Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are
gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.
~Mr. Fred Rogers
One of my favorite people in the world is someone I never met. Well, in person that is. I did meet with him on a daily basis as a child on our family’s black and white television. He welcomed me into his neighborhood and home, introduced me to his friends and neighbors, and told me, every day, that I was special and worthy of love. I have great parents who also told me the same things, but there was something about hearing it from my gentle, welcoming friend, Mr. Rogers, that solidified the sense in me that I could be loved, just as I am. Whether I realized it or not at the time, he contributed to establishing and growing that foundational cornerstone in me. Even today, his voice and words strengthen that centering sense of ultimate truth in me – that I am loved as I am – and soften my heart to move ever closer to receive myself, and others – as they are. Hear me when I say that this core sense of my “truest self” – the part of me that is free and accepting of myself – gets bumped into every day. I wrestle with myself. I wrestle with others. Yet, ultimately, there’s movement there. A recognition that, if I need to be and am loved as I am, I need to meet and be open to people just where they are as well.
Fred Rogers is often written off by many as “simple” or “soft” as he talked slowly, focused on feelings, and exuded a gentle spirit. I would offer, however, that writing him off is actually a person’s discomfort with their own sense of vulnerability when Mr. Rogers so clearly sees, and names some of our most basic individual and collective needs: To be heard. To be accepted. To belong. Simple, yet complicated.
If we can name it, we can talk about it. Or as Fred Rogers said,
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”
Mr. Rogers taught how taking time and space for the “little feelings” helps to attend to and moderate the “big feelings”. This begins, first and foremost, with recognizing your feelings, big and small and everything in between:
- Expand your feelings vocabulary beyond mad, sad, angry, frustrated, and happy. Try on content, grateful, neutral, in grief, lonely, silly, playful, resentful, hurt and so on.
- Take a moment or two and name what you are feeling. Learn to name them in times that are calm, chaotic, amped up, or peaceful.
- See each feeling as having the same value and purpose. They are informing you of something important about yourself, about your “truth”. They are an important embodiment of something more.
As a person who operates from my heart center, it is challenging for me to say this, but feelings are not facts. They are incredibly important and valuable information about something that needs and seeks more clarification. They need attention and validation, from yourself, and often, from others. And then they need clarity – where are they coming from? Why am I feeling this way?
I have learned through the years that to get to our own deepest truth, it helps to practice within ourselves at least Five Whys. For example, let’s say that I am irritable (a potential precursor to anger). I ask myself, Why am I feeling this way? Because I’m doing the dishes again. Why is that bothering me? Because I’m always stuck doing everyone’s dishes. Why is that? Because no one listens to me when I ask them to take care of their own dishes. Why do I often get stuck with that? Because I don’t want to wait for them to get it done in their own time, and I feel taken advantage of. Why don’t you set up a mutually agreed up time of day that everyone gets their dishes done by? And with that, we have a quick house meeting, I share my process, I listen to others, and we decide on a time. In the best-case scenario, this happens prior to a big blow up. But if you don’t catch yourself in time, there is always room for apologies and conversation. Grace – practice – and practicing grace.
And we are back to where we started…yes, I can be loved, in this moment, just as I am. When I act upon my “smaller” feelings and when I act upon my “bigger” ones. As I practice that with myself, I am practicing how I can do that better with others as well. You can learn that, “When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” Thank you, Mr. Rogers.
On a side note, I strongly encourage you to listen to the Podcast, Finding Fred from iHeartRadio and Fatherly. You can find it anywhere you get your podcasts. It’s a 10-episode series hosted by bestselling author and culture critic Carvell Wallace about the life, thinking and work of Fred Rogers, asking what the host of a decades-old children’s show can tell us about how to get by in today’s chaotic world. Here are a couple of links.