I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s “Rising Strong” and recently finished the chapter about sewer rats and scofflaws. It speaks to how our self-righteousness and judgment of others and ourselves clouds our vision and creates a life where scavenging to be “right” or “better than” leads to suffering. I immediately had a memory come rushing back. About 7 years ago I had a friend post her ideas on co-sleeping with her young child on Facebook.
Expectedly, it was met with a number of various opinions posted in the comments. I, being a self-appointed harbinger of “truth”, promptly took it upon myself to put those people who did not co-sleep with their children “on blast”- as the kids say. Now, keep in mind, I was unmarried and without child.
Remembering this, I can feel a wave of embarrassment, shame and anxiety wash over me like an avalanche of manure. My ignorance and self-righteousness were vomited out into the digital world and onto good people who simply had a different opinion. Some of those people were once, or still are, my friends. I’ve been reflecting on it ever since.
Here is what I think I am learning:
1. I am deeply sorry.
I did not know what I was talking about all those years ago and I am deeply sorry for how my self-righteous, judgmental and ignorant behavior affected those on that thread. I made that mess publicly and I feel responsible for cleaning it up publicly. I want to ask for your forgiveness and make things right if possible. Will you forgive me?
2. I had a mental model of parenting I didn’t know I had.
I was functioning from a mental model of parenting. A mental model is a deeply held belief about how the world works that dictates how someone engages with themselves and the world around them. I held this mental modeling of parenting BEFORE I EVEN HAD A KID OR A PARTNER.
Now, to be clear, I did not know I had a mental model of what parenting “should” look like, but you can bet the farm I was functioning from one. That mental model only allowed for one acceptable way to parent (co-sleeping, in this case) and, if you didn’t parent that way, you were bad/wrong/insert self-righteous judgment here. I did not hold that mental model consciously nor did I wake up that morning thinking I would act like a jerk with people who disagreed with me. It was buried deep within me, completely outside my awareness, and unchecked.
3. My capacity to see my self and take responsibility is growing
I have a growing capacity to see my ignorance, take responsibility for the impact it may have on others and get clear about the fact that I am functioning from mental models. In this case, as I sat in the discomfort and tension of everything, I had the emotional space to sense something else welling up in me. I had a deeper awareness of my internal reality (what I was thinking and feeling) regarding my life circumstances that had come out sideways at my friends on Facebook.
I had just moved back to Houston after a move to Colorado and a failed relationship. I was tired, scared, lonely and hurt. I was tired of taking risks, trying new things, and failing. I was scared about not having clarity around a purpose in life and I felt a deep sense of loneliness about being 30 years old and single. I did not have so much of what others my age seemed to have that I was “supposed” to have (another mental model for another time.). I was desperately scavenging for “right-ness” or to be “better than,” to make myself feel ok.
My hope is that those on the Facebook thread from so many years ago will forgive me and that we can come to some form of reconciliation. I am learning to own the places where I get self-righteous and judgmental of others and myself. Usually, that’s the places where there are differences of opinion and I think I can make myself feel better by showing how others are wrong (and thus how I am right).
I hope I can continue to see that we are all always functioning out of mental models that shape how we see the world. Some are conscious, most are not. I plan to continue to do the work of surfacing and rethinking my mental models. I want to keep the models that contribute to making me and the world more whole, and I want to let go of those that don’t. I also hope I can respect and validate those who see things differently than I do without having to scavenge for righteousness.
I’d love to hear what you think. Even, and especially, if you see it differently.