Developing the practice of humanizing myself and others is one of the most revelating things I’ve learned. This is not about sentimentality because this is even deeper than the warm emotions. Humanizing is the act of being willing to stay open and present to the imperfection of others, to try to see their humanity and let their humanity in.
This practice has made it easier for me to understand what drives people to do what they do and see their thought patterns, habits, dislikes, and likes. It is almost as if I can see the world from their eyes. In essence, this is empathy.
My world became clearer when I stripped my parents of their predetermined “mom and dad” label, humanized them and then relabelled them to what was truly there. For my sanity, I needed to see them for who they are, and I trust that by the stories I share here on my website, such as this one, you’ll understand too.
Labels that we attach to other people not only reflect and affect how we perceive their identities but also reflect how we perceive ourselves. Labels are capable of creating a blurred line between who we think we’re supposed to be versus who we are. The catch is human beings have complexities that don’t fit into boxes and having labels discourages us from seeing someone’s true identities and interests. We are all multifaceted, therefore labels can often prevent us from being compassionate and understanding of others.
I find that it’s too often we spend our lives in relationships with others that we trust, but we don’t really know who they are, be it a parent-child relationship or husband-wife relationship. This is also why it’s so important that couples don’t stop dating and learning about each other.
Mike and I have been together for almost 20 years and we are still finding out new things about one another. These new findings give reason to the behaviours and quirks that we see in each other, but we’ve never understood why it’s there. It’s in the moments of “oooh, so that’s why you bring home stray cats” that is eye-opening and makes us understand, respect, and love each other even more.
Think about this, couples tend to date on average for two years before settling down and tying the knot. But how much have you really learnt about a person within those two years? How much time have you actually invested in your partner to understand how their life events have shaped them into who they are now without any preconceived standpoints of where you are and what you think their situation should be? How vulnerable have you been to your partner?
Mike and I often talked about this topic of labels and humanizing others. Stripping both sets of our parents from their labels has been quite liberating. We start to see them as humans with individualities and understand the outcome of their lives, which directly affects ours. Understanding our parents’ childhood, beliefs, fears, and decision-making process has helped relieve us from unnecessary emotional, cultural, and societal attachments. It also gives us a chance to shine a light on their way of life and determine if it matches with what we want in our own lives.
It’s often as adults we think that kids may not know any better, or we try to save them from emotional pain because we’ve labelled them as “kids.” We want our kids to know us as individuals and not hold us to just a label we carry by biological rights. But more so, we want them to see us for who we are and hope that they learn from everything we’ve gone through. By doing this, we create acceptance, kindness, and compassion for each other.
The other day my son had asked me about my mom. I was honest with him and I told him what I’ve been going through with her. I was surprised as he was able to provide me with so much empathy, love and acceptance. He said, “I understand, mom. You have to do things for yourself too. I don’t blame you.” I go on to explain to him that this doesn’t mean that I don’t love her, but he stops me and finishes my sentence for me ”… yes, I know, it just means you’re doing what’s best for yourself right now.” I was in awe. It’s this exact moment right here that brings me a real connection to him. It’s also in this exact moment where he sees me as a real multifaceted person, not just as a mom, and the feeling of been seen by my child is truly magical. See, I’m raising adults.
[You can read about our mother-daughter break up here]
There’s a distinct line between accepting someone else’s humanity but knowing that you can’t let their humanity interfere with who you are. Acceptance is the ultimate act of love and kindness but setting up boundaries is necessary for survival. So, I write this with a huge disclaimer that It is much easier to walk away from a relationship filled with anger, hatred, and despair but it takes tremendous strength to walk away from a toxic relationship with a feeling of understanding and love for the person.
With that said, here is a truth bomb, both my parents are narcissistic people and possess at least 7 of the nine traits to classify them as narcissistic. My mom is close to checking off all nine on the list. Albeit, they’re both different types of narcissists, but they’re still toxic, draining, and damaging for me to be around, nonetheless. The added fuel to this dumpster fire is that they heavily follow Asian traditions, cultures and roots, specifically filial piety in my case, and use it as a means to condition me which in turn benefits them.
[ Insider: There are 3 distinct types of narcissists — here’s how to spot them ]
[ Psychology Today: How to Spot a Narcissist | Inside the Mind of a Narcissist ]
I feel bad for them as they cannot perceive the world in any other light besides what their minds have painted out for them. It’s also unfortunate that they’re incapable of receiving the depth and beauty of human nature and are missing out on the experience of love and compassion that the world has to offer. I also feel for their childhood and wonder what their lives would be like if they were raised differently with proper guidance and support. What I would be like if they were raised differently. Although it doesn’t give them an excuse, understanding them in this light, allows me to unravel the hurt that I’ve bear because of them.
Narcissists never change, and that’s also the unvarnished truth. I’ve tried setting up boundaries with both of them, but boundaries never work with narcissists. I’ve accepted the situation for what it is. I acknowledge that I can’t rescue them and they’re not my responsibility, but maintaining my mental wellness is.
However, the most grievous realization that I had to make was to accept that my relationship with them has always been, and will always be, superficial. They only view me as an extension of themselves and how I can benefit them. This, too, will never change and trust me when I say it is the most painful thing for a child to recognize. While I cannot change them, I can absolutely change how I respond to them, and no response is sometimes the kindest response. This is where my power is.
Humanizing others is a training that’s very demanding and fierce, but it’s also heartbreakingly beautiful beyond words. Look at it as having grace for our complicated humanity; to love the unlovable.
This practice always has also given me the most significant reward as well, which is this self-love-bomb. Self-compassion starts with acceptance of my human nature and all the imperfections that I am. This also means that I need to be a bigger person and find a broader perspective to notice myself, notice my response to send myself some compassion. Essentially, I’m building the muscle of care, and in doing that, I can also take care of others as well.
If you really want to get to know other people you must first get to know yourself.
Grow through what you go through, my friend. Glad that you’re here.