The Parent Trap

1224 Relax and Succeed - We must accomodateYou’re a parent and obviously you want to do a great job of raising your kid. Or maybe you know a parent who’s trying to do that. Either way, people have no idea what the future will look like so it’s essentially impossible to raise a kid for success. About all anyone can do is raise their children to be flexible enough that they can thrive in any future.

My grandmother lived on the prairies before steam powered machines hit the farms. One bad growing season and people in her generation literally starved to death in the middle of Canada. My parents both served in and obviously survived, WWII. Not all their siblings did as well. For my parent’s generation and all the generations before them, being a good parent was pretty straightforward: keep the kids alive, and try to teach them some basics about staying alive and getting along with others.

That was it. No books, no manuals, no classes. There weren’t different philosophies or theories to follow or adhere to. There were no real major rules to be broken as a parent as long as your kid wasn’t a criminal. And most people turned out pretty healthy and certainly happier than people test as today. Today it’s much different. Today there’s a lot of choice available regarding parenting styles.

1224 Relax and Succeed - A bad moment and bad dayStyles. Before, when two parents met for lunch, one parent could see the other parent’s kids were alive and they’d talk as two adults about things unrelated to their kids. Today people meet and fretfully discuss the latest article they read that either promises the path to certain success or that explains what is certain to lead to disaster. It’s all very binary, as though parenting is either good or bad when really it’s neither.

As much as we like to dress it all up in psychological terminology, “parenting” a child is really them just the kid mimicking or reverse-mimicking whatever the caregiver does. Parents are simply the child’s most common examples of human behaviour. So if someone truly wants to be a great parent, other than loving their child, they should simply let the child be and focus instead on being the best person–and best example–they can be.

Oh, and as you’re trying to be that great example, don’t forget that when you do set a bad example, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because that sets another bad example. Instead we should accept our responsibility and know it felt bad because it was out of alignment with who we really are. And if we have that feeling, then the child will be parented just fine. Accept mistakes as lessons and move on. Because even if that was the only skill you taught your child, they would have learned a lot.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Developing Human Excellence

1219 Relax and Succeed - Who we are and how much we engageWe all bring different skills to our community. Some of us are more aggressive, some are more passive. Maybe some are driven and intellectually brilliant, while others are patient and compassionate. Maybe some lead, maybe some follow. Each are strengths in different situations.

There is room for us all if we consider the strength of the group to be more important than our own personal strength. No matter what our position or attitude about life is, we will all face infirmity, pain and, if we’re fortunate, the aging process. In each of these situations we will have no choice but to depend on the kindness and generosity of those around us, so it is worthwhile for us to ask ourselves what sort of kindness and generosity we have nurtured in our lifetime.

Children’s lives have become increasingly competitive. Many parents seek to raise excellent students, or above-average athletes, or popular personalities. In general, a child will be taught to have the qualities their parents feel are key for success, but all too often the ability to maintain, contribute to, and inspire those around us is a foregone presumption rather than being something that is specifically developed.

1219 Relax and Succeed - We need to care lessThis week, as you interact with children, ask yourself what goal you are pushing them toward. Promoting too much personal excellence without enough paying enough attention to their contributions to their community can leave parents with future fellow citizens and caregivers who lack a substantive capacity to balance their personal goals with their overall sense of compassion.

To raise a child well isn’t to raise a child that reflects well on you when you’re thirty-five, it’s to raise the child you want caring for you at eighty-five. Whether you have children or not, take this week to genuinely consider what type of personal impact you have on those around you. Because collectively, it is our own words or actions merge to form the society we live in, and so any complaint about that society can only truly be addressed by each of us.

Literally: Choose a specific way you’d like to see the world change and then spend the rest of today genuinely trying to maintain some consciousness about realising that change within your own life. Because there is absolutely no rule that says a smart, athletic kid can’t also be the one to show the greatest levels of compassion, and there absolutely no rule that says that we all can’t be that kid.

Make a difference. That’s how they’re made. Thank you for your participation.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Those Kids Today

1216 Relax and Succeed - We don't grow when things aren't easyIt’s pretty rare when I reblog and it’s always for a really good reason. With kids back to school, and parents and children struggling more than they ever have, it’s important to focus things down to their essence. Toronto Occupational Therapist Victoria Prooday writes a blog and it’s not surprising that this was one of her most popular.

For those who can see this subject clearly, her recommendations will look like simple common sense. But in a world where parents, teachers and children feel pulled in a million directions by a million marketers, educators, administrators, and websites all saying different things, it becomes difficult to tell what really counts. But if you want a healthy adult capable in the maximum number of situations, this is excellent advice.

Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?

I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

1216 Relax and Succeed - Victoria Prooday replacement

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:

  1. Technology

Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner.  We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

  1. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions — to make our children happy — but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.

The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

  1. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

  1. Endless Fun

We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

  1. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!

1216 Relax and Succeed - Parents only have 2 jobsTRAIN YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN

You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally

Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights

Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening

2. Train delayed gratification

Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”

Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games

Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time

Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.

Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!

Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed

Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills

Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, using “please and thank you.”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting. Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!

*****

I see it all the time in my own work. Mental illness and stress are up. What we’re doing isn’t working. This is what will. If you’re anywhere near Toronto and are having trouble with your own children or you’re aware of others who are, considering sharing this and going to see Victoria’s team. Because whatever you see in your toddler or pre-teen will be amplified as they age, and both you and your children will be the ones living with the consequences of any maturing that hasn’t been achieved.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

 

Observational vs Instructional Parenting

1019-relax-and-succeed-it-is-easier-to-build-strong-childrenWhen European settlers first came to North America one of the first clashes of culture existed in the realm of parenting. Corporal punishment was generally not used in the native cultures because they did not believe in corrective behaviour from an authority figure. Like most tribal cultures, they believed an entire community raised a child and that children learned to behave in alignment with their culture not by being told how, but rather by watching other people actually living in alignment with that culture.

Europeans on the other hand had unwittingly assumed the Christian original-sin belief into their daily life and so the idea was that no one was born worthy and rather one earned one’s worth. In the native cultures the worth of anyone was never in question. The European system lead to a top-down almost military style with the father in command, his wife second and then the children by order of age and gender. Meanwhile there weren’t even  things like lineups for native cultures, so therefore there were also no need to “order” people or things.

1019-relax-and-succeed-when-a-flower-isnt-bloomingAs well-intentioned as it is, the European model is based on a hierarchy rather than mutual respect. Being bound to someone by words and ideas is one thing, but caring about someone enough to make sacrifices for them is a much different thing. This is like the difference between a soldier fighting because he was told to by someone he doesn’t respect, versus he does so out of love for his leader.

The idea the natives naturally used is the one everyone’s actually using either way, whether their culture realises it or not. Kids don’t learn by what you tell them, it’s how we act. And if we realised that more consciously we would literally change the world.

The northernmost tribes in Canada, from the Gwich’in in the West all the way through all of the Inuit cultures and all the way East past the Innu to the Beothuk, the cold and barren surroundings and limited food sources have meant over time that patience, tolerance, cooperation and generosity are excellent strategies for staying alive. Since you couldn’t and can’t cultivate food you have to cultivate relationships that can lead to group dinners that ensure all are fed regardless of their individual hunt’s success. When you can end up living in the confines of an igloo it helps if you have an agreeable personality.

1019-relax-and-succeed-your-work-is-not-to-drag-the-worldSimilarly the Japanese and other Asian cultures learned to cultivate a courteous, respectful manner with others because the hydraulics of the terraced rice paddies meant that your neighbour had to choose to let you have the water next. These interdependencies can be seen as a lack of freedom, but they can also be seen to create more freedom. What is the point of any amount of freedom if it is primarily spent in a state of worry or fear when it could be spent cooperating with friends?

It is notable that these cultures are both very quiet. Words are seen as less important than the control of behaviour. This isn’t done in a subservient way; it’s done for the greater good of all. But for that to happen we first have to believe that a) we ourselves are capable of good behaviour, b) that our children are capable and naturally inclined to want to learn, and c) that lessons are not as important as examples.

Most parents I see are panicked that things are much worse than they are. Invariably I meet a caring, engaged parent who has the same kinds of flaws all of us have. Because people are generally good, just by living their lives the way they naturally do they end up raising really great kids too. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t follow every order exactly right. That won’t be what makes good character.

1019-relax-and-succeed-imagine-what-seven-billion-humansWhat’ll make a good fellow tribesman won’t be precise behaviour, it’ll be the general compassionate awarenesses that would lead them to do things like notice an older person struggling behind them, leading them to hold that door open a little longer for that fellow tribesman. What’ll make a good tribesman is not asking for apologies, but giving them. Then giving them will be natural to a child, just like they learn to avoid giving them. And forgive yourself for when they learn the bits about you you wish they wouldn’t. You’re worth those bits anyway.

Believe in yourself. Believe in the children around you. They’re all just waiting to sprout into something amazing if they just get the rest of us doing a bit of cultivating of ourselves. If we accept ourselves while we strive to grow, from there the kids will just naturally follow our lead, but lead we must do. Here’s to you exhibiting a great day of admirable behaviour.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Freedom of Possibility

1006-relax-and-succeed-this-is-just-not-going-to-work-outProvided they haven’t experienced powerful trauma, kids are naturally very skillful at enjoying life. In the healthiest situations they are excited by their fears; they want to stay up and hear the scary campfire story that will keep them up all night terrified. They believe they can do anything. And every experience is met with wonder. And they grow and grow and grow.

You don’t limit yourself to the expected when you’re a kid. You see more possibility. And we could argue that those odds are long, and yet it is also true that even long odds are ultimately true sometimes. So you can live in a boring world where houses get boarded up because people die, or you can live where kids live; where houses are boarded up because they’re haunted. Waves are sea serpents, basements contain boogeymen, and all meteor’s are spaceships. When we’re young we go into every situation anticipating adventure.

As we age repetitive experiences limit our imagination. If we’re abused long enough we’ll start to actually seek out abuse because that’s all we can fit into our highly limited imagination. And yet our child-mind is still alive within us. We still maintain the ability to see things another way.

1006-relax-and-succeed-the-idea-is-to-die-youngThink of the people you know. The freest ones are the ones who are willing to offer the craziest solutions. They just never say die. There’s always good news somewhere and they’re just as pleased to search for it as find it. Other friends see gloom and doom at every corner. They see the worst in others. They see lots of limits, lots of reasons that things can’t happen.

If you don’t believe something’s possible you won’t take the steps to see that thing happen in your life. If you think you’ll never have friends because everyone hates you, then you’ll never have friends because you never met anyone–because you guessed they’d all hate you when only some of them would. But even they would only hate you out of confusion.

Your friends wouldn’t love you more than your enemies, they would just see you more clearly. So even friendship is a childlike thing that we do less of as we age. When we’re young we’re more prepared to assume someone might be the source of good experiences but by the time we’re older we just sit in judgment all the time and then wonder why we don’t have more fun.

1006-relax-and-succeed-the-soul-is-healed-by-being-with-childrenYour life is a set of beliefs about things you think can’t happen or have to happen, but those beliefs are not the actual world they’re just your idea of it. People’s lives change every day, but in most cases it was because they actually began doing something different. The different thing you can do is truly monitor your judgments about things and find your own limits within those judgments. Again: those limitations are not the world, those are ideas you have and they prevent you from experiencing all that life has to offer. Be more childlike.

Study your own limits. Ask yourself how you’ve actually changed since you were a child. What things did you think were possible that you talked yourself out of? Open yourself up to more possibility. Imagine a life bigger than the current you could ever deserve. You can have something bigger than that. People certainly call Elon Musk’s dreams crazy but does he care? He doesn’t have the time/thought-space to think about their judgments: he’s too busy building a spaceship!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #122: Shaming Mothers

Winner: 2016’s Friday Dose of the Year

It’s not like women don’t have enough issues to deal with already and now, in a remarkably ironic twist, the biggest media outlet in the world has made it very clear through both words and actions that it feels women should feel good about having thin young bodies but they should feel ashamed and embarrassed about their body as a mother.

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Facebook's rejected postYesterday I wrote a piece about stretch marks and how women shouldn’t feel badly about having them just because some other younger person judged them as unattractive. I explained that the lack of acceptance was a form of innocent ignorance being displayed by otherwise good people who simply don’t yet have the capacity to be able to appreciate those signs of pregnancy as being attractive.

Whenever I get an indication that a blog is particularly meaningful or worthwhile to readers I will spend some money to boost it to ensure people who don’t subscribe to Relax and Succeed can still benefit from the content. When I tried to do that with this post I was quickly told (likely by a “female” robot), that facebook’s position is that “Ads like this are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves.”

We’ve all seen plenty of sexual content on facebook. I have no shortage of photos and videos in my newsfeed that depict scantily clad extremely slim young women doing everything from holidaying on Spring Break to playing beach volleyball at the Olympics. If one of the largest media outlets in the world is saying yes to young and sexy and scantily clad while simultaneously arguing that women should feel bad about themselves for having stretch marks what does that communicate to young women and future mothers?

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Facebook's rejectionThis a clear demonstration of how egotistical and judgmental the world has become. I won’t choose to let many things upset me but, on a day where the biggest thing on the internet was a one hour video of a naked Donald Trump statue, this just flew in the face of the freedoms my own father joined the war effort in WWII to protect. That being the case I appealed facebook’s rejection and then received the response depicted–written by purportedly a woman no less!

One of the main reasons women write to me is because of body image issues. Just the day before there was a comment on the Relax and Succeed facebook page that noted, “Needed this here in the fun and sun, where shorts, tanks, bikinis and long legged younger women surround me, LOL. Where a reminder is needed that stretch marks, cellulite, and grey hair and wrinkles are beautiful as well.” Indeed.

Everyone who liked or loved the post was female, but facebook doesn’t think anyone should see it because it’s “…extremely undesirable.” Facebook suggested I find a product to advertise instead but since I don’t sell products that would be impossible. I’m a writer who doesn’t even have any ads running on my page and if I ever did I would do all I could to ensure that they didn’t ever make anyone feel ashamed of themselves and the way nature made them.

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Response to FacebookThis is of course precisely what feminists are fighting against and now we know clearly in writing how facebook feels on a policy basis. Facebook has an idea of what you’re supposed to look like and anything outside of their definition is unattractive and therefore should not be seen. They’ll take money for an ad for unhealthy food but they won’t permit people to pay to promote a non-commercial post featuring a genuine women’s issue. This is remarkable considering Mark Zuckerberg has a daughter and his wife is obviously a mother.

I tried to use the word “media” to trigger the algorithm to go get me a real person but, having likely failed in that, all I did was get pretty angry at a robot, which is silly. She definitely won’t have an issue with stretch marks. But this is where the energy behind outrage can be helpful if it’s focused in a healthy way.

I do feel strongly that if we want a more just society that permits everyone to feel good about themselves then we must each take definitive action to change the sexualized judgments that advertising has historically used to guilt women into buying beauty products. If I was on facebook advertising a cream to hide stretch marks I would have no problem, but if I want to promote women feeling good about their natural bodies that is not allowed.

Facebook will obviously try to hide it from you but if at all possible I would obviously like to see this blog post shared more than any other I have ever written. If you’re mature enough to feel like I do–that mother’s have every reason to feel proud of their post-pregnancy bodies– then please help spread this message on all forms of social media so that appropriate social pressure can be placed on facebook to revisit their sexist standards.

This is clearly not in the interests of women or men and I would appreciate anything you could do to help ensure that women are also exposed to positive natural body images and words. To all you mother’s with stretch marks–I know you are beautiful and I want you to be confident in that too. On behalf of a male-dominated world I apologise on its behalf for having ever made you feel badly about maturing into the most important job on Earth: motherhood.

 

Respectfully, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Stretching Our Spirit

Relax and Succeed - Nature is busy creating absolutely unique individualsThere are a lot of ways to be beautiful. Like many things in life though it can take time to come to appreciate certain kinds of beauty. Much like young people start off entirely selfish and grow towards ever-increasing empathy (if they’re healthy), when we’re young we also start of with relatively shallow ideas about beauty and (if we’re healthy), we expand those ideas to include more and more things and therefore people.

It’s natural for a child, tween, teen and young adult to recognise physical health as is manifested by our genes and our habits. If someone 10,000 years ago was too lazy to hunt that would be reflected by being underweight, whereas being able to eat a lot would be a sign of success in a  pre-money pre-symbolism world. And if you’re raising kids, obtaining food is the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid. You do that before anything so it makes biological sense that we would want to be with someone who can look after themselves

To actually have a child a woman would be in competition for a mate with other women and therefore the qualities that denote physical success would be more attractive to the men who also want to see their lineage move forward in that wonderful way nature has.

977 Relax and Succeed - You are beautifulAs we actually attempt relationships we find out they’re about more than just the sexual attraction and the food. That can get a person pregnant but if sharing the food only lasts a short time then the children are in jeopardy, so having a male who feels dedicated enough to stay long enough to protect those offspring also makes sense. So then commitment to the relationship becomes important.

Again we grow and we realise that commitment only comes from certain temperaments reliably, so now we’re looking for the right personality. How nurturing is someone? How courageous? How enjoyable?

Eventually the child-rearing years are over and now the commitment does not have the bind of the children which is why a lot of divorces happen within a few years after the kids are independent. But if things prior to that have been so enjoyable and secure it can be in both parties interests to stay linked. This is based on appreciation.

977 Relax and Succeed - The more we can appreciateIt is possible to move quickly through this evolution if we can come to grasp these individual ideas as a larger concept: we get that people stay because we treat them well and we treat them well because we appreciate what they bring into our lives. That’s why when we’re young we can wonder how a woman can be attractive with stretch marks and yet when we’re older we see those as signs of life’s greatest achievement.

The problem comes in when we compare because everyone is viewing things from a different perspective. Like the old Indian stories about the four blind men studying an elephant, one can think its tail is like a rope, another can find the legs like a tree, another finds the tusk like a spear and the last finds the trunk like a snake. A younger person does not yet have the capacity to appreciate the larger meaning of a stretch mark and so they can see it as a scar rather than a symbol. So the problem isn’t the stretch mark on the older woman, it’s an illusion created by the younger person’s limited ability to appreciate due to having less experience in life.

It’s much the same with anything. Men can historically look at moneymaking  (aka food-gathering) as the main skill, but as we come home from some hunts wounded we come to realise that care and support after the hunt can be what enables us to hunt better tomorrow. In this way people grow toward each other in mutual interdependence, which is a form of appreciation–the highest form of awareness. Meanwhile in a thought-based comparative world where two people are less skilled at appreciation they will end up co-dependent, thereby making the relationship unhealthy for both the parents and any children.

977 Relax and Succeed - You will b e too much for some peopleDo not apply the perspectives of others to views of yourself. You have no idea by looking at someone where they are on that shallowness-appreciation spectrum. You were on it too so don’t lament that someone else is, but don’t apply it to yourself any more than you should use your thoughts to compare yourself today to your younger self from an earlier time. The comparison itself is what generates the pain. It is the result of a thought-calculation. There is no comparing in appreciation. There is no room in our consciousness for anyone or anything other than what we’re appreciating.

Love yourself wherever you are on this spectrum. There is no need to hurry or to cling to any point. We each move at our own pace which is fine, because if we don’t use our thoughts to generate the judgments and comparisons then we’re not anywhere on any spectrum–we simply are. And that is the very best place to be.

Go be. Go be whoever you are now. Trust me. That person is beautiful and perfect.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.