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For a couple of years at Thanksgiving when I was a teenager, my family and the family we spent holidays with, all went around the room and said what we were thankful for. Being a pimply faced thirteen year old, naturally I resisted at first, but I went along with it because they threatened to take away my cranberry sauce (yes, I love it from the can #dontjudge). I wasn’t happy at home at the time—verbal barbs and abuse were thrown like grenades on the daily—and I thought I didn’t have much to be thankful for. I was sad, angry, and tired. But looking around the room, in that moment, I remember that I did have a roof over my head and food in my belly. And by verbalizing my thankfulness, it made all those problems seem slightly smaller—if only for a few moments.

I’m thinking we need to have mini-thanksgivings (batteries… and turkey not included)—a five minute “holiday” each day to check in with ourselves on what we’re thankful and grateful for.

Write it down, pray about it, make it your mantra, mutter it under your breath. But take the time. Remembering the good things in life, even if they are few in number at the moment, will help make the bad things seem a little less giant, and may even lead to you finding the space to eliminate one or more of the elements you deem negative in your life. 

People Who Disagree With You Aren’t as Dumb as You Think

The people who don’t share the same beliefs as you or who don’t understand you aren’t stupid. Yes, they may be lacking certain elements of education and the ability to think critically (I said “may” not “definitely”)—but they are doing what they perceive as fair, just like you.

Your finger pointing and shaming and condescending attitude will not bring the other person to your view point. But putting yourself in their shoes (empathy); even if you find that their shoes have holes, no laces, and are two sizes too small (maybe they feel the same way about their own shoes, too)—metaphorically speaking, of course; you have a greater chance of coming together on the one issue that you both care about. Find the common ground. 

Side note: I’ll admit that the argument I’m making is somewhat thrown out the window when the person across from you is trying to trample on another person’s human rights; and/or is a blatant racist, sexist, xenophobe, or engages in discriminatory acts. And as a straight, white guy it’s probably easier for me to say “find a way to work with that person anyway,” so I won’t even go there. 

We don’t have to hang out or invite to Thanksgiving everyone who you agree or disagree with. But we can treat people with civility, empathy, kindness, and understanding—even if we are the bigger person for doing so. 

Some of the best opportunities to learn come from those who don’t agree with us.  It can bring about self-reflection, sharpen empathy, and help shape new methods and methodologies to make change not only the way we want to see it but in a way that’s best for everyone. 

Haters Gonna Hate… But Don’t Let Them Define You

Tell your story. Speak up often. Don’t let others define you. Create the narrative you want to be known for: the sassy clerk; the empathetic, tattooed unicorn goddess; the crotchety codger with the heart of gold; the guy with bipolar who lives mentally well. 

If you don’t tell your story, someone else will beat you to it. You probably  won’t like what they say, and you never know if their fictitious version of your story will go viral. 

Perception vs. Reality

The story you tell yourself is often much different than the story being told in real time. Take a breath, ask questions of yourself and people around you who you trust to give constructive feedback, advice, or a space for you to think things through. 

It’s better to reach out for help, advice, or some coaching/mentoring then to have those invisible scripts play on repeat inside your head. Invisible scripts are rarely rooted in reality, and can be dangerous because they often lead to unrealistic expectations, good or bad. 

Harness those thoughts. We all have access to a dramaturg, a script doctor, and/or a writing partner. Best we take advantage of those resources on a regular basis.