How to be a good ancestor

Happy Sunday, beauties!

I hope today finds you taking some time to take good care of yourself.


This week, I've been wanting to talk to you about one of my favorite components of self-compassion practice:

Common Humanity.

The concept of Common Humanity, as self-compassion theorist Kristin Neff describes it, entails all this:

1.  All the emotions we feel - including the "negative" ones - are part of our humanness. There's nothing Wrong With Us when we feel frustration or despair or shame or anger. This is part of being human.

2. We are evolving creatures, moving away from our fighting/freezing/fleeing tendencies and toward more empowered ways of dealing with life's challenges.

3. We are all in this together. We're all making contributions. We co-create this world.


4. We ourselves are humans, too. When we take steps toward being more kind and loving of ourselves, we are being more kind and loving of humans as a whole.

That last one sticks a little, no?

We're taught - especially those of us socialized as women - that Our Needs and Everyone Else's Needs are at odds.

That saying No to other people's requests - so that we can honor ourselves, and our limits - means we're choosing Me over Them.

Common Humanity disagrees.

Common Humanity reminds us that we are humans, too. That as we learn to care for ourselves, to set and respect our boundaries, and to be courageous enough to Be Real, we're doing that for  e v e r y o n e.

When I say, "I've decided not to check work email between 7pm and 7am," it's not just for me. It's for everyone with whom I work.

When I say,

"Kiddos, I love you, and Halloween just isn't my holiday. You can carve pumpkins with your Halloween-loving auntie - I'm going to the gym."

I am both guaranteed to show up as a much better version of my Mom-self later in the day, and telling my girls that it is okay to opt out of activities one prefers not to engage.

You see

As I learn to forgive myself - rather than beat myself up - when what I want is at odds with what Everyone Else wants, I am contributing the energies of love, kindness, and generosity not just to myself, but to all of humanity.

And when I'm open and vulnerable about my limits - about how I'm still growing, what's challenging for me, and where I'm uncertain or scared - I'm being Real, not Weak. I'm being True to Our Humanness, and showing that this is okay.


It turns out

Loving and accepting my whole self is one of the most generous, humanity-serving things I can do.

* * *

Yesterday as I was cooking up dinner and listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Aminatou Sow shared a quotation that stopped me in my tracks.

Aminatou & Ann were talking about feeling LOW in this political moment.

About how it's hard to be motivated, to keep advocating for change, with all the waves of political disappointments and epically bad news coming every week.

They were being real.

And then their conversation led Aminatou to quote Marian Wright Edelman, lifelong civil rights Shero and advocate for children, who once said:

Be a good ancestor.
Stand for something bigger than yourself.
Add value to the Earth during your sojourn.

Their point: 

It helps to think of ourselves as contributors to the great human project.

To ask ourselves what we want for Everyone.

To build, choice by choice, the world we want for the generations of humans to come . . . even if it means going against the grain of the world we have.

This is what the collective evolution of common humanity looks like.


I believe that you Add the Most Value to the Earth when you Do What You Love.

I'm not sure what you'll contribute - that's up to you - 

A thoughtful podcast
Delicious recipes
Excellent lesson plans
Moving poems
Healing knee surgeries
Insightful horoscopes
A beautiful garden
Supportive calculus tutoring
Delightfully carved pumpkins
An inspiring yoga class
A listening ear

It might not make you money, or bring you fame,

(Though truthfully, doing what you really love does actually seem to attract both of those . . .)

But it will keep you Real and True,

Bring comfort and delight to someone else,

Set an inspiring example,

And make you a great ancestor.

Because when you honor Your One Wild & Precious Life,

You show everyone else how that's done.

Go get to it, unless of course you need a nap.

natalie millerComment