The previous superintendent of schools in the district that I work had a hobby of making kaleidoscopes. He had some mad woodworking skills and I’m not even sure how he brought all those little pieces of colored glass (or plastic?) together between plates and mirrors – not to mention the moving parts – mind.blown. Obviously, such handiwork is not my cup of tea, but using a kaleidoscope to illustrate my thoughts in this post – that’s what I bring to the table.
Think about yourself as a wee little one. Okay, you weren’t really paying attention to yourself back then, but you were paying attention to EVERYTHING ELSE. The world was your science lab and you were the professor of the environment holding experiments during meal time and in the aisle at the grocery store. You were collecting evidence of what power you had and how the world responded to your influence on it.
What else was happening during this time? People, everyone, all the things, were making noise and speaking a language that you also were trying to figure out. You started putting words together because you were hearing the sounds and thought, “me too! I want to do that too!” You soon learned that when you blended sounds together into words, you could communicate even better than when you screamed and threw your head back in the aisle at the grocery store. You were always listening and playing with the words in your mouth. Ah, that mouth, such a lovely place of fascination and gratification. If you ever watch a baby or toddler, you’ll see them put everything to their mouth. It is the people around them that tell them to stop. I recall doing this with my own children repeatedly and watching, as they learned to expect me to say no, quickly throw it down or turn and try as they might to run-waddle away. “It is a choking hazard”, we’d say.
Finding your own voice
Let’s now think about where that internal voice of ours came from. The one that holds beliefs about our self and our abilities. The formation of that voice was influenced by those that were speaking to us when we were learning language. We were observing and listening with a mightiness that is never matched at any other point in our life. It makes sense when you think about us as social beings that need other beings to survive. We pick up on this very early on and realize our survival depends on us figuring this whole language thing out. Isn’t it wonderful that our brains are wired for survival? All those basic rhythms of life are there right away and as we explore and learn, our brains grow in ways that match how we are interacting with our environment. It’s quite fascinating!
Alright so if our internal dialogue is molded by our early experiences and the individuals that are modeling behavior and language for us – what does that story say to us now?
The evolution of your story
I think that story is like a kaleidoscope. The little colored pieces of material are the beliefs that we have about ourselves formed by what people said, or didn’t say, to us. More than that though, those colors are the colors that they are because of the emotion that is attached to that belief. For example, for as long as I can remember, my dad would challenge me to race him. We could be in the backyard, shopping, hiking, or planting a tree, and he’d up and say, “race ya!” and I took to the challenge every time. You know why? Because one of those first times he ever mentioned running, he said I was good at it. “You’re a natural runner”. He may have only said this once or twice, but it downloaded in my heart as something special that my dad saw in me. Every time we raced, I won. This winning felt good and validated those claims that I was a good runner. Running became a life long habit of mine and that brightly colored piece of my kaleidoscope has moved around and around, always showing up somewhere time and time again.
What do you see?
Other pieces of my kaleidoscope are darker colors that hold negative experiences, also formed at some point because of the evidence that life served up. Sometimes it only takes one comment and then one follow up occurrence to provide us all the validation we need to own it as a truth. We are multifaceted human beings with unique gifts that we may use and show in different ways throughout our lives. Just like a kaleidoscope. As you think of yourself as a kaleidoscope, amongst your gifts, what are those trapped experiences that reflect slightly differently as you turn the cell of time, yet remain, shaping ever newer versions of you?