For the next 30 days, I plan to shift my perspective from one of taking to one of giving. Like my self-confidence trial, this will require a major overhaul of the way I interact with the world. Just as I used to have very little confidence, yet kept thinking I’d like to have much, my most ingrained perspective is one primarily of taking, while my more conscious perspective is one of giving. It is time to align myself with this higher consciousness.
A Little Background
Growing up, I had very little structure in my life. My dad was, quite literally, a bum. During the last year or two of his life (he died when I was 13), I derisively called him a lazy bum. But I inherited his lack of self-discipline, and that derision later turned into self-hatred.
It was the taker attitude that allowed me to look down upon him, because he never gave me what I felt entitled to as a child: a middle-class life like my peers, among other things. He rarely cleaned the house, and he stopped paying the phone bill, which I also felt entitled to.
Little did I reflect, back then, upon my own inability to clean my room. Little did I see that we were as one and the same. As a child, I could lay all blame for my faults on adults, while taking all their gifts for granted. (If this sounds remotely like some sort of vindication for parents against children, it’s not; my parents took their gifts, and mine, perhaps no less for granted.)
It was the taker attitude that allowed me to look down upon myself as well. To an extent, I felt entitled to self-discipline, to a certain strength of character – again, just as I saw in my peers. I felt entitled to these things in part because I was afraid of others’ judgment – oh, yes, I felt entitled to a certain social status. To love and all that jazz.
In fact, I felt the very universe was entitled to my perfection, or at least adequacy (whatever that is). And because we’re talking about my own character and judgment directed toward myself, I could blame myself for not giving me what I felt entitled to. I could hate myself.
This act of blaming, of course, is a matter of taking, entitlement. It is a matter of escapism, of ejecting the responsibility to a place outward, beyond action. This is why Danny, at the end of American History X, says, “Hatred is baggage.”
Now I have good reason to be open and honest about this. The very words “lazy,” “entitled,” and “spoiled,” seem to evoke judgment, derision. But I am keeping in mind that derision itself would be of the taking nature, just as would hiding from it.
Connecting Trials, Oneness
If the taker attitude led to (self-)hatred, then the giver attitude must lead to (self-)love. Of course this brings us back to the issue of self-confidence. Which makes it sound like this trial is but a continuation of the last! – in fact, I did not want that one to end. Giving, however, will accentuate the “other-than-self”-confidence side of confidence.
In that sense, this trial brings this adventure full circle. Which brings up an interesting point: the interplay of the two sides of confidence, of give and take. Ultimately, self-confidence and confidence in others are mutually reinforcing. Likewise, one cannot be all give, for without some sort of receiving there would be nothing to give.
During the last trial, I felt a little trapped inside myself, as a taker, wondering how to love again, without objectifying the other person as a mere means to the end of love. It was a strangely ironic feeling that I used the past month to get past, successfully (with much help – thank you!).
But arriving again to see others as ends in themselves was again to release the barriers between self and other. With this, the release between give and take. That is, in switching to a giving perspective, at least to some extent I will be receiving through giving; I will appreciate another’s joy as my own.
Furthermore, I will take what I need when I need insofar as it reflects the giver’s attitude of responsibility. I will not feel selfish for doing what is necessary in order to become a more responsible citizen of the universe. And so I will come to approach my job search not as an endeavor primarily for the means of obtaining money or learning to cook, but as one in which I seek to contribute my part and earn my keep, so that I can continue to contribute more and more. The world doesn’t go ’round on its own, but through active contribution. That attitude is the opposite of entitlement.
This flow between polarities is something I have noticed in so many ways lately.
I have much been a consumer of life; now I wish to be a producer, a creator. It makes me wonder, But then, when will I have a chance to sit back and enjoy the life I have? How will I, as producer, consume? (Also evokes politics, but I won’t go there right now.)
Steve Pavlina recently wrote a blog post about focus and discipline vs caring. A reader responded:
I am afraid of caring too much, afraid to be sucked into a black hole of others’ needs and perhaps to somehow lose myself. Whenever I affirm on this I quickly feel a sense of overwhelm.
I had this same concern, actually. I intend to use this trial to explore it.
And there the same concept in other words: yielding vs projecting. I notice how easy it is to project oneself into online spaces, because there is indeed so much time and space between everyone, allowing much room for comfort at the expense of yielding. At the expense of having to accept/receive others’ projections in real-time, face-to-face.
And “projecting” may sound like giving, but actually this yielding seems to be more of the giving. When there is so little space between oneself and another, even then, giving of it to the other. I want to find comfort in that. I want to find my space in the yielding of it. Then maybe I can finally put (project) myself out there, too busy caring for their interests to worry about what they think of me.
Two other polarities are passivity vs action and domination vs submission (D/s). I have realized that in my intimate friendships/relationships I have tended to be passive, always waiting upon the others’ love, consuming it in a sense, before giving back. To the point where a friend told me he thought I was “da submissive one.”
That just never sat right with me, though. Me – submissive? I envisioned myself as more of a give-and-take sort of person in that regard. (I know give/take doesn’t really correspond to D/s, but I bring it up because this is why my friend referred to me as such.) Now I am taking action on that: I want to have more of the courage to say “I love you” first, to be the one to ask someone to hang out, the one who never waits for others to say “hi,” the initiator of hugs.
Sometimes this process of coming into my own has lessened my power as a receiver. The way that I used to receive a powerful hug was overwhelmingly intense. I am not trying to suggest that someone who enjoys being submissive à la BDSM should find giving in the exact same way that I do, and perhaps their experience all the time is somewhat like that one experience of mine. Although “dom-” (domination) means “power,” there can be great power and beauty in receiving/submitting/yielding. (Now all these different polarities begin to run together, as you can see.)
But even though my power has lessened in some ways, on the whole I predict that my power to receive will only increase. Instead of being an intense, but childlike, receiver of one powerful embrace, I may be a more tentative, but mature, receiver of many embraces, relying more on my own power as giver.
It’s time to stop trading that maturity for the world handed to me on a silver platter. It’s not healthy for me, and it does not resonate with what I live for: love.
I have already mentioned some ideas for implementation throughout this post. Beyond that, I am not yet sure how I will go about the trial. I see myself focusing less on myself as actor because acting is more of the projecting nature mentioned above. Or at least it will be a different sort of acting. Perhaps I will focus on narrators other than myself, allowing myself to be a supporting actress.
And with that, I thank all the wonderful individuals at the Pavlina forums, because this really is your story, too. You have helped me rediscover love. You are magical. It’s pretty amazing to converge with others upon yourself; I feel like we’re building a magic castle together. And the world is so much bigger together!
I also thank all of my other/offline friends, but few will likely read this.
If anyone has any implementation ideas or stories, they would be most welcome!