A coworker and friend of mine, Chelsea, created a project on our school campus called The Serendipity Project. I signed up to participate with a friend, but neither of us were entirely sure about what to expect. This Sunday, we arrived up to the building, eager to learn what this experience was all about.
When it was our turn to participate, we were led into the hallway, where a chair was set up across from two others. Tons of containers of colorful paint were scattered on the floor nearby. Chelsea explained her motivation behind introducing The Serendipity Project. We were told that it’s a difficult project to explain because it is so personal and invokes something different in every person who participates.
She began with one simple question, which marked the beginning of the conversation.
What do you dislike about yourself?
And that’s what was really cool about this project. The majority of it was based on a simple question and conversation.
Chelsea took our responses and ran with them. One question led to another. She urged us to analyze why we might want to change that aspect of ourselves. She encouraged us to dig deeper and see ourselves in a non-judgmental and dynamic way. We pried to uncover our true selves, aside from the self we portray to others. This led us to another question:
Do you ever put on a façade, such as pretending to be happy when you are not?
Both of us immediately could answer honestly: of course. And I would argue that most of us would answer that question in the same way.
In this simulation, we shared insecurities that we have about ourselves. I was shocked by the responses. The way my two friends described their insecurities exposed a person that was the opposite of how I have always viewed them. And that’s just it: we often perceive each other much differently from how we view ourselves.
But when we take the time to tell others how we feel, it goes a long way in terms of harvesting an authentic relationship and a connected world. I feel that in a sense, our society has molded us to be so disconnected from others—to not share too much, to follow that social norm we all have grown to know. We’ve become very individualistic, feeling like our lives are so much different than everybody else’s. But in reality, we are all so unbelievably connected. When we listen. And when we share.
Chelsea so graciously opened up to us about some of her challenges—including dealing with an illness that forced her into telling people how much they meant to her. And that was her main impetus for introducing The Serendipity Project. We don’t have to be so guarded, so afraid of expressing our true selves.Why should we wait until we are desperate to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with others?
When we look to ourselves and critically think about the ways in which we critique ourselves, we may gain valuable insight into one of the most human feelings of all—vulnerability.
The purpose—the purpose of life, Chelsea continued, is to develop connections with others.
For as huge of a significance as our connection with others is, I don’t believe we take it seriously enough.
And in order to develop empathy for others, we must first understand ourselves.
Part of The Serendipity Project is the notion of how actually listening to someone can drastically change how that person feels about themselves. Showing people that they are valued. They are important. And their voice deserves to be heard.
How will we ever discover meaning in this world if we don’t take the time to listen? To understand the path of another human? To show them that we’ve been there, or we can try as best we can to imagine the spot that they are in? We have a lot to learn from others. This is how we create a more compassionate world.
It starts with you. And it starts with me.
Through the project, we focused on the beauty in each one of us that flows from the inside, outwards. In a world that is desperately trying to refine us, we must see the beauty that lies within.
We do not have to know everyone’s story to love that person. In fact for most people, we won’t know their story. For most people, all we know is that they are human, and thus all we know is that they have a story. It’s okay to be a private person. It’s okay to be introverted. There is something beautiful about each one of our souls. Most people do keep a lot about them hidden. When we approach this world with the understanding that this is how humans are, we can all come to a mutual respect.
After we talked about what we saw in each other–honestly and thoughtfully, we moved to the ultimate stage of The Serendipity Project. We painted our faces in a way that we felt expressed what we felt on the inside. For the first time in my life I felt like I could fully wear my heart on my sleeve. And it was truly a breath of fresh air.
After exchanging stories, I was humbled by the realization of how much meaning we can each contribute to this life—just by making an effort to listen. And by being okay with sharing.
Share your story. Share your beliefs. And listen to others. This is how we spread love.
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