Who are you really?

Who are you really?

On July 16, my daughter Colleen posted this image on her Facebook page with the comment: "Cheers to my Grandma, who would've been 85 today. Celebrating with her favorites: wine and a donut!"

Lots of likes on that one. It's hard for friends and family to see a donut without thinking of Ruth.

My grandmother used to tell the story of a time a few months into Mom's first marriage when she had become very unhappy and didn't know what to do. One day when Grandma went to see her, she found her "little Ruthie" sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in one hand, a donut in the other, and a big smile on her face. She had just decided to get a divorce.

My mom's love of donuts never changed. My younger sister remembers Mom's response to her when she faced a similar decision: "Let's go get a donut!" In that moment and many more that had nothing to do with divorce, my mom passed on her love of small indulgences to me and my siblings. There's a little piece of Ruth in us all.

So why share our family stories in a personal growth post? To point out how important what we like and what we want is in our lives. Our preferences are more than just things that make us happy. We are happy when we get to claim them because:

What we like and what we want are who we really are.

Our likes and wants are core elements of our identity. While we are all the same in a lot of ways, what makes us unique is our particular set of likes and wants, and by contrast our "don't likes" and "don't wants." That makes the expression of our preferences our self-expression! No wonder we feel happy when what we like is validated and sad or unappreciated when it is not. Validation creates an instant heart connection.

This basic feature of our identity is the focus of our Language of Listening® for YOU class: The Art of No Compromise included in our Coaches Training. In a discussion about why we often don't claim our preferences, one participant shared something she had kept to herself for years. All she said was, "I hate chocolate chips in cookies," and person after person nearly rose out of their chairs trying to change her mind! It was as though her lack of agreement threatened their very existence.

There they were, demonstrating our point - when you think you need agreement or permission from others in order to say what you like, you stop. When you stop, something is missing in the world - you.

Take donuts for example. If while reading this you've had thoughts like, "Doesn't she know how bad donuts are for you? Should I say something?", go ahead. You might have been dying to tell someone what you don't like about them for a long time! And if you want to share other things you like or don't like in the context of a family blog, have at it! The more of you that gets expressed the better.

Like my mom's simple tastes, yours make the world a more interesting place!


Related posts:

Redefining Judgment

Acceptance Is Not Agreement

How to Help a Perfectionist Child (validation is not agreement)


  1. Betsy |

    I noticed that I often conflate “agreement” with “understanding.” As far as I can tell, it stems from the belief that I am SO RIGHT that if you truly listen and understand my point, your only option is to agree with me. Figuring that out has made debating ideas and even personal arguments much less frustrating, because now I can catch myself.

    Another thing I noticed about myself in college is that I enjoy things by sharing them with others. This can often be wonderful and connective, but it also means that if I am alone and witness something beautiful, it’s hard to feel like I fully enjoyed it. I feel compelled to share it somehow, like to take a photo so I can share it later. That’s probably why I jumped on board with Twitter. Now I can share with the entire internet!

  2. Betsy,

    I’ve so loved watching your personal growth journey unfold and hearing your thoughts. Thanks for the comment! You do love sharing with others and always have. I’ll be curious to see what you do about your new interest in fully enjoying things on your own, too.

    <3 Mom

  3. Julia Kurskaya |

    Thank you for another great post, Sandy! Betsy’s comment about “agreement” and “understanding” made me realise that although I have these two apart, it’s not that obvious for most of parents around me. When it comes to parenting, most of the parents can only understand what they agree with. I can understand my daughter when she thinks dogs are scary, but I don’t have to agree with her, I’m not afraid of dogs. But when I hear so often on the playground “don’t be afraid”, “don’t cry” it seems to me that parents don’t understand because “understanding”=”agreement” to them. Is there a post about it? I’d love to know what you think about it!

    We sometimes have ice-cream for dinner. None knows so please don’t tell anyone! 😉

  4. Betsy came by the “understanding=agreement” collapse honestly. I remember my breakthrough in that back in the 90’s when I realized if someone didn’t agree with me, I didn’t even like them! That definitely gets in the way of creating relationships.

    “Understanding=agreement” occurs when you HAVE TO be right as Betsy mentioned. When being “right” is believed to be a survival skill (as it is for perfectionists), you can’t afford to be wrong or even challenged.

    I don’t think that we’ve done a separate blog post on this yet, and will make a note because SAY WHAT YOU SEE is all about understanding, not agreement, as you explained with your dog example. I hadn’t thought about parents’ reassurances in those terms, but it certainly fits! Useful insight!

    Meanwhile, between all of our comments, we’ve already made a good start on the topic!

    Here is another post Betsy wrote on a different concept collapse that you may enjoy. It’s also related to perfectionism: https://languageoflistening.com/blog/redefining-judgement/

    PS We’ll keep the ice-cream our little secret. Love those special occasion CAN DOs!

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