Changing your mind might change the whole story.

We all write a story for ourselves. We put in the characters we meet along the way and we assign them a role to play. The more we treat them like we’ve written them, the more they seem to play their role. Sometimes they behave as expected, sometimes we need to stretch the storyline a bit. But once they are written in, it’s up to the original author to change who they are.  I know you, as I, have changed your mind about people. But, truthfully, not very often.

As you are the main character in the story of your life, you feel the need for antagonists. You want to know you are conquering truth and virtue and all that’s good. So sometimes, you feel you have to go up against someone. And you do. You write in the villians and expect them to behave accordingly. They are wrong, mean, bad, stupid, selfish, dorky, unreliable or all of the above. They make YOU look, by comparison, right, kind, good, smart, selfless, polished and reliable. Isn’t that nice?

Well, sometimes. The thing is, this a LONG story. And having someone be the villain all the time is not only boring, but suddenly not helpful to make you look good and, of course, FEEL good. Deep down you know you aren’t all of those things because of them, but actually, in spite of them or regardless of them. As you become aware of your contribution to the writing of the story, you understand that they can be exactly as you depict them, or someone else entirely.

So consider doing like a long-running soap opera. The characters shift around. Bad guys get knocked on the head and forget to be bad. Cynics fall in love and show good will. Choose a few characters you would like to befriend and rewrite their story. Give them space to move into a different way of being, to redeem themselves. Make that angry, abusive person the one who could use some appreciation. Make that bully the one who feels left out. Switch it around a bit.  Rewrite in a way that allows you to value them more.

I actually took to pen and paper to rewrite a few of my “character” descriptions. Changing theirs changed the relationship of my character to them. It made me act in different ways and expect a wider range of reactions. Try it out! Let’s see what this rethinking can do for you and how you value the people around you. You might discover some unexpected attributes in people you thought you knew. Positive ones that make YOU look and feel pretty good.  You could even write in a happier you! Expectation is a powerful ally for building otheresteem.

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Graceful Goodbyes.

Image from Montessori Services

Image from

I am inspired this week by the flawless application of otheresteem practices by one of my close friends in a difficult situation. No, she did not read my book. Yet she embodies everything I aim to express there. The grace, the care, the power! My friend is at a crossroads in her life. This very week she is ending a marriage of more than 30 years. It was a happy marriage. Except, of course, for the pain, the suffering, the squabbling, the loneliness and dispair of the last few years. Those were hard. Trying times and confusing situations that have brought about her share of anger, tears, frustration.

My friend has been a lifelong learner. Her interests have taken her to therapy, to study the enneagram, to healing with a Brennan technique practitioner, lifecoaching and many other explorations. After some prodding on my part, she also participated in The Human Element basic course with us and went on to become a certified trainer two years ago. That last experience seemed to click with her. It made her explorations of self take on new meaning and her previous experiences seemed to integrate so well that she went on a professional roll! As she worked through relationships in her life and made major changes in every aspect with the help of her coach, she has been blossoming and creating great possibilites for herself and others. But on the home front, things that were already unraveling were doing so at an accelerated pace.

After one particularly hideous fight with him, she wrote a letter to the person she calls her “best friend in life”, her husband of more than 30 years. In that letter, she accepted the end with grace, recognizing that he had changed and now wanted things to be different in a way that she did not. She described how she saw things without judgement, only clarity. She appreciated so many wonderful years together. The longest, most important friendship of her life. The children. The growing up together. The laughs and the support. She set highest expectations for the future: that they could work through this in peace and love. That they could part well and in time, recover the friendship that had started it all. That they would resolve material issues and secure the boys’ future. And she stated all that she was grateful for in the relationship they held together, the one they still have now and the one they will create in the future.

As she was telling me all this, I had the image of Montessori’s long, black strip. Their relationship being long and fruitful. She had laid it out and recognized that the horror of late was only a small part. A tiny white bit of a long, long experience. As a friend, I am so very proud of her. As a woman, I stand in awe and admiration. And as a human being, I am humbled by the beauty of otheresteem expressed. Today, in writing this, I feel blessed to know her and be a part of her life. Graceful goodbyes don’t get any better than this.

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Its about Faith!

Last week I invited you to explore what happened when you chose to really believe in someone consistently and see what happens! So, How did it go? It really boils down to faith, right?  Having faith is life-changing. Whether it be religious faith that guides your everyday actions, faith in yourself to get you through tough times or faith in the “kindness of strangers” like Blanche DuBois would say.

I have even been exploring lately the link between that powerful concept, faith, and the practice of expectation I suggest in the book. To quote Chapter 1:

I will treat you very differently if I see you not only as who you are, but as whom you can become. Even more, if I believe you can become whoever you desire.

Is this not putting my faith in that person’s capability for change? In what that person could do if she allowed herself to. Remember, it comes after acceptance and appreciation. So, no, I do not NEED them to change before I love them. I have faith that they will! That they will get in touch with their higher selves when they are no longer afraid of what I will think of them. They know. I HAVE FAITH IN THEM. Doesn’t that say it all?

Otheresteem is definitely a leap of faith! A very rewarding one. A tough one sometimes. A leap you get better and better at as you take it more and more. As you choose to value others and act like you do. So if the time comes when your faith seems to be misplaced, when people make it hard for you to value them, you still have your faith! And it carries you through as you learn patience. As you understand what part is up to you and what part is not. And trust that doing your part will have an impact in what others choose. And THAT is an act of faith!

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Just Listen!

One of my favorite authors on health and healing is Bernie Siegel. If you haven’t yet read “Love, Medicine and Miracles“, I highly recommmend it. Last night, while reading a few lines from “How to Live Between Office Visits“, I stumbled upon this reflection about the power of listening and how it heals:

When our children were growing up, if they came to me with their troubles I usually suggested solutions for them – join a group, see a therapist, take vitamins. They said, “You’re no help.” But when I sat and listened, they thanked me for what I did and told me how much I had helped them.

Listening is a wonderful way of showing otheresteem! It basically says: you matter, I take you into account, I am interested in you. And just as Bernie Siegel says, it is a lot do do for a fellow human being. In terms of the otheresteem practices from my book, it is a cornerstone of ACCEPTANCE. As I cannot fully accept that which I do not understand, deep listening is a great way of discovering who the person in front of me really is. If you can get past trying to be right or seek agreement with that person into striving to understand their point of view and getting to know them more, you will be well on the way to building acceptance.

I welcome your comments below. What is your experience of listening as an otheresteem builder? Can you value people more easily when you allow yourself to listen and suspend judgement?

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