Accepting People For Who They Are


This is our son on his snowboard. He doesn’t just snowboard, he is a snowboarder. And a skateboarder, and a BMX-er, mountain biker, dirt biker and tech-ed kid. And all the labels that society puts on that group of kids. You know, that group of kids that skateboards down the side of the street and looks like a gang? Yes, them.

He was never into group sports, so he didn’t fit in with the jocks, or the popular kids (who have to be in sports in our town), or the nerds, or the artsy ones. Wow, look at all those labels. Instead of labels, we need to get to know people and accept them for who they are, not the label we put on them. 

He and his group of friends aren't perfect, but they have some unique traits. To do all the tricks they do, you need to understand AND apply physics. To build the ramps they build, you need to know geometry and have building skills. They practice and practice, and teach each other. They learned to modify and fix all their equipment. Our son is routinely called on to help fix other friend’s bikes. This has morphed into fixing cars and trucks. They put their school tech ed classes to good use in real life.

One day he was in the principal’s office waiting to turn in his paperwork for work study. A new associate principal walked in, took one look at him and said something to the effect that he needed to quit getting into trouble and figure out what he was going to do with his life. She had no idea why he was there, but “knew his type”. 

We are so quick to judge in our society, and find it hard to accept people for who they are. Why? Because they are different than us. As I mentioned in my last post, we seem to want to fix people and make them more like us. It is especially hard as parents to not impress on our children what we want them to do or be like. We also feel pressure to have our children follow the “golden path” to success in sports, school, college, and impressive jobs.

We were watching “Saturday Night Fever” last night; yes a throwback, but we never saw it when it came out because it was rated R. Anyway, I digress. In the movie, the older son quits the priesthood. His mother and father are mortified because they are worried about what all their friends were going to say. He quit because he realized it was their dream for him to be a priest, not his. 

While generally accepting people for who they are is good, it is especially important in our immediate family. All family units include different personality types. When a personality trait is different than ours, we tend to “fight” against it. For some reason, we want everyone to be like us. (Which is funny, because two people in a house with the same personalities often don’t get along.) Maybe we feel that if we accept their personality traits, that means ours aren’t right? 

One year, the teachers at our school did the True Colors personality test. The results were interesting because people would walk around saying things like “Oh he’s a green, of course he is going to do that.” It was a way to gracefully accept another person’s personality traits without saying our own are wrong. 

An interesting thing happened when I did the True Colors personality test with our family. I found out that my husband’s “interesting tendencies” were an ingrained part of his personality. I couldn’t believe it! Neither could he when I read him the description. By accepting his personality instead of always bristling against it, it is easier to accept the person. When we all accept each other for who we are, we get along better and can enjoy being with each other.

Last year, our department did the Strengths Finder assessment. One of the philosophies behind it is that people excel by maximizing strengths, not by fixing weaknesses. Think about how often we try to "encourage" our family to overcome their weaknesses, instead of focusing on building up their strengths. While you can't ignore some weaknesses, you see the person in a more positive way when you pay attention to their strengths instead; accept them for who they are.

Those of us on a path towards simple life, minimalism, financial independence or any other non-mainstream way of life, may face puzzling expressions, questions from “well-meaning” friends and relatives, and general misunderstanding from a society driven towards different goals. Hopefully we can all learn to accept each other for who we are, respect each other’s talents and abilities, learn from each other, and live without labels to define us.




Comments

  1. This is a really interesting topic Lisa, and so very true.

    This has been a benefit for me in slowing down, the ability to engage in a more meaningful way with others. I am in the process of learning to recognise exactly what you talk about, accepting other personality traits rather than 'fight ' them. It's a challenge. So much personal growth to do!?! Ha ha sometimes it's easier to be mindless.

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  2. Thanks Fran!

    It's interesting how much better I am at this with my kids versus my husband. I guess I see them as growing and maturing, and have more patience. As I get older, it is also for me to try and learn from others, instead of being "right". Work has been teaching me that a lot lately - must need extra lessons :)

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