By Ron Culberson. With a master’s degree in social work, Ron Culberson spent the first part of his career working in a large hospice organization as a clinical social worker, middle manager, and senior leader. As a speaker, humorist, and author of "Do it Well. Make it Fun.The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between", he has delivered more than 1,000 presentations to associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporations. His mission is to change the workplace culture so that organizations are more productive and staff are more content. He was also the 2012-2013 president of the National Speakers Association and is a recognized expert on the benefits of humor and laughter.
I made an interesting discovery the other day. It turns out that I have a fairly noticeable birthmark on the back of my head, and I only just discovered it…at 57 years of age. Geez.
Last week, I was trimming the ever-decreasing band of hair around my head. Oh, and yes, I do my own hair maintenance—partly because there’s not that much to deal with and partly because I would have to pay the same price as full-head-o-hair people if I went to a barber. Seems like the cost would be prorated based on the percentage of scalp that’s showing. But alas, the system is fairer for the favorably follicle’d folks.
Since I do cut my own hair, I invested in a set of clippers a few years ago. However, these clippers had worn out so I bought a new set with a full array of blade guards. They work beautifully—that is, if you pick the right blade guard. The first time I used the clippers, I chose the 3 mm blade guard because I thought that’s what I had used with my previous set. Unfortunately, I made a math error. I had transposed the numbers. With my old clippers, I had used the #3 blade guard but the length was actually 6 mm, not 3 mm. You might think I’m splitting hairs here but essentially, I cut my hair to half the length that I was accustomed to.
As a result, my hair was really short. I mean, really short. It was so short, I could see my scalp through the tiny bristles of hair. And that’s when I discovered a red birthmark right there on the back of my head. At first, I thought it was a mirage caused by light reflecting off a few reddish-brown hairs. But my wife confirmed that it was actually a birthmark. Apparently, I’ve been walking around with this Gorbachev thing on my scalp for five decades and nobody bothered to point it out.
I was disturbed mainly, or “manely” as it were, because my head was discolored and I didn’t realize it. To be honest, I don’t look at the back of my head that often. And, my eyesight is not as good as it used to be. Plus, the distance from my eyes to my head when using a mirror is greater than the actual distance due to some sort of convex reflection formula that involves fractions and variables. So, I just didn’t see what was there.
It reminded me of an experience I had in high school when a girl who was several years younger than me said, “I’ve never seen anyone without a butt before.”
Yep. She said that. To my face.
I immediately ran into the boys locker room and looked at the back side of my, uh, back side. It appeared to be OK. Perhaps my derrière wasn’t as robust as that of a bodybuilder or a swimsuit model, but I clearly had one.
Between that high school experience and the recent uncovering of my birthmark, I realized that I didn’t notice these things because I wasn’t looking in their particular direction. I mean, I’m usually focused on what’s in front of me rather than on what’s behind me. Aren’t we all?
For instance, think about how much time we spend taking care of our fronts. We brush our teeth, attend to our blemishes, apply makeup, adjust the hairs that are out of place, and pluck the hairs that shouldn’t be there. Then, when it comes to our attire, we iron our blouses, we polish our shoes, we fuss over a spot on our slacks, and we continually adjust our ties.
But how often are we doing the same things with our back sides? Heck, my pants are a wrinkled mess from sitting all day and I don’t even care.
It all boils down to the influence of what we see. The things that usually make us anxious are the things we’re looking at. The more we look at them, the more anxious we get. And the things that are out of sight are often not even on our minds.
Have you ever spilled something on a white shirt? The rest of the day, all you can see when you look in the mirror is that dang stain on your shirt. Yet, when you get a spot on the back of your pants, you often don’t think about it until you start to put them on again a couple of weeks later—because you were not looking at them.
This is the power of the mind and how it creates our reality by what it “sees.”
In Hamlet, William Shakespeare wrote, “..for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
The seeing leads to thinking which drives how we experience the world.
Here’s another example: Let’s say you go to the doctor and she performs a test that might result in getting some bad news. From the time of the test until you get the results, you most likely will be anxious because you fear the worst case scenario. The reality is that you don’t know what the results will be. So, it doesn’t help to focus on the possibility of only the bad news.
Similarly, if you go to the doctor because of a strange-looking mole on your back and the doctor tells you that it’s normal and there’s nothing to worry about, you probably don’t give it a second thought once you leave the doctor’s office.
This is how our minds are hardwired. We lean toward the worst case scenario as a way to protect us from external threats. That worked really well when we were cavemen and cavewomen but not so well today. The external threats are not as frequent nor as dangerous.
So what does this all mean?
Well, Pope John XXIII put it this way, “See everything, overlook a great deal.”
It means that if we can walk around all day oblivious to the gum on the back of our pants, perhaps we can purposely be more oblivious to other potentially stressful events in our lives. It’s about balance. We probably need to focus less on our fronts and maybe a little more on our backs. But either way, we don’t need to obsess about what we see because that only leads to too much thinking and more anxiety.
So, basically, whether it’s the birthmark, the receding hairline, or the overabundance of scalp, I’ll never get a-head in this world if that’s all I see. Haha.
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