Imitation is not flattery. Intentional recognition is.
Sure, imitation might be flattering in a passive, indirect way. But what’s more honorable is direct acknowledgment. Imitation in a non-reciprocal way, while pausing to show gratitude and recognition to someone, is a mutual exchange of energy; it offers them a moment to be seen — a basic human need and desire that we all crave, whether subconsciously or not.
So, how can we honor the special people in our lives that inspire us?
- People living so much in their truth that it helps you do the same
- People so committed to their own internal work, they often come to moving conclusions
- People practicing the risk and bravery it takes to follow through with their unique truth
- People being vulnerable enough to share their story, their epiphanies
These qualities are rare and wonderful and deserve to be witnessed and openly admired. In fact, I believe not offering recognition can even lead to harm. Because here’s the thing —it’s certainly easier to just adopt things we resonate with without offering admiration first because, let’s be frank, people often practice silence more than they practice vulnerability.
It takes courage to drop in with someone intimately and say, “Hey, this moved me and I thank you for that.”
Not to mention, awareness. We are often so steeped in our own personal lens that we are on autopilot. In autopilot it’s much harder to observe sensations as they arise, thus instead, we experience them. So we may feel inspired in our system, but don’t know what that sensation feels like; we can’t slow down and observe its origin, feel its origin. And if we can’t feel into and observe a sensation (versus simply experiencing it), how do we have the spaciousness to pause and witness its impact on us?
But what would happen if we did (at least try to) slow down enough to observe the sensations in our bodies? Not just with inspiration but with all things.
When am inspired, I feel grounded and safe. I feel expansion in my heart and chest, which typically results in a deepened breath. Maybe I even chills or goosebumps. My eyes typically widen or perhaps even soften. I feel safe and illuminated — I feel joy.
Let’s compare that to something like fear — when I am afraid, I feel small and contracted. I typically feel on edge and anxious, leading to shorter breaths and panicked alert eyes, maybe even nausea. There is almost always tension in my chest, neck, and shoulders. Instead of feeling safe and expanded, I feel like my systems are shutting down and inaccessible, focusing more acutely on what I’m experiencing (as a self-preserving coping mechanism).
You might resonate with much of these, because most of us have similar physical responses in our nervous system: often mimicking the common theme of expansion versus retraction, opening up versus shutting down. However, it does vary slightly from person to person.
The key to becoming familiar with your own unique sensory response is to first become aware that you even have them. Then, offer compassion and patience to yourself while you learn because just like anything else, it’s a practice. Take it day by day, moment by moment— pause a little longer between discomfort and joy and you will start to notice patterns that show up in your system.
When you’re lying next to your lover or pet, how does that feel? In your body, in your heart, in your mind?
If your boss is calling you in your free time, what sensations show up there?
When you are doing something you love?
When your parents are lecturing or misperceiving your choices?
Over time you will cultivate this keen awareness and become a pro at witnessing your bodily responses before you react to them, making space to choose how you want to show up in that moment. If you feel yourself getting uncomfortable and constricted in a tough conversation, you can request a time out to get grounded in your nervous system and reflect on what you need and, thus want to say, versus shutting down or exploding (two very common reactions to feeling overwhelmed).
Similarly, when you feel sensations of admiration, inspiration, and alignment, you can equally become familiar by observing the natural ease, awe, excitement, and expansion in your body, all stemming from the same core place of JOY!
Now you can pause in that wonderment and gratitude long enough to tell the person, place, or thing the positive impact it’s having on you (or at the very least you can take note of it to tell them later). I include ‘place or thing’ because the world around us is a constant inspiration, and every moment is an opportunity to operate from a place of gratitude, a place of unlimited awe. This simple acknowledgment, this simple offering… is a reciprocal exchange of energy. When someone inspired you, whether intentionally or not, they offer a piece of themselves. This gives you the intentional choice to do the same.
Why withholding this recognition is potentially harmful is simple: humans have an innate basic desire to be worthy; to be seen, heard and valued. Yet, this isn’t often spoken about, and those needs get lost and unmet for generations, creating an ancestral type of wound and patterning. In fact, humility (being humble to the degree of not needing recognition) is so often more prized over pride.
Let’s sit with that for a second…. Being proud of yourself is systemically considered distasteful, even conceited and unattractive.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I find humility to be a beautiful and sexy as fuck quality for sure. It’s such a delight to see people doing things out of love versus for love. But simultaneously I find valuing your worth and standing proudly in your truth, just as commendable and delicious. The two are not mutually exclusive.
I think it’s time we shatter the notion of disowning your feats, hell — I even think we should give ourselves permission to **humbly brag** from time to time. Honestly even typing that is hard for me because we’ve been so ingrained to stay small and quiet. Especially as women who have had their ideas silently plagiarized for millennia (among other things); often told to behave, not stir things up, and remain “in our place.”
Fuck all that. I’ve been working with the mantra “TAKE UP S P A C E” —try that one out on your alter and tell me how it goes.
Because for someone like me who grew up without a mom around and a dad always so consumed in his own work, I never received much praise growing up. Despite always being top of my class, the president of my high school, leader of my youth group, spearheading fundraisers, receiving grants and scholarships (you name it), no one ever told me, “Wow, you’re fucking killing it, sweetie! I’m so proud of you! You deserve a break. Let me validate and reward you for all your hard work.”
Instead, I became a chronic overachiever. I couldn’t do enough, and nearly reveled in the fact (subconsciously) that I didn’t need recognition or approval. Yet, many years later I realized that’s exactly what I was looking for all along. My overachieving was quite literally a manifestation of never being seen or validated in my feats. Needless to say, it was an unhealthy coping mechanism that resulted in burnout and attracting dynamics where I always felt unappreciated and even used. I was exhausted. My inner child was looking for permission to slow down. For words of recognition to fulfill those silent human needs to be seen, heard, and valued.
It’s taken me many years to integrate this realization; to slow down and perfect “the art of doing nothing.” To be satisfied, dare I say proud, of my achievements— however, big or small, perfect or imperfect.
And I’m still working on it y’all. That inner-child work is no joke.
And so, what I’m offering is: as we move collectively forward into a new paradigm, something as simple as offering someone acknowledgment can go so much farther than you think.
You know that sweet twinkle in someone’s eyes when you tell them how beautiful they are? How they soften from the inside out, even if just for a moment?
Recognizing someone’s feats or epiphanies and sharing how they impacted you is like telling someone their soul is beautiful, their mind is god damn gorgeous — and that it’s a pleasure to witness.
Every time you share fond words about someone and the way they have moved you (whether they are in the room or not), they are receiving that love. They are being lit up as fuller, more radiant versions of themselves.
Can you imagine the impact this would have on our loved ones, and the world, if we consciously chose to slow down and honor them as second nature?
And if we make this a personal daily practice, guess what? It might ripple out and inspire others do the same, perhaps eventually becoming a common practice, in which you’ll receive those heart-beams right on back to you.
Let’s do this until it becomes so natural we don’t think twice about it. Better yet, let’s do this until people feel so seen, heard and valued that they no longer even need the recognition at all.