Pass the praise

Pass the praise

This weekend I had the opportunity for an all-girls overnight. A couple of moms and I took our daughters to the Niall Horan concert. It was refreshing. My daughter was in heaven with all the make-up and hair curling. She was excited to be around all that feminine energy. I was, too.

We had a marvelous time. It was enchanting to witness moms dancing and singing with their daughters. The smiling, the laughing. Empowering to feel the connection with others. And to top it all off, it was a magnificent night. Dazzling.

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What complicated things for me was the amount of judgment that I took in. I heard and saw women (both young and old) one-upping, dissing anything from clothes to dance moves, and condemning the behavior of others.

This is so normal. And it is so wretched.

In my heart, I believe one of the biggest things keeping women down is each other. We are truly capable of amazing, brilliant accomplishments. Yet, we stomp on each other until our fire goes out; until the spark that makes us unique is covered up and hidden so that it can’t be chastised by others.

In a group of women, I am quiet. I am so reserved and hidden. There are a few groups where I feel like I can entirely be me. And often even then I wonder what is said about me between them when I am not present. And this has everything to do with past experience. Ugh.

More than twenty years ago, I decided that I wanted to change the behavior I witnessed between women; the critical judgment of appearance as we look one another up and down when we first set eyes on one another. Not necessary. The ease of passing a snarky comment about how another girl is dressed or behaving. Instead of prepping for disdain when I looked at or spoke to a woman, I always wanted to have a compliment ready. I wanted to build my sisters up because I felt so beaten down. I was exhausted, and I wasn’t even 20 yet.

I still have a friend that teases me about how we met. I saw her leaving class; we had History 17A&B together in college. She was magnetic even then. People were drawn to her. She was always in a group in and out of class. But even the best of us have bad days. We were leaving class one afternoon, and she looked so sad. She was alone, and her movements seemed heavy and deliberate. Every fiber of my being wanted to cheer her up. The compliment I had ready spilled from my mouth. “I really love your hair!” I said as I jogged to catch her. I don’t even remember her exact words, but I remember the smile. I remember the change in her step after I said it. She always tells people I was hitting on her; that’s her story of how we met.

But, why can’t we offer praise instead of judgment? Why does judgment so easily trickle off our tongues? Why does criticism slide so effortlessly from our lips?

Compassion

When I was little my mom used to play this game with us. We would be sitting on the beach and be bored or eating in a restaurant and get restless, and she would pick people out and ask us to tell her their story. What made them happy? What made them sad? What were they doing there? Why? How did they get there? What was their family like? Where did they live? She would ask us how we got to a specific conclusion and would even offer alternatives if we had missed something or not taken some other reason into consideration.

There are so many times in my interaction with people I try to figure out their story. This game my mom had us play became something that helped me to work and always find a way to better understand what people might be feeling or needing from experience.

When I see a mom with a child who is misbehaving; I don’t pass judgment on her parenting – I offer her praise for how well she is coping at that moment; because – and this is IMPORTANT (yes, I am using preachy capital letters at you) what happened around that moment – I don’t know; and you don’t either. But I can imagine. I am a mom of four and have carried screaming children out of stores, I was also a kid, and there are several stories of my epic fits. I empathize with that poor mom the way I would with my own mother. The way I would want someone to sympathize with me. We don’t know the backdrop of what caused a particular moment to become a reality; we only have that one snippet. One small piece of someone else’s life and it isn’t ours to judge.

Granted, I am not saying that we give everyone a pass. What I am saying is trying to understand before you pass judgment on another human should be a more common practice. Or maybe just merely understand. And then perhaps just as simple, offer compassion instead.

And more importantly; we can’t help someone we are rooting against. If we are rooting against them, we want them to fail. If we are rooting against them, then we are placing that negative energy on another and giving more negative energy life. We can only help; when we are rooting for; when we are the cheerleaders of others. So we have to offer compassion in the place of our judgment to help others heal and find another way. And maybe we should put the “us and them” language aside, too. Perhaps if we are rooting for one another, we are rooting for everyone all at once. And maybe that makes this world more livable, too.

Believe me, I am not void of passing judgment. And boy oh boy can I hold a grudge. But I remind myself that I need to release myself from the guilt of passing judgment and that I can do better next time. So, I get ready to have a compliment on hand and give that instead of judgment. I work hard not to partake in the negative talk that happens around me. That doesn’t mean I haven’t caught myself doing it, but I work to remove myself from these situations.

How you may ask? I work tirelessly to lift up others instead.

Seriously, you will find me in the grocery store, at Target, at an event, giving compliments to complete strangers. And I mean every word. It is essential to speak the truth in your compliments, too. You have to believe it. People see through bullshit compliments pretty easily. Just saying.

It is essential to speak the truth in your compliments, too. You have to believe it. People see through bullshit compliments pretty easily.

It is so worth the work! To see a smile and a difference in the step of another human because you helped to remind them of their strengths, is beyond powerful. It is like witnessing love in motion. It is spell-binding. Try it. I know it will make you both feel better. And then if you have a daughter or son, teach them this little trick, too. What a world we could live in if we all exchanged praise instead of judgment. We are going to slip up, we are human, we are built to make mistakes, but if we speak with compassion more often than judgment we are better off all the way around.

Peace and love,

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Things…plain and simple.

Things…plain and simple.

When I was a freshman, I worked on the yearbook. Our yearbook advisor, Ms. Olson was an interesting woman to say the least. She taught freshman english and although I did not have her as an instructor; I spent many hours in her classroom after school working on the yearbook. During the year, we learned that she was expecting a girl. One day, she overheard us talking about something that must have had gender stereotypes associated with it because she went on a soap box about how she would never, no not ever, supply her child with gender specific toys. She would offer an environment with only gender neutral toys.She wanted to raise a strong daughter, with high self-esteem and she felt “girl” toys would not be representative of what she wanted her daughter to become.

At the time I remember thinking, whoa woman I think you are reading way too much into things. Plus you will probably cave when your 4-year-old daughter decides to ask Santa for a Barbie. I just didn’t understand what the big deal was about.

Now, twenty some odd years later and I get her frustration. My children are constantly labeling items, whether it be toys, colors, or clothing, as girl or boy. I have tried to teach them that there is no girl or boy anything; there are only things; plain and simple.

However, it is difficult to escape stereotypes when our schools, media, and outside world are so full of them. My long-haired, ten-year old son is often the recipient of questions about his hairstyle or worse mistaken for a girl. My daughter already receives the comments about how helpful she must be and what a good mom she will make some day. My youngest is called “ALL BOY” a great deal and his twin gets raised eyebrows over his Sofia the First birthday presents, as well as his tutu and Sofia the shirt wearing escapades.

The difficult part for me is that long hair is what my older son loves because he wants to be like Steven Tyler – in that he wants to be a über cool rock star. My daughter may or may not become a mom and she shouldn’t be pressured by society to fit into that gender role if she doesn’t want to. Just because my youngest son loves to tackle and wrestle shouldn’t require him to be a specific gender; instead those should just be activities that he enjoys. And his twin brother should be able to wear whatever he likes and play with whatever he likes without having anyone make snide comments or ask critical questions. Even young children ask him why he carries around a doll. That is something they are taught to believe boys shouldn’t do and it isn’t inherent. Not one ounce of them expressing themselves in these ways is hurting anyone else (even the tackling; it usually doesn’t involve any injuries and no one outside of the family is tackled – he isn’t a random tackler).

The items below are items you will find in our house and these are often labeled by my own children to which I am constantly telling them that none of these items are boy or girl things, they are just things…plain and simple.

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The good news is that these are who the toys actually belong to in our family; so maybe I am making a little headway.

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I am hoping that this lesson will continue to sink in with my kids.

My hope is that as a people we can just accept each other as human and realize that each human has likes and dislikes. I know our brains want to group things together and classify things, but we need to work on this and be more open and accepting of one another.

I believe working together we can erode the gender stereotypes that exist. In an article, from a book in progress by Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz, titled, What About the Men? Why Our Gender System Sucks for Men, TooThe authors write:

Only when we slay the hydra, only when we liberate people of all genders from unfair and regressive gender roles, will we be able to liberate people of any gender from those roles.

It sounds overwhelming, but one step at a time working in unison I believe the human race can do anything. And working together to eradicate the world of gender stereotypes wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Take this video as a sample of the far-reaching effects of gender stereotypes and why changing these ideas is more important that one may think:

Empowering one another to be our best selves should be our goal; not using a gender as a derogatory idea. Or even further,  to hold someone in ill regard if they are not meeting the social norm of what a “man”. “woman”, “boy” or “girl” is SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE – we need to remember that no one is supposed to be like anything but themselves, PERIOD.

My yearbook advisor wasn’t completely off her rocker like I once thought; she had a valid point and I sure hope she never caved and that she succeeded in helping her children eradicate gender stereotypes from their minds.

Here’s hoping to a world that is more open and accepting,

M

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