Being the Other (March 2019)

When was the last time you felt really seen?

Maybe a colleague complimented your work, a stranger smiled at you, or a friend listened (and really paid attention).

Whatever the situation, it probably felt great to be acknowledged, recognized, supported, and valued.

Since today is International Women’s Day – a day that “sees” women and recognizes our contributions – it’s time to reflect. 

***

For many of us, not being seen can make us feel unimportant and excluded. It makes us feel like the “other”. This is true for gender, as well as race, religion, geography, wealth, size, and so many other differentiators.

I’ve felt like an “other” many times. 

  • In a board meeting years ago, the Chairman could remember the names of all the men in the room, but interchanged the names of me and the only other woman as though we were the same. 
  • As one of the few moms in our suburban neighborhood who worked full time, I felt constantly judged and excluded by the moms who had time to connect with each other during the day.
  • As a kid, my friend’s mom noted that I might not be allowed to go to their club because I was Jewish.


Most of us have felt judged as being lesser-than at some point in our lives. Sometimes on a daily basis. Judged by differences and excluded by preconceived assumptions.

So can I make a suggestion? Let’s use these international days of recognition as cues to actually see people who might be different than we are. 

This isn’t so much about finding similarities but rather taking time tothink about what makes us the same, accept the ways we’re different, and valueboth what we’re born into and the choices we make.

Josephine Baker said, “Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul, when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all [men] are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”

I’m sure in this day and age she would have been all about sisterhood too. 

***

On this International Women’s Day, here’s what you can do to make someone who may be different than you be seen by you:

  • Instead of looking at your phone as you walk down the street,pick up your head and find a few people to look in the eye, greet them, and smile. Maybe even throw them a compliment or wish them a nice day.
  • Think of someone in your life who is different than you. List their unique traits, taking time to really see them rather than assume. Send them a note that says, “You know what I love about you?” and share those traits that make them unique. 
  • If you want to take a bigger step, find someone with whom you have had real differences. Start down the path toward connection by seeing them and accepting their right to be different even if you disagree.

Even if it’s small, doing any one of these things can start a positive cascade.

Take another moment to really see someone today, tomorrow…and the day after. 

To amplify your actions:

Share it with me: I’m building a collection of these small actions that turn out to have real value and meaning for others. I hope you share how your differences with someone made you connect in a new way by replying to this email.


Share it small: if you want more of an intimate connection, connect directly with that stranger on the street, friend, family member, or colleague.


Share it big: tell the world on social media a quote someone said that made you realize how your differences changed your perspective with #OneSmallThing.