I am definitely my father’s daughter when it comes to the gift of gab and being around people. As a kid, waiting for him to finish a conversation or worse yet, running into someone else that he knew (which was pretty much everyone!), I can’t say that I always appreciated his love of talk, especially when I just wanted to get home. My writing skills, on the other hand, can be attributed to my mom who diligently helped me with my language arts homework all through school. Her beautiful script and her ability to string together her thoughts in an eloquent, but effective way still stands out to me to this day.
Being the youngest of three and the only girl in my family certainly had its advantages while growing up as far as getting attention and admittedly getting away with more things;-). However, there were some disadvantages to having two older brothers only seventeen months apart. Being so close in age, my brothers were practically inseparable other than when they fought as most siblings do, which meant that I had to learn early on how to navigate many things on my own, including the art of being around adults since I was often ‘left behind’. Indeed, my pleas for a baby sister went unanswered much to my younger chagrin–thankfully, I let go of this idea as a teen and now realize that sisterhood comes with its own set of challenges. What I can tell you though is that as a little girl partaking in many grown-up circles, I gained a few, very helpful lifelong skills: the art of listening carefully, observing with every sense possible, as well as strategically choosing my words in an attempt to not interrupt others and/or sound too child-like. Today, I am most grateful for my genetically-combined attributes and it comes as no surprise that I have chosen a profession which requires all three of the above-named competencies gleaned from my parents and their many gatherings with family and friends.
Ironically, one of the things that I love the most in life is being around and/or observing people and just like my father was and still is, I am genuinely interested in people–who they are, what makes them who they are, their life story, all of it. As a collective we, we are fascinating creatures and there is no doubt in my mind that there is a connectedness unique to mankind. Geminis like myself thrive off of the company of others. And, true to the astrological sign of the Twins, the juxtaposition is that I can be outgoing and reserved all at the same time, with my twenties highlighting more of my flamboyant, adventurous side. (I’ll leave you to imagine what you wish here..:-). The advantages of having spent the majority of my time in amongst people, be it as a participant or on the sidelines, are that it has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation of both individuality and sameness and to have meaningful exchanges with family, friends and acquaintances alike, all the while helping me to become a better me:-). It has taken me years into adulthood and much self-work to embrace the notions of digging deep, being vulnerable and expressing true love outwardly and from within, but the journey has been well-worth it and it is one that will continue long past today. Part of my life’s work has included open and honest feedback, each given and received. Receiving can be the really hard part, but it’s also the most rewarding when you get past the perceived judgements and uncover them for what they really are. Sometimes, equally as hard is doling out well-intended, stripped down truths, particularly when you anticipate backlash or hurt, yet it’s all part of the growth process like it or not.
In asking close friends or colleagues to describe me, many have said that I initially come off as aloof, quiet, guarded, arrogant, intimidating? (this one seems funny to me) and even self-important; some of which characteristics caught me off guard at first. Don’t worry, I get to hear the odd good descriptor in there as well, otherwise I wouldn’t likely be speaking to said people:-). The thing is that upon further introspection of the more questionable adjectives, I can definitely understand how a few of my ‘younger Sue’ traits have been translated and carried forward over time–some I am proud of, and some not–always a work in progress! That being said, the other quotient is whether or not the comments made reflect truth, perception or maybe even self-truths of the person stating them. Further to that comes the knowledge of a forties-something gal who is not only not as sensitive to what others think or say, but privy to the fact that EVERYONE passes judgement, myself included–it’s part of our social beingness. Knowing that it’s in our blood, so to speak, lessens the blow to our self-esteem and lends itself to the most awesome news of all: just because someone passes judgements on us doesn’t mean that they are true, or that the person making the statements even necessarily believes them. Stop and think about it for a minute. Now, get ready because this is one of those, “Ah-ha!” moments which Ms. Oprah Winfrey so famously alludes to:
Our tendency to judge another is borne from our experience, our upbringing, our DNA and most especially, our self-defined faults, be them conscious or unconscious. In that light, our judgements are really more reflective of ourselves than others and you know what? That’s okay. Research tells us that we seek out those who are similar to ourselves–including the good, the bad and the ugly. Often times, those folks are the very ones who are here to help teach us the lessons that we are meant to garner in life, though we may not always realize it at the time. When you look at things that way, criticism doesn’t seem so bad, does it?! Yet, so many of us fall victim to the mentality that we are defined by those around us when the truth is that that happens only if we LET it happen. Imagine how much less complicated our lives would be if we stopped the insanity of worrying about gaining approval or popularity from others who really are so darn busy worrying about their own place in this world that it’s really our own projections that are causing us all of the angst. Life changer right there, friends!
If none of what I just said has resonated with you, and you are left, “Ah-ha-less!”, that’s okay (disappointing maybe, but A-Ok!). For me, this realization about judgements and where they really come from was nothing short of profound and it has left a lasting, positive impact in my life. If nothing else, maybe my words are just a reminder for you. Separate from unfounded judgements, I now welcome receiving critiques. As a matter of fact, I’ve even been known to encourage it within my close circle of influencers, wherein trust lies which is key. I mean, sure…sometimes, like the rest of you, I choose to be decidedly blind to what others’ views are of my actions or words, whereas in other instances, I dare say that I NEED to hear them despite my pride or ego. I can tell you with 100% conviction that many of my important life lessons have come from those exact moments, be it right away or maybe even years later when I’ve been ready to either accept or reject the idea(s). Mindful criticism keeps things real and keeps us all accountable. We need it. Something to remember as well is that we have been gifted with minds privy to thousands of silent thoughts a day–we choose which ones we get to keep and/or should be kept to ourselves and which ones are shareworthy, hopefully the well-intentioned ones:-).
Going back to my parents, I am thankful for my modest upbringing, the traits/lessons that they instilled in me along the way and for being sister-less. Not having a sister and being the odd guy out (who loved and admired both of her older brothers, by the way) forced me to be creative and use both my voice and my silence in a specific manner; a manner which has fostered personal growth, positivity, presence and compassion. And so, here I sit…a middle-aged woman wherein I reluctantly, but willingly admit that all of those parking lot, front porch and store visits that I sat through with my dad, and the many-a-night homework sessions with my mom helped to set me on my path and I am most proud to hold the title of ‘Baby & Only Girl’ of the family!