I have a number of ‘network friends’ – people I know, online & by video & phone, whom I’ve not yet met in the flesh. People who for one reason or another, reached out to me, or I reached out to them, knowing by our online presence & by our shared connections to others that we had something to learn together.
In this growing field of ‘Network Weaving’, it’s easy to connect quickly & begin to share work, ideas, resources. To bond in a real way, with people we’d normally consider strangers.
One of the women I’ve connected to in this way just shared something with me that she’s been working on. A beautiful contribution to our field that she’s been toiling away on so long she’s lost track, a little bit, of the value & beauty in it. As I affirmed & appreciated her efforts via email, she reflected me back to myself in a way I aspire to, but, honestly, I DO NOT know what causes her to see me in that way. She sees the me I’d like to be, but don’t identify as self.
As I began to write a reply email, saying that I’m honored by how she sees me, even tho I cannot see myself the way she does, this struck me:
When we connect & share & trust & honor, we begin to see the strengths, beauty, & potential in one another that we can’t entirely see in ourselves. And when we voice those things we see in one another, we help bring them into being even more.
Her words made me feel SEEN, recognized. Which inspires and en-courages me to be more of what she saw, even if I’m not entirely sure what allowed her to see it.
No doubt this seems elementary to good parents & teachers (I mean, as a parent, that power to bring out the best in my son by simply reflecting him back to himself was awe-inspiring) – but there was a new epiphany in it, for me, today.
So – here’s the part that was striking in the moment – what we see in each other, and call out in one another – becomes the very source of transformation. A greater belief in our gifts increases our ability, willingness & desire to give of them. Seeing one another’s gifts brings about more of those gifts. Feeling valued and recognized also increases our willingness to collaborate, our openness to others, our ability to journey together into the unknown.
System change & saving the world are hard work – that many people want to be part of. But over and over, we hear how people are just below their breaking points, stretched to their limits, overwhelmed with how much effort it takes just to maintain. They can’t take on even one more small commitment. But when the efforts that align with our passions or express our deepest selves are met with affirmation & encouragement, what we do becomes a little less effortful, we regain energy faster, we contribute again sooner and more. Recognizing & affirming each other, in a change network, can be one of those small shifts that bring about huge changes.
As a traumatized hyper-vigilant welfare brat, I’ve usually been highly suspicious of compliments or kind words, and have spent much of my life pushing them away.
But lately I’ve been learning, in very tangible ways, how our piling on sincere appreciation & authentic recognition of one another not only heals & encourages at the individual level, it fuels collective transformational ripple effects.