Learning in Community - What Do You See That I Don’t See?
Personal growth isn’t just personal. It happens in community, with other people. The problem is that in Western society, we are all a bunch of lone rangers. We believe that we should be “independent” and able to handle everything all by ourselves, including working on our own personal growth.
I’m going to claim that this belief doesn’t work for us. Why? Because as hard as I try to work on myself all by myself, I simply am not the best observer of my own way of being. Often I am pretty blind to my own moods and emotions, the types of language I’m using, and the way I move through the world in my body. I need other people to tell me the things they see about me that I am blind to.
Most of us know a beautiful woman who thinks she’s unattractive and doesn’t even notice that she is turning heads. And we all think … “Why doesn’t she see what I see?” The rest of us see something about this woman that she doesn’t see about herself.
We are fantastic observers of other peoples’ moods. When I was a kid, I would wait for my dad to come home from work, and before he even walked in the front door, I could tell whether he was in a good mood or a bad mood from the way he slammed the trunk of the car in the driveway. But how good are we at observing our own moods? Maybe not quite as good.
In some way or another, we are all just like the beautiful woman who thinks she’s unattractive. There are things about me that everybody else sees, but I just can’t see it.
In the journey of personal growth, I hold it as my job to surround myself with a community of friends who have permission to tell me the things they see about me that I am blind to. This is how I learn about myself and my own way of being.
I am not the authority on who I am. My identity lives in the speaking and listening of other people, who are better observers of me than I am. So if I want to know how I’m showing up in the world, I don’t ask myself. I ask someone else.
If you want to start learning in community, ask yourself: Have you been trying to work on yourself all by yourself? Who could you reach out to for support so that you could build a learning community?