Last week my roommates and I ended up in a conversation about Buddy Passes (free passes airline employees and friends sometimes get to fly standby). One of them commented that she hates using them because she feels exposed, she feels “less than” the other passengers because she didn’t pay for her ticket and has to wait and see if there’s room on the flight. She feels like they’re all staring at her, judging her, and like she’s not worth the full seat.
I stared at her completely confused for a moment, and then announced that when I’m flying with a Buddy Pass (ok, I think it happened once, but I’m sure this is how I would feel) I feel like the most important person on the plane. I’m looking at everyone else thinking, “suckers. How much did you pay for your ticket? Oh, yeah? Mine was FREE, baby!” Everyone’s staring? Must be because they know how special I am. I’m so special they call my NAME when my seat is ready!
She stared at me just as baffled for a minute, and then we both burst out laughing, realizing that, “of course that’s how the other would feel.”
We saw the situation through different filters. Her lens was one of poverty and one where there isn’t always enough to go around. Mine was one of looking for any reason to prove that I’m special and important, that I matter. So anything that sets me apart (while still being included in the activity) is a win for me.
Over and over this week, I’ve thought back to that conversation. How our perception of reality is determined by what we expect to see. If we expect to be rejected, that’s what we’ll find. If we’re looking for poverty, that’s where we’ll end up. If we think we’re invisible, no one will see us.
I thought about it when I got invited to a party at the last minute. My other roommate thought, “Oh good, she got invited! This will make her feel so good.” I thought, “I got invited four hours before it starts. I was an afterthought. I’d rather not even go.”
I thought about it when someone accidentally congratulated me on my sister’s engagement. What filter should I hear this through? The one that declares, “Here is one more person determined to point out what you don’t have and everyone around you seems to be getting?” Or the one that acknowledges, “It was an honest mistake. And her insensitive follow-up comments are her attempt to save face because she feels bad.”
I’ve thought about it every time I’ve felt misunderstood or overlooked or forgotten. And I’ve asked myself, “How would someone else see this? What if I looked for something different in this situation? How about I try a different lens?”
Because yes, if you expect to find rejection, or dismissal, or poverty, or any other number of negative things, you’ll probably find them.
If you expect to be accepted, if you expect abundance, if you expect worth and value and love, you’ll most likely find those things too. instead.
When I walk on a plane with a Buddy Pass, I expect that it makes me important. So I stand a little taller. Wave my hands a little more than usual. Greet the “common” passengers on the plane pleasantly, because even though I know I’m more special than them, I can find time to acknowledge them. And so, whatever they actually feel, I find importance and value in their stares.
Now, if I could just live the rest of my life like that Buddy Pass, we’d be good.
What about you? What lens do you see the world through? And do you think I’m crazy? Because I think I might be!