You know the Girl, Wash Your Face, kick? The book that hit number one on the NYT bestseller’s list, from a mostly unknown author, Rachel Hollis?
I read it and loved it. Actually, I listened to it and loved it, it was like having a personal coach kicking me in the behind every time I turned it on.
At the same time, I had that feeling of..Shoot! This is what I have wanted to say forever, and I just… didn’t. She put in the work and she put in the guts, and she said it.
My personal approach is more like, Girl, Get Informed. Girl, get out of your own head for a second and look at what’s happening in the world around you. Or far away from you. Girl, get interesting- get interesting by getting INTERESTED.
I don’t mean “get informed about politics” or “news.”
Sometimes when I start soapboxing about this, women misunderstand and think I’m meaning they need to get a job and make money. Or they need to start a business, or set out to become a social media star. Nope. No no nope.
I’m talking about THINKING. Looking. Seeking new and different hobbies, interests, people.
“But Kate, I have no TIME. My kids/job/church/family/health issues zap all my energy/time/focus and I’m super fulfilled. What are you talking about.”
I’ll cover key areas of life where you are ALREADY engaged, and show you how this practice will help you. In your marriage, your personal fulfillment, raising kids, and impacting your community for good.
Hopefully by the end, I will have shown you why this matters and why the world needs you, as you are, and can work within the limits of your current life.
(I wrote about this, where the spark came from, and with more emphasis on dating and marriage, in one of my very first essays here. “Are you an Interesting Person?”)
Let me ask you this: Is your marriage struggling? One thing to consider is how much novelty you’re bringing to the table. What have you learned about recently that’s new and different to share with your spouse? How many new people have you engaged with? How many books by new authors and new genres have you read?
Long term relationships need novelty. Not all the time, but frequently, and it can come in tiny tiny increments. Sometimes we really need to talk about something other than kids, jobs, and the neighborhood gossip.
Ok, so your relationship is gold, no problems there. How about you? Are you feeling fresh? Alive? Good in your own skin?
Knowledge is an empowering force. And empathy is a quick and effective way to get you out of your own head/problems/worries. Enter: READING!
Reading increases empathy because it’s a front-row look at another human’s experience. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, doesn’t matter. Regularly remembering that there are BILLIONS of ways to live a life is helpful for our naturally self-centered human minds.
Does your entire Instagram feed have a similar aesthetic? Similar language and topics? Similar ethnic background of its subjects? If you’re not on it much, then no big deal.
But if you’re consuming even an hour of this a day, branch out. Remember that the internet literally contains everything you can imagine, and a lot you can’t.
Try this: Pick a random subject you know nothing about, then google it. Or search Instagram for it. Then follow a few people. You may find you like something about it and become more interested, and therefore more interesting to those around you, and more fulfilled by virtue of connecting with the greater world outside of your immediate environment.
If you don’t like it, at least you learned something and you can then chat with a stranger you’re standing next to at the grocery store who happens to mention it. BAM. Instant, real-life, connection made from doing nothing more than what you already do- scroll scroll scroll.
If you’re not scrolling your life away, even better. What about TV? Are you watching a lot of it? Try switching out one show for a documentary on some super random topic. The more out of left field, the better. You may hate it and maybe it feels like homework for a bit. But guess what? Improvement takes work, and maybe it’s about time we all did a little more homework on making our insides a richer, more dynamic place to be.
For extra credit, go read some of the original sources the documentary was based on. This is a ready-made place to start research on something, and will help balance out the often sensational and one-sided stories told in the film.
These are the easiest parts I can share. The rest is more work, because the payoff is greater.
The next phase requires a form of pain. Exquisite pain, beautiful pain, brutal/beautiful pain (“brutiful, as Glennon Doyle calls it).
It requires learning about all kinds of uncomfortable things that are happening in the world. It requires doing more than reading about them. It requires changing minds, spending time, money, and hard-won good favor of neighbors and old friends.
You might disappoint people for a moment by scratching the surface of life. But if they can handle the status quo shakeup, the connection forged in its wake will enrich the relationship in a way “staying in your lane” never could.
It requires vulnerability. It isn’t easy to swallow what is going on out there, and I am weary of the excuse, “I just need to focus on my own home, keep my kids in a sheltered environment as long as possible, and not add more stress.”
Great news! These actions aren’t mutually exclusive & don’t involve exposing your children to the elements. We CAN prioritize our children and family life, and we CAN protect them.
AND, the life outside the home is the world they will enter, and Christ purposefully said, “love your neighbor” when He could have just said, “love your family” if that’s what He meant.
If you read a lot of CNN or Fox news, make it a point to read another perspective prior to making judgements.
Another trick is to read a personal experience (or several) from a person who has been through whatever news thing you are reading about. Get anecdotal. It won’t help you in your political arguments or research papers, but it will help you in your heart. Life is for changing the heart.
Yes, we are busy with jobs, dreams, family, health. But we all do things to relax and to play. And with a couple of small tweaks to our forms of relaxation and play, those very things could open your eyes once in a while.
It will lead to more connection with the whole of humanity, give the Spirit opportunities to guide your focus, and start you down a path of taking action.
Have your kids spent time around children who do not look like them? If that isn’t possible to access in person, do they watch shows or read books highlighting other cultures and experiences? Do you model socially responsible language around them? Avoiding slurs, stereotypes, or sweeping judgements about a group of people? Do you speak in a way that helps them see both sides, avoiding an all-or-nothing mindset?
If you are LDS, do you talk openly about the fact that 99% of the world lives in a different way than we do, but that many of them are happy people from whom we can learn lovely, helpful truths?
The scriptures talk about we can’t know a master we haven’t served. I believe the same applies to interactions with people. We focus so much on raising our kids properly, but do we give them plenty of opportunities to serve, get to know, befriend, learn from, people from a variety of circumstances?
A child may know in his/her mind that they are supposed to be kind to everyone they meet. But do they know what it looks like to engage with someone very different from them? Have they seen their parents regularly interact with those of different socioeconomic classes, races, beliefs, etc.? Have they seen us navigating disagreements in productive ways, being loving while seeking to persuade, and listening intently with a desire to learn?
Science has proven that the human mind is more likely to fear something it’s not familiar with than something that looks just like it. If we keep our kids from being familiar with those on the fringes of society, how are they suddenly going to turn 18 and feel OK about getting close to a variety of humans?
The point is, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. This eye and heart opening can happen in the smallest of ways, here a little and there a little, as long as the commitment is there.
What I know for sure is that it’s not a lack of desire, caring, or love that keeps us from exploring beyond our home or immediate surroundings. It’s not callousness or self-centeredness. Most of us want to help, know, connect.
I’ve found that some of the truth of what many of our neighbors are experiencing is so hard, so ugly, so complicated, that we don’t avoid it because we want to “focus on our family,”
we avoid it because it feels so big, and we feel so helpless as a single human. It can feel kind of pointless to learn all about it and darken our mood if there’s nothing we can do about it to justify the pain.
But my friends, I’m telling you this with all the energy of my soul: You just knowing about it matters. You putting your thoughts and heart toward it is how a solution begins.
If you are a believer in the Holy Spirit, then you know that He will whisper to you all things what you should do if you simply listen then act.
But, He typically doesn’t whisper things to you that you haven’t thought about a single time. That you don’t even know about. We are required to study things out in our mind and not be directed in all things.
Just begin, just look, just listen, just TRY, and He will begin to show up with a custom-made plan for you to contribute. Line upon line.
The way most of my audience lives is in the top 10% of quality of life in our country and therefore the world. You guys, that’s 90% of everyone else out there living a different way than you do, struggling in a different way than you do, usually with less than you have. There’s so much to be done. And it starts with something as simple as getting interested.
At the moment, my life is pretty focused on my little kids and the challenges of raising a young family and building careers, just like many of yours.
So most of the time I am confined to books, discussing people’s personal experiences, and lots and lots of observing. But learning and then putting that knowledge to work is a high priority of mine, and whatever we prioritize, we make happen despite the hurdles.
What are you into? Please share, no matter how ordinary or quirky. I want to learn all the things.