Self-Love: Seeing Things More Clearly in 2020

Self-Love: Seeing Things More Clearly in 2020

Number three in our collaborative self-love blog series with Psychology/Behavioral Science PHD student Ali Szarko. Considering the events of recent months, Ali guides us through perspective taking and how this practice may help improve our communication and find common ground.

Additionally, we’re happy to welcome Reno-based artist and designer, Cheyanne Salmon, to this series with their accompanying artwork seen below. Follow more of their work here!

Seeing Things More Clearly in 2020

On May 25, 2020 a tragedy occurred that opened the eyes of many to one of human kind’s most horrifying truths. The truth that none of us are living in the same reality. 

The video of George Floyd’s last moments in his corporeal form, is an image many of us will never forget. It will remain locked in some people’s memories as the first moment they witnessed police brutality and experienced the visceral sensations of injustice. Unfortunately, there are many who did not need to witness this video to understand what had happened. For many, they did not have to see this video directly to experience the visceral agony of injustice and to know why the events unfolded as they did. Unfortunately, there are many whose entire lives are centered around these topics of racism, oppression, and social injustice every single day. Not by choice, but out of a necessity to protect themselves and their community. 

As we move closer to the U.S. national election – in the midst of a global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement – tensions remain high and our resiliency in the fight for social justice – locally, nationally, and globally – will continue to be tested. There will be moments where our individual versions of reality will be called into question by those that are living in another version of reality. There will be moments, where we may discover that our beliefs have been wrong all along and we will need to graciously place our egos aside, so that we can see things more clearly. There will be moments where our dialogue with others will reveal for them – that they too have been wrong, and they will have to graciously place their egos aside, to see things more clearly.

Regardless, if we truly want to work together to find common ground for a better, more just humanity, we must practice perspective taking.

Perspective taking is the ability to see our own selves from multiple viewpoints. To notice how we are responding, right here, right now, in relation to how our past selves might have responded and in relation to how we hope our future self would respond. Perspective taking is also the ability to take a moment during our interactions with other people, to attempt to understand where that person is coming from. What is their history? Why do they feel the way they feel? Not as some foreign “other” to objectify and turn into a science project – but as a conscious, whole, complete, human being – full of the same emotional complexities that we experience each day ourselves.

Here are some exercises for building the habit of perspective taking:

2-minutes of Active Listening: Next time you have a conversation with someone, attempt to fully and actively listen to them by not interrupting. See if you can allow the person you’re with to speak for two minutes (or whatever time frame seems socially appropriate) before you begin to reply. When you do reply, try to acknowledge and clarify what you heard them say before jumping into your response.

  • Example:
    • Speaker: “I’ve been feeling really stressed lately about how I’m going to pay my bills this month. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Each day I lose more and more motivation and it’s getting harder to focus.”
    • Listener: “I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling really stressed about how you’re going to pay your bills and that it’s becoming progressively harder for you to maintain motivation and focus. Is there anything I can do to support you?
  • This exercise might seem silly or something more suited for children, but I encourage you to open up to the experience of trying it out anyway.

    If you’d like to improve communication between you and a specific person – maybe ask them if they’d be willing to set a timer to take turns as being the speaker and listener.

Put Yourself in Another’s Metaphorical Shoes – Next time you’re struggling to understand someone, try asking yourself, “If I were in their shoes right now, how would I be feeling?”

No matter how much we practice the skill of perspective taking, there is always room for improvement. We will always have blind spots. We will always have moments that can be spent listening more than we speak, to better understand the realities of those around us. It’s not about perfection. It’s about being willing to open up and to make mistakes, in service of finding common ground, so that we can do better moving forward. 

Self-Love is Self-Defined

For each post, we ask one self-love thinker what self-love means to them. This month, we asked JamalEdeen Barghouti. Jamal is a first-generation Palestinian American. Their community advocacy is focused on Palestinian liberation, intersectionality, and solidarity. Their professional work is focused on diversity, inclusion, and social equity in the cannabis industry. Here are their thoughts: 

“I have had a very difficult journey with self love. Because of the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001, I grew up in a country that constantly told me I was not worthy of love. Being queer, Palestinian, and a Muslim the only representation I saw of people like me in the media and in our dominant culture was always negative. I had to unlearn so many layers and aspects of the reality I had accepted as my own before I could love myself. 

I started to love myself when I focused very specifically on deconstructing the binaries and dichotomies that I had in my beliefs about me. When I stopped trying to answer which parts of me were Palestinian or American, which parts were Muslim, which parts were male, female, right, wrong, loveable, unloveable, etc. I started to accept that I could, indeed, just exist and that I didn’t have to prove my humanity to anyone. And that acceptance grew to admiration. I started to love existing in between. Both and neither. All at once; defying all preconceptions. 

For folks like me, loving yourself is an act of resistance.”

To learn more about Jamal, you can follow them @truegayicon on Instagram. 

To learn more about the Holland Project Self Love Series, you can follow @renoselfloveclub on Instagram.