There is such a push these days to become “somebody”. A five-minute scroll through your Instagram feed can make some of you feel like you are accomplishing absolutely nothing in your life. I want to debunk lie today – and I am going to do so by using a story line from New Amsterdam (S2E2 The Big Picture) and photos by Viktor Hanacek of Icelandic waterfalls. Stay with me as I walk you through a series of five photos and talk about perspective and then tie it in a bow with an example from last’s night episode of New Amsterdam.
If you watch the show but haven’t seen this week’s episode – STOP READING THIS POST AND COME BACK AFTER YOU HAVE…
unless you don’t mind spoilers.
What do you see when you look at this image above? Chaos? Rough waters? Beautiful blue water? Jagged rocks? What do your eyes lock into and start identifying the pictures by?
In life, we do the same thing with others and ourselves. When we meet someone, when we run into people we know, when we look at ourselves we make a judgement by what we first see with our eyes. In last night’s New Amsterdam, Bijan had become so hyperfocused on his identity as a felon that he’d forgotten to look at his full self and see himself for what he was before he took on the titles of “inmate”, “felon”, and “lifer”. He only saw his negative traits, just as we often do when we look at others. Why is that?
The above is the same waterfall, but the picture is taken a bit further out. You see more of what’s going on. This is similar to stepping back and looking beyond the attitude the cashier at the grocery stores give you and seeing someone who has been working since morning and is tired. It’s like taking a deeper look in the mirror and looking beyond the flabby belly and stretch marks and seeing the mother that does life day in and day out with her children. It’s about looking past the definitions of “infertile”, “childless”, and “unable to have children” to see the woman and man who are great with other people’s children and still have all the wonderful qualities needed to make truly great citizens. It’s about stepping back and zooming out so you can take in more information.
Dr. Frome did this with Bijan. He saw that something was going on inside his mind during the class and made the effort to talk with him. When he did, he was able to zoom out to a wide view and hit the mark that Bijan needed. But more on that in a couple images…let’s talk about how we see ourselves for a couple of frames.
With this drive to become somebody and this culture that says “hustle”, “grind”, and “boss up” every other post, how do you realize your strengths when you are barely surviving and have mixed feelings about the fact you woke up this morning?
With this filtered view of the world that doesn’t allow imperfection and celebrates accomplishment over character, how do you see the unfiltered beauty in your perfectly imperfect mess?
I need you to step back a little farther, like we do in the above frame. Again, same Icelandic waterfall. Same camera and photographer. But look at how much more you see in this third frame than you did in the first…and we aren’t even done yet because we haven’t looked at the full view…we still have two more steps back to take before we see that!
To see yourself as somebody in a culture that says you are nobody unless you have certain accolades assigned to your name, you who are showing up every day doing the best you can trying to wake up, serve meals, get families ready, go to minimum-wage jobs, and do the tasks others take for granted can easily feel lost. It’s easy for you to feel like you don’t matter, but that’s so far from the truth.
Guys… ladies… you matter. You matter if you are the one serving people their fries, cleaning up after other’s messes, wiping the butts of many elderly people each day, taking care of others’ children, setting up meeting spaces, interviewing people for jobs, writing blogs, developing strategies for company expansion, or simply waking up and showing up to another day. If you have breath within you, you matter. You matter to God. You matter to at least one other person in this world. You just may not realize it because you’re stuck in frame one of five and need to start giving yourself moments in each day to zoom out and start to walk through each wider view of yourself.
Start with journaling your thoughts as you think about the things you like doing, are often told you’re good at doing, find yourself getting lost within when you do them. For me, for example, I can lose time when I write and talk with others. When I am coaching someone through their life story and how to understand their voice, I can easily find myself lost in their words and wanting to stay in the moment because I love hearing others’ stories and helping them see the best within themselves and developing strategies for improving their story by making positive changes. What is your “thing” that you love to do?
In the frame above, we see the from a much wider perspective and realize those raging waters we once saw are only a part of a much bigger, beautiful scene. We see that many waterfalls came together to create a view that could mesmerize people for hours. Think of the sounds Viktor heard as he was taking these pictures. Think of the way he could have felt standing in this presence. Someone feels the same way about you when they are within your presence.
Think I am lying? I have sat with gang members, rapists, child molesters, and other people that society judges automatically for their behaviors and have been able to feel a complete peace and see somebody beyond the actions they took and the people with whom they associate. I have looked into the eyes of father who took his son’s innocence and seen a man so hurt by his own father that he didn’t know anything else because he’d held the secret in for so long that it was the only way he knew love to be. Is that an excuse for his action? No. We are all responsible for the choices we make. We all have to answer for what we do and think in our lifetime. However, we can change at any moment. We can let yesterday’s mistakes become another paver on our road. Some of those mistakes bring you to exactly where you need to be to help someone else struggling with the same temptations and diseases.
Do you see that beauty above when we step out and view the image from miles away? This final frame shows the same waters as the first, but we see the bridge and the full view of the waterfalls and rolling river. I’m someone who is profoundly touched by keys and bridges…they have a special symbolism to me.
In last night’s episode of New Amsterdam, Dr. Frome approaches Bijan in the final minutes of the show as Bijan is about to be transferred back to Rikers to serve what he noted was a “double life sentence for a crime I did commit”. He affirms Bijan and lets him know, “You are not your crime”, and tells Bijan that he is smart and he is a great leader and therefore would make a great teacher of basic life skills for inmates who are tired of programs and can’t read. Because of the skills he demonstrated in class, Bijan now had an opportunity to make an impact on the world that would be heard beyond the prison. As Bijan walks away, considering the opportunity, he stops to look back at Dr. Frome and says, “No one ever told me I was smart.” [Cue tears streaming down my face.]
What do you need to hear in your own life that will have an impact that the viewer was left believing Bijan would now have all because Dr. Frome was willing to look past the orange jumpsuit and over-the-top personality, beyond the self-harm and tough persona, to see the young, intelligent leader Bijan truly was? What words do you need someone to tell you so you can realize you ALREADY are somebody?
Tell them to yourself today. Then act upon them. This is how you will change your reality.
By changing your perspective and giving yourself permission to look at your full self instead of your faults, you will give yourself the gift of freedom to be who you truly are. You will be able to speak to your strengths, as Dr. Frome did to Bijan, and give yourself the key to unlocking yourself from the prisons of shattered dreams, low self-esteem, others’ expectations, and society’s beliefs for what beauty and success look like. You will open doors so you can be the person you are and do the things you were created to do.
Are you in? Are you willing to change your perspective? Drop a comment below if so and I will be praying for you as we engage in the last quarter of the last decade of this year and free ourselves from what others see and instead release the somebody we truly are.
For those who are blind and cannot see the images above, I apologize that this post was probably a bit confusing. We started with a very close look at waters raging in a river and then backed up to a wide view of stunning Icelandic waterfalls that led into one river. In the final picture, we saw a bridge and the full view of the imagery that brought the first image into perspective as we realized where the raging waters were coming from.
For my Christian readers, I understand the Bible shares about how we are to become nothing so we can become all God wants for us to be. That is very different from having a low-self esteem and not seeing your strengths so you can walk in your purpose. I will address that in another post because I have had a few clients who have struggled through that limited belief that was never meant to tell you how to see your strengths but was meant to remind you to be humble as you become all He created you to be. I will come back and link to it when it is finished.