Since launching the Positive People Army, I’ve been amazed by the huge outpouring of support I’ve received.
Many people have reached out to share the most intimate details of their lives, good and bad.
I’ve always felt that people had an ease and openness around me, but what’s happening now is definitely out of the ordinary.
When I mentioned this increase in messages to my husband, Mike, he smiled and said that it was because I was now relatable.
“Relatable?? What do you mean by that?? I have always been relatable.”
“Heidi, you are very accomplished,” he said. “Anything and everything you have ever set your mind to, you have done. Not to mention you’re creative, opinionated, attractive and very positive. For some people you could be very intimidating. Since launching your website you’ve shared and admitted that you experience vulnerability, fear and sadness. You’re now relatable to people.”
I was complemented, but they were hard words to hear. Making connections with people has always been one of the most important aspects of my life. I just couldn’t imagine myself being intimidating or unapproachable. It was tough to digest.
Did people honestly think I was intimidating? Did they really think I hadn’t experienced heartache or failure?
For days I thought about his words. You are now relatable.
One question kept occurring to me, over and over: Why do we have to admit our anxieties and doubts to be relatable?
Perception is a funny thing. You never really know who someone is until you’ve walked in their shoes. Yet without ever doing so, we quickly judge each other.
This made me think of when my son Michael was in grade three. We moved to another city, which meant a new school, new friends, new everything.
He couldn’t wait to meet his new classmates. When I dropped him off for his first day, he yanked off his seatbelt and leapt from the car, buzzing with excitement. He ran off into the school with fearless enthusiasm.
When I went to pick him up at the end of the day, I expected him to run towards me, beaming, bursting with stories of all the new friends he’d made.
That wasn’t the case.
With his shoulders slumped and his head hung low, he walked towards the car, looking defeated and miserable.
I asked him how his day was. He responded angrily, “It was the WORST day of my life!”
No parent ever wants to hear those words. Your imagination tends to wander to the worst case scenario.
Did your teacher do something? Did someone bully you? Did you get hurt?
“No. I hated what happened at recess.”
“We all went out for recess and the kids asked me to play tag and one kid told me Time Out was anything green on the playground.”
Michael told his new friends that making everything green the Time Out was stupid. There were too many things on the playground that were green, which made the game unfair. It was way too hard to tag anyone out.
He actually told them they needed to change the rules. He was a very self-assured kid.
But to his shock, his suggestions didn’t go over very well. A few of the boys told him they weren’t changing the rules, and that if he didn’t like them he didn’t have to play.
Michael didn’t like that answer at all. In fact, he spent the rest of recess sitting alone, watching them play without him.
To a kid in grade three, this truly is the worst day ever.
He finished telling the story, crossing his arms tightly and pushing out his bottom lip.
Though my heart was breaking for him, I also felt quite proud he’d been so frank with his new friends.
I reached out to him. He uncrossed his arms and let me hold his hand.
“Michael, you began in junior kindergarten at your last school, right?”
“Yes,” he mumbled.
“And since kindergarten, up until you left that school, did you always play tag the same way, with the same set of Time Out rules?”
“Of course!” he snapped.
“Well, Michael, if someone new came to your old school you wouldn’t want someone telling you how to play the game. This new school starts in junior kindergarten. These kids have probably been playing tag with the same rules since they started.”
He looked at me intently, and I could see the little wheels turning in his head.
“Ohhhhhhh,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t know the rules are wrong. They just don’t know any better. I get it!”
And with that he proclaimed that he would play with them tomorrow. Now that he had more perspective on the situation.
I chuckled at his answer.
Michael’s initial quick jugement had led him to dismiss his new friends without even trying to understand them.
I remind myself of this story all the time. It doesn’t matter how someone looks, or what they say, or if they’re successful or not. I always take a moment to put myself in their shoes, to ponder what they’ve been through to get to that point.
Everyone feels pain, vulnerability and fear. Just because someone seems strong or like they have everything together, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting their own battles. Like anyone, they need compassion and empathy.
I’m glad that people perceive me as a more relatable person now. I hope my story will get others to second guess their snap judgments and perceptions of people.
The more we open up and share, the more we can come together, making this world a little easier to navigate.
At the end of the day, we’re all playing on the same playground, after all.
Written by Heidi (Founder of the Positive People Army)
If you liked this story you will love “Free Pass”
Was your perception of someone ever totally wrong? How did you find out, and what did you learn from it? Let the Army know!
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