If you haven’t seen it yet, take a minute to watch this recent video of a dad’s morning pep talk with his daughter.
I loved this video for a dozen reasons — the father-daughter bond, the positive self talk — but this one line stuck with me. Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself repeating it daily, quietly to myself.
I wasn’t raised with this mantra. I was encouraged to be the best me and to love my neighbor. I was taught to care deeply for my community and that I could rise above my status. I was shown some great values that made me much of who I am today.
But as an American, I was also taught I was a citizen of the “best” country in the world. As a white, cisgender, heterosexual child I was told I was “normal” and others were “different”. As a Christian, I was taught that I was a member of the only “right” religion, with a calling to lead others to see the way. As a woman, I was taught to respect the men in my life as my leaders and not to question authority. As a southerner, I was taught suspicion of the north and anyone who claimed education made them superior.
As it turns out, I was taught I was better than a lot of people — and that a lot of people were better than me. Those lessons run deep in my DNA. As an adult, I’ve made a conscious choice to disavow these beliefs from my childhood, but I’ve picked up a new batch that I struggle with.
Today, I say I live in New York City — calling it “the greatest city in the world” like that is an obvious fact. I assume those with more education or more money than me earned their status as my superior, while simultaneously questioning the intelligence of those active in the church. I romanticize those who work in manual labor jobs or live in rural communities, while secretly pitying them. I pride myself on my open mindedness, while judging those too “backwards” to see the world my way. I find myself thinking that fat people don’t exercise, that beautiful people are dumb, that the unemployed don’t try that hard to work — the list goes on. I make 100s of tiny snap judgments everyday, ranking myself a bit better or a bit worse than my neighbor.
If I sound like a bitch, I get it. I’m hating myself right now too. I’m not proud of this. I’ve never said these things out loud before, for reasons that reek of denial and fear. I know I should be better. I can be better.
Before you judge me — and I know you’re already judging me — ask yourself what is on your list. Who is better than you? Who are you better than? You may not be ready to say your list aloud, but I’m confident you have a list. We’re human and we come pre-packaged with flaws. I’m airing mine today in an attempt to hold myself accountable to being better tomorrow, and perhaps to light the way for others to come with me.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that it requires deeper understanding, deeper trust, deeper love from all of us. In the meantime, I’ll repeat my new mantra:
“I’m not better than anyone. Nobody’s better than me.”