When I shot this featured photo in Indonesia during my solo trip around the world, I titled it, “My Dating Pool at 60,” because…well…yeah.
We are often told to find the good in everyone. While that may be difficult to do at times, I do believe it helps nurture my own wellness and peace of mind when I commit to finding something of value in everyone I meet. Everyone. Even the people who don’t work out as relationship/dating/sex/friend material. Even the folks I meet only once and never see or talk to ever again. Trying to find something of value in every person — something helpful I can use on my journey to an authentic life — is a goal that resonates with me. It fits with what I wrote about in What Traveling Solo Around the World Taught Me About Dating. It’s all about changing our perspective.
By rethinking what has “value” to me, I’ve discovered everyone brings something of value by helping me grow and learn in some way.
Here are five ways in which people we meet can bring something of value to us:
1. People with whom we have only brief encounters — through a dating app, while traveling, or by chance — give the opportunity to practice kindness, patience, listening, and the withholding of judgment. To be clear, the latter three definitely are NOT my default setting. While I think I am always kind and polite, I do tend to talk too much, lose patience easily with stupid people…oops, and can be judgmental. But I’m trying to work on that, and even brief meetings with strangers (e.g., one-and-done blind dates) give me the opportunity for valuable self-improvement practice.
2. If folks we interact with for a longer period of time begin to exhibit behavior that confuses and bewilders us, the value they bring is teaching us to be comfortable with — or at least better tolerate — the discomfort of not knowing. In my younger days, I couldn’t stand confusion and lack of clarity, and would invest much precious time trying to figure out why someone was behaving a certain way and what their actions communicated about their opinion of and feelings for me. But now, these confusing people teach me I don’t need to figure out someone else’s bewildering behavior. I can not know…and just move on.
3. Those who disappoint us (not through deliberate dishonesty or malice) can teach understanding for human complexity, imperfection, and changing moods/desires/needs. In learning to understand, and accept, the inherent frailties of “those human people” (my father’s favorite phrase), I get to practice the invaluable skill of not taking things personally if things don’t go the way I’d hoped.
4. And then there are the people who can cause long-lasting destruction and devastation. Those who inflict pain through deliberate conniving, cheating, lying, or even violence. The value these people bring is a life-saving lesson to always listen to our intuition. There are always warning signs. My intuition is always right, but I used to always question it. Not anymore.
5. Finally, there’s everyone who brings us joy and excitement and inspiration. People who show us love and affection, understanding and tolerance. Folks who brighten our days with uplifting appreciation and empowering support. These people give the valuable gift of helping us remember to practice gratitude. Yes, I know, be grateful for all of it — good and bad — because all of it helps us grow and learn. That’s true, but I am especially grateful for these cherished kindnesses that bring smiles and happiness to my days.
Finding value isn’t just about celebrating good outcomes. Some of the most valuable contributions from people can come from disappointing, confusing, or even painful experiences. Whenever we’re open to our own growth, learning, and change, we can find something of value in everyone.
All images are mine. Last photo shot in Colombia by Cruells Photo.
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