How does the statement, “YOU are first” strike you?
Some people can get very excited and turned on by such a declaration; others feel anxious, confused, or even afraid as they find themselves seeking refuge from the spotlight.
With so much going on in the world, in our nation, in our communities, and in our own families, the phrase, “YOU are first”, has the potential to become even more daunting to some of us.
And in an era when the word “Change” has come to be laden with much political and moral connotations, let me ask you this question:
Just WHO is supposed to change?
How many of us feel that if only that special “something” would occur or come to be within our grasp, we would feel better?
If only our spouse would apologize or understand us better…
If only our children would listen…
If only our jobs were more exciting OR less intense…
If only we had more free time or more time off…
If only we had more money or love…
If only we were better understood and appreciated…
If only we were better looking or in better shape or healthier…
If only the weekend would get here already…
If only retirement would get here already…
Well, you get the point, which brings us back to my question:
WHO is supposed to change?
I submit to you my friends, that before we squander our limited time on this Earth with the above “if only’s”, what needs to change first is US.
And with that, let me share two important ideas with you.
Let It Go
How many of you would, if you were being completely honest, describe yourselves as “sensitive” or “defensive” or “grudge holders”?
My professional (and personal) experience tells me that this aspect of our personalities can cost us much of our time and emotional energy.
People will ALWAYS hurt us somehow or another, or they will at the very least step on our toes a bit or disappoint us.
That’s what happens when we humans try to share space and time with each other.
We need to learn to deal with the messiness of human interaction and cohabitation without letting it paralyze us with anger, resentment, or humiliation, among other things.
In other words, we need to learn to Let It Go.
In my own personal estimation, when somebody has done something to hurt me I find it best to allow for one of three possibilities to help me Let It Go:
1) they apologize and are sorry
2) I learn more about them and try to understand their circumstances, or,
3) I take a blind leap of Faith and Let It Go
If you try this, you’ll find that, after a while, you tend to become a bit less sensitive or defensive in your life. And with this change comes better enjoyment of and participation with others.
If I had a nickel for every person who’s told me that they’d be better off living in a cabin in the woods, I’d be a rich man.
The reason people feel this way so often is twofold: first, they are afraid of getting hurt, and, second, they are afraid of hurting others.
Instead of moving to the woods, let’s learn to Let It Go, so we can actually tolerate and even enjoy one another again.
(Re)learning How to Play
Another example of what comes when “YOU are first” is the task of gauging your ability to play in your life.
Neuroscientists have spent decades trying to separate out the “right” and “left” brain in terms of functionality.
One of my favorite concepts is the idea that the left brain is where more of our organized, planning, and linear-logical selves live, whereas the right brain houses our spatial and spontaneous selves, as well as our rhythm.
Rhythm, you say?
In order to have some fun in our lives, we have to find our rhythm again: it’s a right brain concept, a flavor, if you will.
Young children have rhythm.
They know how to play.
They are, in a sense, romantic little creatures with plenty of fantasy and imagination.
They are not yet ashamed, or bombarding themselves with myriad norms, inhibitions, rules, and regulations.
Left brain: rules, words, language, logic.
Right brain: big picture, gist, “gets it”, feeling.
Children tend to be VERY right brained, until school and we adults teach them to be more left brained.
Once we grow into adults we are plenty left-brained. Problem is, we’ve often lost our rhythm in the conditioning process.
It’s a funny thing that psychoactive substances like alcohol are often described as “mood altering”.
They also tend to disinhibit us.
Why do so many people find pleasure in being intoxicated?
You can bet, at least for some, that it involves feeling less inhibited, more spontaneous, less anxious, less afraid, and less ashamed.
We need to pursue healthful activities and relationships in our lives which help us find our rhythm again.
Bonding with friends or family can do it.
Physical or creative activities, such as sports and the arts, respectively, can do it.
We need to work on taking ourselves less seriously sometimes, feeling less ashamed or embarrassed and less afraid of “goofing up”. We need more mutual and unconditional acceptance. And we need the courage and Faith required to put our truest selves out there for the world to deal with and appreciate.
Now Do It!
The only thing left to do now that we understand that WE are first, is to go out and Do It!
Start with yourself.
Make it your goal to grow into the best adult you can be by learning to handle yourself no matter what other people throw at you or what they are up to with your awe-inspiring ability to Let It Go.
Pursue activities and relationships which allow, no, promote!, your ability to play again.
Start with these two ideas and you’ll soon be on your way to enjoying your life much more, along with the people and the circumstances in it.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First)