Friday, December 3, 2010

A Good Kind of Label

Friday, December 3, 2010

A number of years ago, an acquaintance told me that I had a gift for encouragement. I felt softly surprised by her observation and instantly delighted that she mentioned it, out loud, to me. At the same time, a quiet part of me shyly recognized the truth of her words.

I didn't know that I knew this about myself, but I felt so grateful to her for shining a flashlight of conscious awareness on that inner corner of me. I knew I liked saying positive things to people and offering to help out when I could. People expressed gratitude or happy surprise, and I felt as grateful and delighted at their reactions as I did when I made the offers in the first place.

I had enjoyed this circle of niceness, if you will, for as long as I could remember, but I never thought about it. It's just what I did, and I liked it. My acquaintance's label -- encourager -- brought an important part of myself into sharp focus -- with myself. I knew it matched my previous actions. I knew it matched how I felt inside.

Her comment was one of those things that is a surface surprise to hear
expressed but not a deep surprise to acknowledge. It was like the adage that a teacher's job is to show us what we already know.

This woman's label immediately, and over time, gave me a sense of clear self-knowledge, and it felt excellent. It still does. Being labeled in that way, having a word for that part of me, strengthened my sense of myself and what I'm about. It does not in any way describe my entire self; I think, act and feel in many ways, and they're not all desirable. But nothing I have ever done since that day in the late '80s has ever erased or undone my encourager-self completely.

That is a great, great gift.

This gift feeds itself. Encouraging others feels good. I know it's helpful to them, in however small or seemingly invisible a way. I know this because it's how I feel when someone encourages me. So I keep doing it, and being an encourager becomes a self-fulfilling trait. I feel better. You feel better. Win-Win. Very cool.

What deep inner truths about yourself have you been able to see in your lifetime? Whether the awareness grows gradually or jumps up in a millisecond is immaterial. What matters is that you do carry deep, lovely gifts, and whenever you find them you'll recognize them for the truths they are.

I rarely believe in or espouse guarantees, but here's one I say with no hesitation whatsoever: every single person carries deep, rich substantial Somethings within. Having a name for that trait helps strengthen and deepen and build it.

So often, the world teaches us not to brag, to be humble. Be nice. Don't show off. Well, these messages have some value, but they're confusing and not 100% accurate 100% of the time.
If it helps, keep in mind that the wonderful traits I'm talking about are gifts. Wherever they come from, it's in our power to accept and build on them. Name them. Help them grow. Have a good time with them. Use them.

You'll benefit, and so will everybody on whom you practice.

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