Not just a select few – or those that seem really ‘together’. But everyone. Which gave me some serious pause for thought, having come from a working life where evidence to the contrary seemed to be presented to me on a moment by moment basis. The suggestion that we are all, on a deep, fundamental level, whole, was a game changer.
Even just sitting with that as a possibility altered the way I saw the world, myself and other people. And I started to consider how my world shifts if I consider myself to be ‘whole’ – and how the world could shift for people with more obvious struggles, if everyone simply knew that to be true about them.
Because if I’m fundamentally, at my essence, unalterably whole – suddenly my struggles and limitations look different. If, at my very core, I’m emitting a wholeness that is untouchable by life events and circumstances – that’s a deal breaker. Because if there’s a part of who I am that can’t be turned off – come what may – I’m suddenly on more solid ground than I ever thought imaginable.
Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) hearing this didn’t immediately make me an enlightened master who walked through life only seeing the wholeness in myself and all those I come into contact with. Because getting an idea like that to move from your head to your heart takes time, practice and continual revisiting.
And this week I was given a perfect, if slightly unlikely, opportunity to revisit this idea – in the form of a few days at Center Parcs during the school holidays. And more specifically, some serious hours spent in my swimwear with a million other holidaymakers in theirs. Typically, I don’t spend a huge amount of time in swimwear – living in the UK, swimwear is all about heavily chlorinated pools and damp changing facilities. Glamorous it’s not. And after a long winter hidden beneath clothes, it always feels slightly jarring the first time I’m required to expose my imperfect physical self in clingy, stretchy material. And because I feel slightly jarred – I find sharing space with others doing the same thing jarring as well.
My internal critic goes wild, judging myself harshly for not being more ‘put together’ in my swimwear choices. My comparison gremlin works overtime, like a mean and unforgiving celebrity-shaming magazine editor – looking for, and finding flaws in others, in a misguided attempt to make myself feel better. Which (funnily enough) doesn’t work – at all. It’s an ugly internal battle that has the potential to spoil any swimwear scenario for me.
In a merciful twist, this idea of ‘wholeness’ presented itself to me again at exactly the right moment – probably as a result of something I read. And I resolved to take this idea with me the next time I was clad in my swimwear with a ton of strangers in theirs (which because we were at Center Parcs was only ever a couple of hours away).
And I kid you not, it was miraculous.
As anyone who has ever been in any kind of busy swimming environment will know, it is, quite literally, like being in a big bowl of human soup – especially (for some reason) when the wave machine is on. And instead of looking at everyone through the lens of comparison, and whether or not they looked ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than I did – I reminded myself that the person I was looking at was, like me, whole. That, like me, they were, at their core, perfect. Exactly as they are. Whatever their physicality. Regardless of their apparent flaws or or their apparent beauty. Regardless of whether they were ‘put together’ in their swimwear, or falling out of it. Whether or not they appeared confident, or mortified, by walking about in a barely covered state.
And the consequence?
My self consciousness dissolved. My focus on my own physical imperfections ceased to matter. I stopped judging others, and I stopped judging myself. I relaxed. I played with my kids more. I threw myself down more slides. I laughed and had good time. Just because I chose to see myself, and the people around me from a different angle.
It’s a small shift, but it made a huge difference.
And my invitation to you is this: Next time you’re in a human soup scenario (swimming or otherwise) look at the ‘wholeness’ of the folks around you.
Notice what happens.
To you, and to them.
As ever, you’ve got nothing to lose (apart from an old way of seeing the world). And everything to gain.
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Did this resonate with you? Are you interested in applying the perspectives here to your own life? Work with me, and we can really get into it. I love talking about this stuff even more than I love writing about it (and that’s a lot).