love humans

Where_is_the_love by Tatoli ba Kultura -- CC-BY-SA

I want to tell you to love yourself, but I also want to tell you to love other people. And I don’t mean like putting others first in all things because that becomes painful very quickly.
But practice seeing the good in other people. And beyond that, see that they are vulnerable. See that their anger comes from fear, and love them. See that their bad behavior comes from ignorance, and teach them.

Don’t make yourself their victim. Be prepared to walk away. And yes, you’re allowed to walk away from people you love. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It just means you can’t save them. But if you can stand to give some compassion without killing yourself, do it. Look another human being in the eyes and accept them for who they are. Don’t try to be better than them; everyone else is already doing that. Realize that they are as good and worthy as you are and that the most important gifts you’ve been given — food, shelter, education — were largely granted to you based on no merit of your own. Realize that if you deserve that kind of goodness in your life (and you do), then they deserve goodness, too. Now treat them that way.

However, if you can’t believe that you deserve goodness in your life, you’re going to find it very difficult to extend that generosity to others. When you catch yourself judging others, ask what it says about you that you are so irritated by someone else’s imperfections. Are you bothered being around people who don’t meet your specific standards for beauty, intelligence, morality, or social status? If they aren’t hurting you, there’s a good chance your feelings about them stem from your own anxiety and insecurity. But if you start to say, “Ok, it’s fine for that person to be the way they are, even if it’s not what I would want for myself. They still deserve to be happy,” that starts to change the way you view yourself. Eventually, you’ll realize that because you’re a human just like the other guy, you probably deserve to be happy, too.

In other words: Loving other people teaches you to love yourself, and loving yourself makes it easier to love other people.

I have this crazy fantasy in which everyone in the world learns to do yoga or meditate or practice seva. Everyone in the world decides, “I’m not perfect, but I really want to live in a more peaceful world, so I’m going to try really hard to love other people and to accept them and myself as we are.” And things get a lot better. It starts out small. Grocery stores are less stressful. Traffic jams still happen, but people honk less. Gradually, gridlock eases thanks to increased carpooling. There are environmental and financial benefits all around. People stop buying products whose advertising tells them they’re not good enough, and as a result, we spend more money on things that actually make us happy. There is a major economic shift toward positive industries — scientific research, environmental repair, health and wellness — and organizations such as nonprofits to alleviate homelessness experience a surge in funding as people realize it really sucks to let some people live in poverty while others have all the fun.

And in this fantasy, we’re still not perfect. We still fuck up. But when we do, we say we’re sorry, and we do our best to make it better, because that’s what you do when you love somebody.

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Why I Don’t Want Your Compliment

female_body_ref_by_cloudoven-d5mm9ms

I look different than I used to. People comment on it. It’s weird.

People I barely know say I’ve been “slimming down” and ask if I’ve been working out. Um. I teach yoga for a living and skate 3-6 hours a week (way less than many of my league mates). I’ve had a general increase in activity in the past few months because business is good and derby is great, but I don’t feel inclined to explain this to people. The subtext of their intended compliment is, “Although we’re practically strangers, I’ve noticed some changes in your body because I consider it my job and/or right to critique the bodies of others, and I want you to know that I approve/disapprove/have concerns.” In other words, it’s presumptuous as fuck.

I try not to give weight-based compliments because human beings are beautiful by definition and attaching a person’s worth to their weight is shitty. But I will say stuff like, “Wow, you look amazing!” Or I might even say, “You look like you’ve been taking good care of yourself,” which I hear some people take to mean “you look fat,” but I actually mean it literally. I try to praise any positive changes in a person, and maybe it’s equally presumptuous of me. But everyone likes getting compliments, so if someone seems like they’re happy, less stressed out, or really following their passion in life — or if they’re just really well dressed and rocking it, I like to tell them.

But when it comes to weight/body-related commentary, I prefer to keep my mouth shut and think other people should, too. For one thing, asking about a person’s weight is both rude and pointless. 1: It’s none of your business. 2: The number means mind-blowingly little for most people. 3: If the person’s weight is a threat to their health and you’re not their doctor, they probably don’t need or want your advice.

I get it, though. Humans like to give and receive compliments. It’s an evolved social bonding system, and our egos love it. But I could really do without comments on my body from pretty much anyone ever. Because really, I’m not doing this for you.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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What do you want in a friendship?

friendshiplist

We’ve all heard that stupid advice: You are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with. I hate that advice because it lends itself to social climbing instead of developing meaningful connections. In 2013, I realized that while I had a lot of professional acquaintances, I didn’t have a ton of actual friends. Close friends from high school and college had drifted apart as we all moved to different corners of the country to pursue our lives, and I no longer had much in common with the people I used to work with. It was time to enrich my life with people I really love, so I started by writing this list of qualities I want in my friendships:

  • Openness: Feeling like we can be honest about our lives.
  • Intellect: Exchanging ideas and making each other think!
  • Laughter: Pure, simple fun.
  • Acceptance: Feeling OK together, not judged.
  • Adventure: Going places, trying things, meeting people together.
  • Support: Being able to talk to someone about what’s on my mind and feel heard and understood.
  • Encouragement: Getting excited about each other’s ideas and opportunities.
  • Comfort: Feeling cared for and loved.

I didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about the list once it was written, but looking back over the year, I can see that I navigated my social life differently after writing it. I invested more energy in relationships that meet most of these desires, reached out to old friends, and took the risk of seeking out people I thought might share my interests and intentions. In some cases it worked out, and in others it didn’t. Here are some of my favorite results from this new approach to friendships:

  1.  Got to know some incredibly cool people in San Francisco through my husband. I don’t get to see them often, but we stay in touch online and have a great time when we do meet up.
  2. Reconnected with best friends from high school — we had the BEST night in Lafayette when we were all home for Christmas.
  3. Emailing and Facebook messaging old acquaintances to rekindle an exchange of ideas — you don’t have to be ultra close with everyone to be able to appreciate them!
  4. Meeting Jenn and starting the derby experiment and a host of other adventures.
  5. Bar hopping in DC for Stan’s birthday with a bunch of new friends. (Stan is actually another Jenn, but The Ladyfriend Committee has renamed her for practical reasons.)
  6. Girls movie night — we watched The Little Mermaid and drank … a lot.
  7. Coffee dates, book exchanges, and anime nights with a lot of new people I’m grateful to have in my life.
  8. Developed a very special friendship with a feminist friend in Bolivia — we’ve never met in person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends!
  9. Reconnected deeply with my husband and fell in love with him about a dozen times. After all, he really is my BFF.

I’m extremely grateful for the people who’ve come into my life and for the old friendships I’ve been able to renew. My social life is now a much more accurate reflection of my real values instead of being just a list of people I kinda know from work.

This year, I encourage you to seriously look at who is in your life and what kind of give-and-take you have with them. Do your friends support you and make you feel like your best self? Are they people you want to give back to? Do you get excited when you see them learn and grow? Try making a list of the attributes you most want in your friendships, and see how that changes the way you interact. And remember to always act with love. 🙂

xoxo~

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If You Are Worried About Love

Love Me Tender
If you’re worried about love
choose to trust
that people are not lying when they say “I love you,”
because lying about love takes too much goddamned energy.
Instead of worrying
work on being someone you can love.
Know that no one can diminish you.
No one can make you less human.
No one can make you less worthy.
You are as deserving of love as the most innocent newborn.
Furthermore, you are capable of giving yourself the love you need.
In fact, you are the only person who can do that.
No matter how many times they say “I love you,”
or “you’re beautiful,”
you will never believe them until you know it yourself.
Look in the mirror.
See how much you want to be loved.
Could you give yourself that gift?

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Kindness is Cool

Two Words About Friendship
While working on my post about volunteering, I asked my friends and family via social media to tell me about their favorite ways to volunteer. I received many welcome replies including one from my cousin Lorena, who is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people I know. She wrote:

It is so much easier to be charitable with people that we do not know. It is much more difficult and much more important, in my opinion, to be charitable with the people that we do know, the ones with whom we have the most contact and on whom we have the greatest impact. It isn’t volunteering per se, but perhaps a name should be given to it and a logo, right?

She makes a great point. Volunteering is easy because it’s an organized activity, usually with a clear beginning and ending. On the other hand, being nice to our friends, family and neighbors isn’t so clear cut. There is no end to being nice to your neighbors, listening to your friends, or remembering to call your relatives.

Because I really love volunteering, I strongly encourage you to try it. Contributing to your community is incredibly rewarding. But remember to look at the people right in front of you, too. The way you treat the people closest to you will shape their lives, so act with love.

 

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