mean.
And I don’t want the world to be mean anymore.
So what’s a random blogger on the Internet to do?
I’m going to start by bringing awareness to the issue.
Then, I’m going to lead by example.
Because what the world needs now is more adults.
We need more people who think before they speak, write, or act.
We need more people who understand that words matter. Feelings matter. People matter.
We need more kindness, more compassion, and more love.
And we need more people who listen to each other. Who consider different points of view. And who don’t automatically respond with rage.
What makes us different is what matters
Objectivity is a goal. Subjectivity is the reality.
No two people are exactly alike. Even identical twins, though genetically the same, have separate life experiences.
So what does this have to do with being an “adult”?
We each have unique experiences that make up our view of the world. People often use bias as an insult, but the fact is we all have it.
The most important thing about your own bias is that you accept it.
Understanding that you have prejudice helps to uncover your emotional and intellectual blindspots.
They say, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
So the question becomes: how can you learn what you’re ignorant to?
Talk to other people.
Even people who don’t think like you or act like you.
It’s a lesson we teach children, but it’s one we need to be mindful of as adults.
“You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew.”
-Colors of the Wind, Disney’s Pocahontas
We need to understand where other people are coming from. It’s the only way to bring people together.
Too often, we’re focused on dividing ourselves into likeminded groups.
And it’s blinding us. We’ve collectively lost sight of objectivity as a goal. And that’s a problem. Because we no longer try to see things from a fair perspective. We consciously favor a bias objective, using language that’s aggressive and accusatory. We think that because we feel we’re right, and because we’ve rationalized our intentions as good, that we don’t need to hear from others. But that’s not true.
We need to walk the footsteps of a stranger.
We need to learn what we don’t know.
And we need to do it now.
So where do we start?
Break down the silos
Our current media and social networking climate has helped to silo us more than ever. Whether we like it or not, online we’re all reduced to data. And that data determines what we’re shown online.
It’s easy to hit “Snooze” or “Unfollow” on social media when you don’t like what another person has to say.
I’ve done it many times for a variety of reasons. One of the most compelling reasons to hide other viewpoints online is simple: reading angry opinions is stressful.
And one of the biggest reasons it’s stressful is because deep down, we do care about the people in our newsfeeds.
We’re hurt – or enraged – by their words. And because we don’t seek to understand where the other person is coming from, we lose the opportunity to have a constructive dialog.
We see a small snippet of their lives and opinions. And we thought we knew them.
But here’s the thing: those people on your social media feeds? If you know them in real life, you likely get along.
(If you’re just keeping them on your feed for entertainment, that’s another story.)
So instead of being angry – instead of typing back with fury – try a little tenderness.
Seriously? How am I supposed to do that?
If we don’t respect each other, what do we have?
We have chaos.
We have rage.
We have sadness.
We have division.
We can all do better than that.
And I’m starting today with myself.
Here’s how I plan to become an adultier adult.
Find a common ground
Most people have something in common. Whether you bond over food, sports, or even the weather, appreciating something together is a good start.
Most people want the same thing: the want love, security, and happiness. No one wants to be in pain. And no one wants to struggle.
We all value good health. And peace. So start with a common interest and work toward building relationships on a common goal.
Live by what we teach children
Every headline, Facebook post, Twitter rant, or loved one’s complaint does not need a reaction.
Take a step back, breathe, and think.
There’s a fake Buddha quote most people cite when they talk about kindness and intent: “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.”
But it’s a great example, because if you take it further and look at Buddhism, you’ll see the canonical quote is more powerful.
“Do I speak at the right time, or not? Do I speak of facts, or not? Do I speak gently or harshly? Do I speak profitable words or not? Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?”
This is how many parents approach a child’s behavior. And it’s how I want to live my life.
So, here’s how this philosophy could drill down:
- Take time to consider the opinions of others.
- Stick with the facts.
- Be kind.
- Be helpful.
- Lift others up.
But stop acting like children
I want to embody the example of who I teach my children to be.
And that means making changes in myself. Because I can’t expect my children to grow into responsible, caring adults if my example is not aligned with that goal.
Since we’re talking about parenting, let’s talk about mommy culture.
But before I do, I want to make sure this is kind and helpful. Not critical or mean.
So stick with the facts.
Being the bigger person starts with you
Current mommy culture reflects the high level of stress all moms encounter. Whether you work inside the home, outside the home, or both, moms have got it tough.
What does that mean? It means all moms are working hard. We’re all clocking in more hours than any one human should be responsible for. And it does take a village. We need to start being that village for each other.
That means we need to be supportive. We need to judge less and love more. We need to be honest about what we face and how we feel. And then we need to be constructive about how we lead our lives.
So many of us moms are overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. And we allow our stress to consume us.
But we need to put the mask on ourselves first. So that we can be better parents and better people.
And we can all do it. We can all be better.
To make a big difference, start small
Putting the mask on ourselves first is critical. But it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing transformation. Accept that success won’t happen overnight. Give yourself permission to make gradual, intentional changes.
It doesn’t need to be something radical or political. It could be about your health, too, and setting a good example for others.
Last year, I didn’t like how I felt. I was overweight, and it was getting to a tipping point where I needed to take action.
After many failed attempts to drastically change my diet and exercise overnight, I finally had a revelation.
It was something that people said all the time, but I hadn’t accepted until this one moment. It was a turning point for me.
Acceptance is key.
I had to accept that I wasn’t going to lose 50+ pounds in a month. I might not be able to even lose that in a year. But I had to start trying. I had to start working towards that goal. Or else, my fate would be to remain as I was: unhealthy, uncomfortable, and upset.
I made gradual changes to my diet, first eliminating all processed foods, then eliminating sugar and high carb foods until I finally adopted a low carb, high fat keto diet.
Then, I made a commitment to myself: I would make myself exercise. I didn’t have a commitment as far as how many times a week, but I did have a time limit. I committed to getting myself on the treadmill and staying there for 30 minutes. No more, no less.
There were days when the timer hit 30 minutes and I immediately hit stop, grateful to be done. There were other days when I wanted to keep going, but I stopped myself at 35 minutes during the work week.
Why? Because the simplest but most critical component of success is consistency.
And I could not consistently burn myself out. I could consistently exercise for 30 minutes most days. So that’s what I decided to do.
And it worked.
Over the course of a year, I lost over 50 pounds. I feel much better today. And I enjoy making healthy choices.
This drastic physical change has inspired and empowered me to make other changes in my life, too.
I know I have it in me to do better and to make a consistent effort to improve my life.
And it takes work.
If I look back on my childhood and my adulthood to date, there are things I know are within my reach.
My mom often tells stories of my younger ambitions. I used to write letters and make my own magazines. I always knew I wanted to write.
And now I do. I write professionally. I wrote a book a couple years ago, and I’m working on another now. And in my free time (hard to believe but yes, I still have some), I write this blog.
The person I aspired to be, career-wise, is not fully developed yet. I’m not yet a leader. I’m still paying my dues. But I’m working towards big goals professionally.
Personally, though, there are other goals I want to achieve.
I want to be more patient.
I want to be more understanding.
I want to be more present and mindful.
For the last year, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into my day job. I love what I do, and I was working toward a goal of a promotion. But along the way, I lost sight of things that are more important that title and compensation.
I sacrificed time with my family, justifying it by telling myself I was doing it all for my family.
And that was and is my intention – to work hard, to earn more, and to better support my family.
These are noble goals and good ambitions.
But it shouldn’t come at any expense.
For months, I’ve been too tired and too stressed out to spend quality time with my kids.
So much like my shift in diet and exercise, I need to make a shift in my parenting. I need to be more consistent. I need to establish a routine with my kids. That’s one of my goals for 2019.
And by spending more time with my family, I can help the world be a kinder and more understanding place by two more humans. Best of all, I can do it without even leaving my home.
We can’t let fear or frustration trap us in an angry loop
Look, I get it. The world is going through some pretty radical things right now. We’ve got political turmoil everywhere. America’s middle class is struggling to survive.
But complaining and reposting angry content online won’t change a thing. Even if your feelings are valid and justified, social media is not a replacement for constructive action.
Find a way to constructively help others
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Get involved in the causes you’re passionate about. Help change policies and laws in your local community or broader world. Volunteer where your heart calls you. Take action.
- Take more time to understand and appreciate your loved ones. Good things inspire more good things. If patience, kindness, and compassion start at home, they’ll spread to other areas of your life.
- Mentor someone. If you have a skill that’s valuable, help someone else learn it.
- Share information in a non-combative way. When we share knowledge in a fact-based, non-confrontational manner, we open up the possibility of having a real discussion. Although this is best done in person, I’ve seen it work online, too.
So take some baby steps in becoming a kinder person
We may not have the same political opinions. Or perhaps we disagree on lifestyle choices like diet and routine.
But we can all be kind to each other. We can all be respectful to each other.
Because when we focus on the negative and when we don’t hear the words of others, we fall into a dangerous and destructive trap.
And while the world is a big and overwhelming place, you can start small. Start with making positive, healthy, and kind changes in yourself. Then spread that love and care to others. Because kindness really is contagious.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank
A better world starts with you.