Happy feet and belonging
Last week was busy and eventful on more level than one and some comments about happiness had me reeling as well as reflecting. Then at the weekend I happened to come across the movie ‘Happy feet’ and then this morning, the insight of the reeling came together with the movie.The comment that had me enraged because I felt judged by someone who didn’t even care to understand the full story nor ever cared for more than outer perceptions was aroudn happyness. The individual had obviously observed me as a case study in 2 different countries and in 1 I was deemed unhappy and in another happy, based on body language. As a person it made me want to scream at this individual, yet I didn’t, but the original comment was a judgement of their perception. If they had been an expert on body language, cultural adaptation and psychology, I would probably have reacted differently inside.
In my view this is overlooking the fact that in one culture were I was ‘unhappy’ I could only follow 20% of everything around and in the other 90% thanks to language and cultural understanding. Do I prefer to function at 100% as opposed to 20%, yes for sure, does that mean I was unhappy at 20%… not necessarily it means I was struggling to find my way and learning sometimes with overwhelm and sometimes with ease. But that part of the story was irrelevant to the other person and that to me was sad, to be judged on the 20% when the other 80% was trying to grapple with all things new. In more ways than one it is more like a reflection of the depth of people skills.
I don’t appreciate and never have people playing down the struggles as well as the achievements of others, because you really don’t know what it is like until you have experienced their life. As a coach I often was fascinated by the wealth of difference in people dealing with similar situations and I wish that all of us could learn to be more open and to stop judging other based on a tiny proportion of what you see.
What has that to do with happy feet?
Well for one I found the movie brilliantly fun, yet telling a rather familiar story of not belonging, happiness, sadness and experiences along the journey thanks to the inquisitive nature of the penguin. Call me an inquisitive penguin, if you will but I have often done things and followed paths which haven’t been the safest nor the easiest and often I felt as if I didn’t belong. More or less because I didn’t understand the culture, I had other ideas which I felt didn’t fit into the situation or I fundamentally had value clashes with things going on around me. I will only speak for myself, but my guess is that this isn’t all that unfamiliar or peculiar and maybe just part of the human condition of those trying to achieve more with their exploring nature.How did the famous scientists feel, did they belong? If I look at biographies of thought leaders, inventors, etc… this sense of being different seems to be the common thread. Does it mean they belong? In my view totatlly, if we hadn’t these people we would never see progress. Did that mean these people were unhappy? Who knows? Only they can decide that for themselves.
The moral of my little rant, really being that you want to be careful in judging others and actually listen to the real story of the human feelings behind the outer layer. Years of successful coaching have taught me that it’s rarely the outer layer that tells the true story, most of us have become great at acting in some way or another in order to belong and be safe in a group setting. And some of us are just more inquisitive and searching than others, whether that is for the next new invention or personal quest, and some of these journeys come with unexpected challenges some which we can handle gracefully others with grind us down.
Next time when you are about to make a declaration about someone else’s mental state or ‘happiness’ level, go deeper or better again find a mirror and look at what it is really saying about you. Aslo ask the question is what you see on the outside the real truth or is there more to it?
I hope and wish that an open mind and true caring would be more widespread and that maybe one day all those explorers can change their world in a small way for the better, just like the dancing ‘happy feet’ penguin did for his world, no matter how big or small the change, but one for the better.