Monday, February 6, 2012
This morning I read something that made me think about how easy it is to break the confidence we have in ourselves, to break our spirits. It seems to be so easy to let even one little comment, email, or criticism take us down - all the way. It's true, and it happens to most of us at some point, and then to some of us all too often.
The commentary I read that started me thinking about this was from an incredibly talented wedding photographer whose style instantly grabbed my attention. He travels the world capturing breathtaking moments from spectacular weddings. I probably spent thirty minutes scrolling through his portfolio, feeling inspired and amazed by what he sees with his obviously beautiful heart. For me, it was the type of wedding photography that was real, raw, and truthful; the exact kind I'd be searching for should I ever need a wedding photographer.
Then I came across one long, lonesome, photo-less post, a rant of sorts, about an anonymous email he received that pretty much broke his spirit. He is accused of being an ego maniac and a branding scheme among other things. As I read on, I felt amazed by how truthful he was being in his admission of having a broken spirit, feeling utterly human, feeling discouraged by no genuine word of thanks from his clients - receiving only comments like: "I wish you'd have taken more of this pose, or more of that person, or more of the cake," feeling like he'll never be good enough, and sick and tired of turning the other cheek. The most memorable comment of his was this: I am "tired from constantly looking for that perfect balance of being what people expect, and being who I really am." (Can I get an Amen?)
I mean this is a guy who is at the top of his game professionally, and he was obviously and admittedly struggling with feeling like he was not good enough. And, I felt shocked that he could think such a thing...how could he honestly think that? He is what any of us, with camera in hand, strive to be - what any of us, in any profession, strive to be...apparently the best. Then I thought about other people who have made similar comments, the same people who seem to have it all together. I also let my thoughts drift back to myself and remember how I almost always feel less than. Always. I struggle daily, hourly even, and self-confidence is always lacking. I wonder why this plagues so many of us.
The contrast of countless positive comments from admirers and fellow photographers alike left on his blog to the one negative and anonymous comment from an obviously jealous person whose one objective was to be hurtful struck me. It is so easy for us, all of us, to let people and even those small people who can't step up and make anything other than anonymous comments, tear us down. Why do we give people that power? Regardless of what our profession is, a top-notch wedding photographer or a doctor or an auto mechanic or a stay at home, work at home mom, we're all susceptible to this destruction of spirit. We are all creative and artistic in one way or another. We all have a need for belonging, to have a place in our world where we feel loved and accepted and most importantly, respected.
The words he wrote, about constantly striving for balance between being what people expect and being who he truly is as being tiresome, is right. It can be utterly exhausting, to say the least. I think that has been, for me personally, the hardest lesson to learn in this life. Learning to let go of expectations in other people and more importantly letting go of the expectations that other people cast onto my own life. What makes us feel so bound to make other people happy, whether it's something relevant to our own selves or not? What makes us let a certain group of people force us into a category or let even one single, solitary person create an image for us to uphold without regard as to whether it honors what we, as our own person, believes? This happens all the time. Every day, in fact. In families, in work environments, in communities, etc. People are struggling to make their way in the world, to feel a sense of belonging, of connection, of importance, and respect. Some people also are foolishly determined to be disrespectful, selfish, jealous, and full of hate. Some people truly are that small-minded and small-hearted. That's just a fact that we all have to live with, like it or not.
We don't, however, have to receive these comments and general disrespect from those small people and let them tear us down or break our spirits. These people are most likely speaking out of their own hurt, their own aching regrets, their own uncontrolled jealousy, their own unhappy and unfulfilled lives. These are people who walk around all day behind fake smiles, waiting for us to turn our backs, so they can wreak their havoc on our emotions. These are the sad people who impose their misery on anyone who will stand still long enough. We all know one or fifty who can fit this category.
I recently read a quote that said something to the effect of: "As human beings, our most important job is to build one another up." This is certainly true. What if this could be the overwhelming norm? What if we spent our time building each other up, offering kind comments and gentle encouragement? What if we dropped our expectations of others and let them be who they really are? What if we stopped trying to impose our belief systems onto other people, weighing them down with heavy, heart-breaking presumptions? What if we finally realize that what may be right for ourselves may not, in fact, be right for another person? What if we, instead, made our encouragement of others a priority each day? What if we offered a smile and a "Good day," to the cashier who seems irritated by her job? What if we sat in traffic feeling thankful for the few moments of time to breathe and to think. What if we started to value our friends and treat them with full respect, rather than engage in idle gossip behind their backs and weave toxic webs of bitterness and lies that can never be mended? What if we made encouraging or kind comments to at least one other human being every day? What if we magnified this at home, offering praise and encouragement to our children and husbands and wives? I can imagine that our lives would improve dramatically, our families, our social groups, our friendships, our communities. I can only imagine how a chain reaction of this sort could spread happiness and confidence and improvement all over this world.
I suppose the basic thing I'm trying to say is we should all strive to be kind and to encourage one another - have respect for each other because we all serve a beautiful purpose here on this earth.