Recently, I was trading stories with a friend of mine. In the middle of my story, I was revealing some of the prior behaviors that didn’t make me particularly proud, but an essential part of the story nonetheless. After the story was over, I said, “That was who I used to be.” I even resorted to the third person, “That was the old Dominic.”

Later that day, I was replaying the conversation in my head. (It’s a hobby of mine on a five-hour plane ride.) Why was I referring to myself in the third person? I have never been a big fan of hearing it, so why was I using it? The truth is, I don’t think I’m giving myself enough credit for the positive changes I’ve made in my life. After all, who is responsible for my changes and choices?

Many of those poor decisions from my past are valuable experiences that I still refer to. Some are tales of caution while some serve as an initial catalyst towards positive change. It is OK to use those experiences for that purpose as long as I rewrite the story to a positive outcome in order for it to become sustainable.

I feel more in control and powerful when I own all my decisions. I am always at choice. I made those decisions, and what’s done is done. I have treated people unfairly, judged them for their decisions, defaulted to a pessimistic and negative attitude, bragged, exaggerated, gossiped and pretended to be someone I wasn’t for fear of embarrassment. I have also judged other people for all those same behaviors. Now, I realize that I cannot accept 100% of other people if I don’t accept 100% of myself first.

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of empathy is: “The action of understanding, being aware, of being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feeling and thoughts of another of either the past or the present without having the feeling fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” How do I feel empathy unless I accept all my prior choices? Leadership, empathy, and understanding all require practice, and I am just getting started.

It’s not fair for me to accept only the traits of someone else that I like, and simultaneously, judge them for the traits that I don’t like. Everyone is as complex as I am, and we are all imperfect. The people in my life are not responsible for not living up to the false expectation I manufactured based on only my good choices. Acceptance of my complete self is the first step to accepting everyone around me in their complete forms.

I am responsible for the validity of the stories in my library that I use as resources. I will continue to clean out my library by accepting my past and rewriting those stories.

Choose Joy! #justgettingstarted. ~Dominic Oaxaca