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We’ve all heard that we become like the company we keep. We usually use this adage as fuel for getting our kids to choose better friends and, sometimes, we even use it to let go of our own.
Like many profound ideas, we focus on how it serves us and alienates others.
But what if it is just as important the other way around? What if this idea was meant to improve our relationships not rid ourselves of them?
If I become like the company I keep, then my friends and family are becoming like me as much as I am becoming like them. Shouldn’t I then want to become the best company possible? Am I not just as responsible for my behavior as they are for theirs?
I’ve been working on becoming a better version of myself and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m not just doing it for my own sake but for the sake of the people I influence. I’ve also had to come to terms with who I am currently and this is one of the rare instances when “easier said” walks hand-in-hand with “done.”
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I spend a good deal of time putting myself down and nitpicking my flaws. So, when I set out to make a list of things I did not like about myself, the list flowed from my heart onto the page, free and true.
I decided that if I wanted to figure out who I wanted to be I had to start with who I did not want to be. I had to start with who I was. I had to go to the ugly, messy, decrepit places inside me. The places I frequent often, but only briefly enough to peak inside, find what I am looking for and get out like a secret agent of the soul.
This time I was going to have to take the risk to linger.
A few weeks ago, I sat down and I lingered. I made a list of things I did not like about myself. The list looked like this:
-I lie too much and lack personal integrity
-I am uncomfortable with being uncomfortable and vulnerable
-I avoid everything
-I don’t follow through
-I too often let fear get in the way
-I am self-conscious and significantly lack confidence
-I am wishy-washy and indecisive
-I am not a good friend, sister, daughter, granddaughter, aunt, or significant other because of the above
Now I could begin anew.
Lingering in the dark places propels you to find the light. This list was my compass, in a way. It gave me direction towards a new list.
About two months before I wrote this list, though, something happened to me that put me on this journey to becoming a better version of myself.
My niece was born.
She stirred something inside of me. She disrupted the peace, or the alleged peace. I had not been at peace with who I was for a long time, but like most, I suspect, had become pretty good at faking it. When my niece was born I knew something had to change. I didn’t want to fake it anymore.
I now had a tiny human being in my life who would someday grow up to be a woman. I would have influence on her life. I would be the company she kept. And I cringed at the thought that she might one day utter the words “Aunt Missy, I want to be just like you when I grow up!”
Oh, please no! Anyone but me, child! You don’t want to be like me.
So I wrote a new list, a mantra, if you will, about who I wanted to be. A list, I believe, if lived out would make me a worthy role model in the event my niece chose me. The list looked like this:
-I will be a person of integrity
-I will be honest with myself and others
-I will speak my truths
-I will keep my word and follow through on my commitments
-I will admit my wrongs
-I will accept forgiveness
-I will dare greatly
-I will lean-in to vulnerability
-I will affirm the good
-I will wrestle with the bad
-I will be a person whose heart shines brightly
-I will be compassionate and empathetic to those in need of care
-I will practice gratitude often
-I will have self-esteem
Moms are very quotable – in sometimes funny and sometimes brilliant ways. I spent the week of Christmas visiting my parents in Michigan and I joked with my mom a lot that week that I was going to write blogs about the things she said.
(So, Mom, I’m doing it! I’m writing a blog about something you said.)
She and I were talking about my blog and she was telling me how much she enjoyed reading my posts. I sheepishly accepted her praise and thought we were moving on from the conversation when she said, “Make sure you are following your own advice.”
That hit me like a two-by-four square between the eyes. You see, it’s easy to simply give advice. It would be easy for me to write a blog about how we should create mantras to better ourselves this year, right along with all of the other blogs about resolutions and making lasting changes in the new year. That would be safe. That would be the me from my first list.
But I am trying to be the me from my second list.
If you opened up my journal, there you would find both of these lists. They are deeply personal, but I am choosing to share them with you because the act of sharing these lists embodies the person I want to be.
Sharing these lists with you is personal integrity; it’s being honest with myself and others. Sharing these lists with you is speaking my truths and leaning-in to vulnerability. It is affirming the good and wrestling with the bad. It is being courageous and hopeful in the face of adversity.
I recently read the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. The book is about daring to be vulnerable and was, in part, inspired by this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Sharing these lists with you is daring greatly. It is stepping out of apathy and in to the arena.
I hope we walk in to the arena with crowds watching and never forget the crowds are becoming like us. It keeps us accountable to becoming better human beings, to daring greatly, to rising to life’s greatest challenges – win or lose. Becoming the best version of ourselves is a challenge, but our greatest challenges are often overcome in the light of accountability.
And, I believe, overcoming our greatest challenges can change the world.
But sometimes it just changes the lives of little girls who want to be like us and that is important, too.