Resistance: the refusal to accept or comply with something; the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.
When I first saw the wildfire of praise for Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up sweep across my social media feeds, I mounted a serious resistance.
Anything with the word tidying in it was absolutely not going to be life-changing. Furthermore, it stood in direct conflict with my view of myself as a strong and independent businesswoman. Without reading a word of the book or the praise for it, I was certain – just from the title – that it was attempting to reinforce gender roles and put me in my place.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself completely transfixed by Kondo’s new Netflix series after a bad cold sent me to the couch to rest for a few days. I watched episode after episode as she demurely and skillfully guided each member of the families she worked with to take responsibility for their own things. And in the process she liberated a few mothers from the thankless task of keeping track of everyone’s stuff.
I recognized the lightness and relief her clients felt after discovering how to live a simpler life – one with less objects, but full of objects that bring joy. I had been working for years to downsize and simplify.
As I felt my resistance to Kondo’s concept of tidying diminish, I also found my resistance to some other very unexpected areas of my life diminish too.
You see, when Kondo’s clients decide that an object no longer sparks joy for them and isn’t something that they envision as part of their future life, those items don’t just get tossed aside. Instead, she teaches her clients to practice gratitude for how those things have served them. Gratitude for the dress that Grandmother picked out that no longer fits or gratitude for the dishes that held a couples first meals together. Only after appreciating what the object brought, can it be released.
I was struck by this practice, and I found it seeping into my response to other things I needed to let go of – even some of my behaviors.
As a recovering perfectionist, I struggle with having a defensive reaction to feedback. As much as I wholeheartedly believe that feedback is a gift that helps us grow, I can resist it mightily. I may simply refuse to accept it through active denial, or just lock down my response so as not to be affected by it. It can hurt to hear that my behavior is ineffective or has a negative impact, especially if I have crept back into a perfectionist mindset.
But after observing Kondo’s practice of gratitude, I found myself reaching for that same practice to counter my resistance to feedback.
I began to recognize feelings of gratitude for the behaviors that I needed to let go of and didn’t want to be part of my future.
So when a colleague courageously shared feedback that I had been using sarcasm in an unproductive way, I was able to pause and consider how that sarcasm had served me. I had used sarcasm to deflect something that I felt hurt about, and I was grateful for the impulse to protect myself. Rather than feeling that I had to fight it, I was able to accept it – along with a commitment to share my feelings instead of masking them in sarcasm.
When my manager observed that I seemed to be circling a new objective but not actually taking steps to move it forward, I was able to recognize and appreciate my love of checking out a new idea from many different perspectives and also see the need to begin to take concrete steps forward.
As the saying goes, we are human beings not perfect beings. Perhaps gratitude for our imperfections can help us become better humans.