I was in a job-related workshop once a couple of years ago. I don’t remember what we were supposed to be learning, but we were wrapping up the session by doing one of those exercises where you go around the table and everyone says one nice thing about each other person. Sometimes, I like that kind of activity, and I have been known to use similar techniques to promote bonding and group cohesion. But in this case, we really didn’t know the other people in the group well enough for the exercise to be effective. As a result, most of the things that people said to each other felt kind of contrived and trivial. “She seems to be a nice person.” Or, “He helped me wipe the snow off of my car once last year.” And I, because like the others, didn’t know the other people too well, said similarly insincere things, although I am sure I had a very sincere and earnest expression on my face as I said them.
But when it was my turn to hear something nice about me, one of the people said something that I still remember. I had heard all of the typical things, including one person who told me that she liked it when I wore my shiny red shoes. I like it when I wear my shiny red shoes, too, which I often did when I anticipated a particularly long or frustrating day. As I remember I was wearing them often during that time in my life. Sadly, I actually dropped one of them out of my bag when I was trekking through downtown Boston one day to catch a train. They were pretty shoes, and it made me happy when I wore them, but they were not all that well suited for long walks, on the beach or through the city.
It was not the red shoes I remember that day though. It was this. “I think that your family is very important to you.” Even though I did not know the person who said this too well, she was totally right. My family is very important to me. They are, in fact, the most important thing.
My family gives me unconditional love and support. They encourage me to pursue my dreams and grant me permission not to be perfect. They laugh with me, and sometimes, but only when I really deserve it, they laugh at me. They know all of my foibles, and believe me I have many, and they love me anyway. They trust me, and I trust them. With them, I can be my best self and my worst self. I can be strong and confident or small and vulnerable, and I know that they will still love me.
And that is a really good feeling. It is better than thinking about a party platter of sushi, better than a Hawaiian vacation, and better even than coming home after a long and frustrating day at work and kicking off my shiny red shoes.