Spoiler Alert, I people watch. Partly because I don’t like to engage in idle chatter with near strangers to pass the time and partly because I’m an over serious fiction writer determined to make the most complex characters I can muster. Self-awareness has been a trait I’ve been paying attention to quite a bit lately. In the characters in my current works that are in progress as well as in myself. Self-awareness is one those big ticket items.
Without electricity, we can’t power our many devices, and without a healthy dose of self-awareness we can’t better ourselves or have a healthy, positive impact on our surroundings. Just like every sentence or fictional scene, the small details add up to something much larger. Small passing actions make all the difference. A stone of any size causes ripples.
Before I climb on my high horse and get into everything others do wrong, let me be the first to say it: I’m not perfect.
I hold no misconception that I’m anything close. I yell. I drink from the orange juice container. I rarely brush my hair. All the curse words my kids know they learned from me. I work too much. Instead of taking the garbage out I push it down further in the can. More times than not when it’s 6 o’clock, I open a beer.
I realize no one is perfect. I don’t expect anyone to be. The hope of achieving perfection went the way of believing in the tooth fairy. That being said, having self-awareness and consciously raising humans to be kind, respectful, self-aware shouldn’t be overlooked. I fear that it often is. If I’m being frank, I judge parents who don’t teach their kids respect and kindness.
I see it every day. It concerns me to point where I obsess about it. I think it’s all too easy to get stuck in our own echo chambers. I know because it happens to me.
Busy schedules and instant gratifying gadgets in our pockets and around our wrists foster some unhealthy habits.
When my kids first started school, I found the highschool-like dynamics among grown adults jarring. Then I remembered, there is no such thing as the cool group. It doesn’t exist. There is an illusion that it does, based on society’s exceptions and assumptions but in truth, the concept of a group of being cooler than another is a myth. It’s all perception. We are all imperfect beings with different interests, talents, and faults. We all cry and laugh and love.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around adults that disrespect children and haplessly have a negative impact on the others around them. With two in elementary school and various after school activities, I see it more than I should. Parents who talk loudly, interrupting a martial arts class on a weekly basis without any thought of how they make it impossible for other parents to hear or what they are demonstrating to their own children with their actions. This is where a little self-awareness comes in handy.
I don’t think these parents see their actions as showing their kids they aren’t interested in what they are doing. Just like I don’t think mothers realize the damage they do when they justify another girl’s actions to their daughters by telling them it’s just because they’re jealous of how pretty they are. The contribution to hateful culture is as simple as an adult saying things like “He screams like a girl” or “All girls should wear dresses for picture day.” Part of the reason I began to look inside myself for why these things were bothering me so much.
Small actions go a long way but are so often overlooked. We fear what we don’t understand, and we judge what we can’t be.
I find myself searching for a kindness that isn’t so easily found. Maybe I can’t ignore when parents make fun of kids or heckle at sporting events because I remember all too clearly what it’s like to be bullied by an adult. In a lot of cases, I believe these careless behaviors can be attributed to a lack of self-awareness. I’m no master. I am always juggling a healthy balance between work and home life. I’m not very good at it. I have a tendency to overwork. How is that for self-awareness?
All of these theories and ideas are things I’ve come to recently after some soul-searching I’ve been doing of my own. I was getting so stressed by others actions that it was affecting my perspective way too much. Like I said it’s important to me that my actions demonstrate what I believe. I don’t want my kids to see me continually frustrated by my surroundings. What kind of example is that? But things, like being kind and respecting others for what they are, is hard for me to look past.
Maybe I’m just oversensitive or have a case of over self-importance, but it gets to me when people are cruel. I have trouble understanding it. I wonder, is this just being human? Are we just predators at the top of food chain fighting each other for our spots?
Becoming a parent has changed my outlook tremendously and continues to do so. Other people’s actions get under my skin a lot more now that I’m a mother. Things like speeding through a neighborhood street, and gossip never triggered me the way it does now.
I think a reminder to stop and tell ourselves,
“This is different, and I don’t understand, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
What we do matters.
Our actions teach our children more than our words or the stuff we buy them. A new dollhouse doesn’t teach acceptance. Doing your child’s school project doesn’t teach them responsibility. In the age where so much is instant and images of contrived presences are displayed in neatly designed boxes on our phones, concepts like respect and kindness aren’t as demonstrated or taught as they once were.
The information age we live in is incredible. The communities we can build, the connection we can’t make, our careers options, the way we learn and teach are possible now in a way that wasn’t before.
With everything, there are positives, and there are negatives.
I wonder if it is easier to look at our phones then watch our children. Are we teaching them that the small actions aren’t the ones that matter most? I’m not sure, but it’s something I think about.
In a time where a presidential candidate can run his campaign by posting hateful words on Twitter, we can all take a little more time and tune into those small, passing moments.