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One Way to Change the World

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"You see that guy over there?" I asked one of my daughter's teachers, who's fast becoming a family friend. "The one with the blonde hair?" She did. "He looks like Meg Ryan," I told her.

Her eyes got wide. Then she cracked up and told me she agreed.

I leaned back and smiled. "It's a gift," I said.

I was teasing, but not really. I mean, it is sort of a gift -- but in a totally useless kind of way. I felt safe with this woman, so I didn't worry about being silly and even a little okay with myself. It was an experiment.

Why, I wonder, does admitting you're okay at something often feel wrong?

If you've been reading this blog very long, you might remember the turning point in my life was a workshop given by Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? The task was to decide which of our skills we'd most love to use, and where we'd most love to use them.

Dick called those skills gifts. I'd never really thought of myself as a person with gifts. I mean, who does? But there we were, on what felt like a Christmas morning that lasted two whole weeks, unwrapping those gifts and comparing notes: "What do you think about this one? I'm going to love using this..."

A woman I used to know is fond of railing against anyone who talks about himself for more than a paragraph. If she senses a hint of being okay with himself, it's over. Once upon a time I was invited to give a presentation about writing my first book. I was specifically asked to share as much as I could about the experience -- to talk about... myself. When I found out this woman planned to attend, I wasn't so adept at compartmentalizing things my heart didn't sink. But she sat in the back, I was able to pretend she wasn't there, and the presentation went really well.

Have you ever admitted how wonderful things were unfolding when someone asks, "How are you?" Just try it. Say, "Great!" You can judge the quality of the people you hang out with by how many -- or how few -- ask you to elaborate.

If you aren't surrounded by people who are pulling for you, I think that's a shame. But I'm not trying to change the world on this point. Though I think in the privacy of our own homes -- among people who really care about us -- it would help to acknowledge that we, all of us, are indeed gifted.

It might make sharing a quick story or two about that easier in a job interview, for example. It might make us feel better about the ways in which we aren't gifted. It might feel like there's more of a point to getting up in the morning if we consider it our mission to share our gifts.

Be kind to yourself. That's how you change the world.

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