Be Kind to Dragons and Wave at Dogs

While being friendly is a genuine feature of my persona, it is just one facet on the surface of who I am. 

I have, undoubtedly, gone to great lengths in my life to present as friendly and nice, though. 

For example: 

If someone anywhere in any parking lot waves in my general direction, I would sooner drop my grocery bags and trip over them to wave back than risk not returning the wave. Fun fact: they weren’t waving at me 9 times out of 10. 

If a driver stops their car to let me cross at a cross walk, I make eye contact and wave mouthing the words “thank you so much” as I do the good citizen high speed shuffle across the road.

I have been known to wave at dogs. 

This overly nice persona started to back fire, though. Because, while some of my nice actions are motivated by sincere consideration, I am not only nice. What people don’t always realize is that beneath that smiling and cheery exterior, there is an intense, planet-sized amount of human constantly churning and metabolizing everything that’s happening on the surface. Planets have a lot going on. They’re not just nice. They’ve got storms, dust clouds, super sonic winds, mountains…okay, I’m currently realizing that I do not know much about planets beyond a 4th grade level. But they’re like whole worlds. No one would just describe Venus as nice. 

My indomitably happy disposition is like the strongest pair of Spanx the world has ever known. It is often holding what seems like a superhuman amount of feelings within it. I’ve recently come to describe this phenomena as such: I’m a dragon who sometimes disguises as a unicorn. So, let’s just assume my unicorn costume is made by Spanx. 

As one might expect, the happy unicorn Spanx suit isn’t invincible or perfect at containing my intensity. There are certain factors that disintegrate the disguise— dynamics that compromise the integrity of said unicorn Spanx suit. It’s been super confusing for others when this supposed unicorn everybody invited to the party starts breathing fire and burns everything and everyone in its path. Everyone rushes to leave the party like “there is something seriously wrong with that unicorn” Or, if the costume has been completely abandoned, “who invited that fire-breathing dragon to our good vibes only unicorn party?” 

As this “surprise, I’m really a dragon” thing happened more and more frequently, I realized that I needed to take some accountability. Namely, I was falsely advertising myself as a primarily nice person. I am not, in fact, a primarily nice person. 

Don’t get me wrong; I value kindness. I try to be a kind person. There’s a difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness and love are based in values and a code of virtue. Because of this, kindness can do difficult things that don’t always feel nice in relationships—set boundaries, end relationships, hold someone accountable for their actions, not enable others (which often feels very not nice to the other person in the moment, regardless of how truly loving it is), etc. Kindness is a posture of the heart dedicated to enact love regardless of feelings. Niceness is usually an aesthetic.  

So, why was I trying to market myself as nice? Well, the social messaging to be nice begins for AFABs (assigned females at birth) before the nurses in the hospital put that pink little hat on you. I’ll refrain for now from going on a fiery dragon tangent about how people always ask pregnant people what they’re having (I mean, it’s a human. But these people are presumably seeking a response that involves a binary concept of gender to which they can attach all their socially constructed pronouns and projections of whether this child will play with dolls (and be nice) or play with trucks (and be a tiny mr. tough guy) based on which genitalia the kiddo’s growing in there. Whoops. Seems like the dragon interjected a touch of fire after all). 

So much of the social script from those prying assumptive questions on out reinforces that code. Vulva equals girl equals nice. And so, I internalized from a very young age that it is generally accepted as common knowledge that most humans like nice girls rather than grumpy, intense, or unfriendly Demi-girls, so I went for the nice girl packaging and marketing. Smiles, eye contact, raised eyebrows, lots of nodding with my head tilted during conversations. 10 out of 10 for niceness.

But still, the more you know, the more accountable you need to be. So, as I realized that I wasn’t presenting a lot of my authentic self, I had to ask myself how I was responsible in creating this dynamic. What were my selfish motives? Yes, there’s social messaging, but why was I complying? 

There are sometimes systemic reasons that people have to comply with these social scripts to stay safe. People who aren’t as privileged in society sometimes have to mask and comply with certain scripts to retain access to vital resources, stay safe, and survive. 

But, I have privilege. My skin color, my socio economic status, my education, and a lot of the variables in the life I lucked into—allow me to be safe and be deviant from the expectations from society. So therefore, I’ve somewhat recently started using that privilege and safety to acknowledge and embody my true dragon nature. 

And in so doing, I’ve had to do some shadow work. To be a safe dragon who knows how to wield the fire, I’ve had to integrate the parts of myself that I’d rather not acknowledge. In addition to admitting that I am intense and not generally easy breezy about anything ever at all, I have also had to realize that some of this pretense was designed to get people to like me. To boost my ego. 

So, while the good citizen shuffle is often because I actually want to be considerate of the driver’s time, I also want a 5 star good citizen review on the imaginary Lindsay Yelp. I like to imagine that the driver is like, “you know, that’s a good person right there. They’re so considerate. They really seem to get that they are not the center of the world.”

Waving at dogs is purely motivated by (a slight lack of reasoning skills in the moment and also) my eternal and unwavering love for dogs. 

How can I not wave at a being who greets me like this?

But doing the work to figure out when I’m being nice out of true kindness versus when I’m being nice to get good reviews has been some helpful shadow work. One is grounded in love and unattached to the results and one is primarily for the accolades. 

It is helpful to all your kin—nay, I daresay, it is helpful to society in general, actually—to know oneself and truly do your inner work around your identity. Integrating your shadow self is one of the kindest and bravest types of self work you can do. 

What do I mean by shadow work? It’s the process of trying to become aware of and work on the attributes of the part of your personality you try to keep hidden because it isn’t compatible with who you want to be. Oftentimes you can’t see your own shadow (because you keep it so repressed or suppressed that you aren’t consciously aware of it), yet the people closest to you in your life can see it. So, truly growing sometimes means that the brave, close souls in your life bring these shadow elements of your behavior or psyche to your attention. I’ve got two people in my life whom I trust (trust that they love me, share my values, understand me, etc) who are willing to show me my shadow. 

Now, I am not the, ahem, easiest to confront. That is to say, historically, my dragon has been known to emerge upon confrontation and become a little unwieldy. I am intense. And I really don’t like to be called out on my shadow. I mean, no one does, to be sure. But where someone gentle and meek (a true unicorn, perhaps) might shed some tears or request some moments of self-reflection, I have been known in the past to almost jump out of a second story window, argue for days on the basis of being “nice, goddammit”, give the passive-aggressive depressed affect for days (i.e., “YOU did this to me. You killed a rare and beautiful unicorn, and now I must mourn”). 

So, it’s brave when someone says, “Hey Linds, I’ve noticed this pattern and I think you and your relationships would be healthier if you worked on it.” 

I’ve really worked so hard over the last 25 years of being partnered with Collin (4 of dating and 21 of being married) to integrate, do my shadow work, not be tempted to jump out of windows (that was when I was a teenager, by the way), and try really hard to feel the burning, painful death of my ego whilst not using my dragon fire to hurt or harm when my complexes get triggered. 

Jung uses the term complex for emotional triggers that really trip us up and spring from our unconscious. It’s basically the landmines in your personal psyche that could get set off when someone is walking through your space. They may set them off entirely unsuspectingly, or if it’s someone who is trying to upset you, they may know your “issues” and detonate a complex. 

If you don’t do the inner work to know your own psychological landscape—if you don’t figure out what the landmines are and work to deactivate them—then you leave yourself and all those around you vulnerable to an explosion. Explosions can end relationships unnecessarily, cause harm to yourself and others, and leave you feeling resentment for years. 

As someone who has had difficult complexes to integrate and deactivate, I can say that it’s extremely unnerving to be in an emotional state controlled by an activated complex. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had this happen to me, and it’s awful. It is almost like the rational part of my adult brain is passively watching as this activated version of myself takes the wheel and starts driving like a maniac. Or in my dragon analogy it’s like the dragon starts breathing fire without control. 

The great irony of realizing one’s potential is that we can’t become the person we want to be if we don’t embrace who we actually are. This includes embracing your shadow self and acknowledging your complexes. It starts with being present with who you are, being brave enough to explore your identity and really being open to learning and integrating all the parts of who you are. Sometimes this only can happen when a trusted person in your life holds the mirror up to reveal something to you that you wouldn’t otherwise be capable of seeing. And it’s not always fire breath; maybe you’re a people pleaser, maybe you sabotage your own success, maybe you’re a workaholic. 

When you know yourself—the light and the shadow, the socially facing persona, the complexes that lay beneath the surface, the shadow self—you can make informed decisions and thoughtful responses to the things happening around you and within you. Understanding yourself and making peace with your inner dragon (or mythological animal equivalent) means that when something happens in the external world (someone says something or does something) and then you have a reaction in your inner world (anger arises, fear arises, etc) you are better positioned to resist impulsive urges to act out of those feelings. You can also have compassion for yourself and make space to be present with all of yourself. Witnessing and being present with what is rather than trying to feel or think what you think you should feel or think is one of the best exercises in expanding your ability to contain your own whole self (inner fire-breathing dragons, sensitive unicorns, fierce Chimera, deadly Basilisks, etc).

Simply put: if you do your inner work to integrate the shadow elements of your soul with your higher consciousness, you will be less likely to snap when others do things that upset you.

Paradoxically almost, you will also become your own friend. You will understand yourself better, have compassion for yourself, and you will be able to articulately navigate difficult situations, relationships, and life in general. I always find that I feel loneliest when I’m ignoring my inner self and avoiding spending time with what’s going on inside of me. Sometimes the best friend we need is ourself. Sometimes our inner dragons need someone to see them, love them, and hold space for why they feel fiery.

When we become our own true friend we can stand in our truth without needing others to understand it to validate it. If we wave at someone and they weren’t waving at us, but we were motivated by our truth, it’s still worth tripping over your groceries. Even if they look at you like you’re pathetic. Because you did it—not for yelp reviews—but because you believe in kindness regardless of the effect it has on your ego.

So, this week’s post is just a weekend inspiration to be your best self. Which surprisingly means sitting down to tea with your worst self and lending a compassionate, listening ear. 

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4 Responses to Be Kind to Dragons and Wave at Dogs

  1. joan dinatale says:

    “there is something seriously wrong with this unicorn”😂😂😂
    Linds no one makes me happier then you, when you laugh with your whole being.
    and yes, there is a teeny tiny dragon that appears occasionally but that little dragon has also taught me things I needed to hear. We are complex beings. Some of us are highly emotional. That is not a bad thing. I love every part of your being. I am so proud to be your mom.

  2. Dad says:

    When that dragon says, “NO! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!”, be prepared for some serious Fire.

    Good thoughts, Linds.

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