Let’s try something. Grab a piece of paper and write your name on it in big letters. Around your name, list things that make you happy: an activity, a person, a place, whatever you’d like.
Next, ask someone – a co-worker, a family member, a stranger on the street, anyone – to suggest things that might upset you, for example, if someone criticized you or put you down or if your team lost because of something you did or did not do.
Some of the ideas mentioned may bother you and some may not. If one of them might have a negative impact and really upset you, tear off a sizable piece of the paper. If something might bother you a little, tear off a small piece. After five to 10 scenarios, ask the person to suggest things that might have a positive impact. If anything mentioned would make you feel better, tape a piece of torn paper back onto the sheet: a large piece for something important to you and a small piece if it matters, but not too much.
What you now have in your hand is a representation of yourself: once whole, then torn and then put back together. You may look a little different, maybe some of the pieces don’t fit exactly and maybe some are still missing.
As we go through life, bits of who we are inevitably get torn off along the way. When big pieces are ripped off and we’re left with a gaping hole in our souls, it can feel as though no tape in the world would be strong enough to put us back together. But we have to find a way. If we don’t, we will continue to live with anger, frustration, sadness, embarrassment or whatever it was that caused us to come undone.
Finding peace within you usually takes a fair amount of understanding and forgiveness. You have to recognize what’s important and choose your methods for mending accordingly. Although the scars may be hard to hide, they are the bonds that remind us of our achievements.
So how is it that some people seem to carry tape around and some never seem to have any? Well, the truth is that everyone has tape on them. You just have to know where to find it and how to use it properly.
I can’t tell you exactly where yours is, but I do know that you have to focus to find it. However you choose to focus is up to you. It helps to get into a zone, tune the world out and concentrate on one thing, whether it’s a physical exercise, something artistic or perhaps simple deep breathing. Whatever you do, you have to be mindful of that intention and allow whatever has wounded you and blurred the vision of what’s important to you to be obliterated and dismissed. Only then will you have a clear view of the big picture, and only then will you find your tape.
We are all walking around in a taped-up state, some more than others. It’s what gives us character and compassion. I’m glad for my tape, and I don’t mind if the seams show, because I know they give me strength.
If you are looking at your piece of paper, you’ve completed an exercise in self-esteem that was administered in a seventh-grade class a few weeks ago. When my daughter explained this to me, I asked if there were a take-home message.
“Yes,” she said. “It was to show that we might get our feelings hurt and torn, but we can be put back together, and even though we may not look the same, at least we’re still in one piece.”
It seems to me that all of us – seventh-graders and grownups alike – could benefit from this nifty little exercise.