My kindergartner participated in her online math class yesterday and learned the simple act of sorting. The teacher explained that it helps them learn how many different groups they can make. When the teacher named a group, they had to stand if they were part of one and sit if they were part of another. The first group was boys and girls. Hmm, already this was getting controversial. I immediately winced wondering if any of the kids felt uncomfortable picking one. Then, they moved on to only slightly less controversial things in my adult mind – colors of clothes, if they have their Halloween costumes, and if they have their own desk. I know what you’re saying, This is kindergarten math class, Leila, not Sociology 101. You’re right, but I couldn’t help but ponder the concept at a college level.
Sorting is a simple term, but reminds me of all the ways we are encouraged to notice our differences. In business, what’s one of the first things you have to consider in marketing? What makes you stand out from the competition. In other words, what makes you different. Don’t get me wrong. Our differences have helped VelaMira to stand out from others. And there have been times I’ve intentionally made us stand out even more to have a leg up on the competition. Today, I can’t help but be reflective and wonder how helpful it is to focus on such things.
To add to the complexity, I also focus on community. Finding commonalities between people. Encouraging them to celebrate their similarities to help each other do better. Those are the founding principles of the WriterGal Network. I started it in 2004 with a fellow female freelance writer who wanted to find others doing similar work. Yes, each member has a different area of expertise, but we celebrate those differences instead of seeing them as a reason for division.
It’s that classic challenge of looking at life through an either-or lens vs. a both-and lens. Whether you’re talking about gender, personalities, lifestyles, businesses, politics, or everywhere they intersect, you have to consider what’s within your comfort zone. Do you see things fitting within a box, limited to defining them one way? Or do you see what’s beyond the box and expand your definition? Your answer to that can depend on your self-esteem, socio-economic status, upbringing, and beliefs.
The next time you’re doing something as simple as sorting laundry or dishes, take a minute to consider other meanings. Everything in order. > Everything in its own place. > No intermingling. > No chaos. It’s automatic for many of us. But does it represent something deeper in our psychology?
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the movie Auntie Mame that embodies the both-and philosophy: “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”