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Today was huge for me.
Picture me standing in line at the high-end supermarket inside Marui Imai. One head of cauliflower for my next recipe is cradled under my left arm in a power grip.
All of a sudden, this well-dressed, manicured Japanese woman, maybe in her late 60s, zoomed right around me and cut to the front of the line with her crate of 12 eggs.
I hesitated, and thought to myself, ‘Do I tell her that I was waiting in line or say nothing?’
She only had one or two items in her basket besides eggs– it would only cost me like an extra one minute and 15 seconds if I didn’t say anything.
I made the decision. Taking a few steps forward, I gently tapped her on the shoulder and politely asked in Japanese, pointing to the woman in front of her, “Are you together?”
Her reply was “no”, so I let her know that I had been standing, waiting in line.
In a confident tone of voice, she pointed out that the line she was in was separate from the line for the register behind where we were standing. I asserted that I understood that and repeated that I had been waiting in line.
I didn’t mention to her that I had been standing on top of the big, pale brown arrows that are on the floor that direct me to this register.
Judging from their side glimpses towards me, I believe the two ladies working the register knew I was waiting in line. To be brutally honest, even though I’m being totally judgemental, I doubt they would have said anything if I hadn’t.
If I don’t stand up for myself, who will?
It took just a little persistence and she let me go ahead of her. After paying for my cauliflower, she swiftly hoisted her egg-filled basket back up onto the counter and I greeted her again, “Sumimasen ne.” Please excuse me for the trouble. Her response was, “Dou itashimashite.” You’re welcome.
I still don’t know what to think of that response, but it doesn’t matter.
I walked away from what felt like one of the biggest accomplishments in my life. I felt such a high– I was so proud of myself.
Even compared to hosting my first healthy cooking workshop last night, both takoyaki recipes turned out better than I expected…
this felt better.
Let me explain the reason why this was such a huge deal for me.
The truth is, I’ve been letting people cut in front of me my whole life. I’d always talk myself out of saying something. Waiting the extra minute and 15 seconds was easier than standing up for myself.
My mom told me that even when I was in kindergarten, I would always let all the other kids go down the slide first.
And then there was the time my girlfriend and I were on vacation in Phuket, Thailand, about four years ago. I took her to a fancy restaurant that was inside an exclusive, clifftop 5-star resort. We watched the sunset from the pool bar that had a wide-open view of the Andaman Sea.
After I took care of the bill, we were waiting for the club cart that the restaurant host had called for us to bring us back up the hill to the hotel lobby. This “5-star service” was just like how concierge had arranged our ride down.
Even though it was dark, I vividly remember everything, under the one streetlamp.
To conclude our special night out, a family that had just checked into the resort an hour ago cut in front of us and took our ride up the hill.
I remember the family from the lobby and their Louis Vuitton matching set of suitcases.
I didn’t say anything. Standing there, unmoving, these were the thoughts that came to mind:
1. ‘They’re actually guests staying at the resort so we should give them priority.’
2. ‘They just arrived with jetlag after a long flight from Europe. The considerate thing to do is let them get back to their room before us.’
3. ‘I’m sure the next cart will come in two minutes. It’s a nice night out and we’re not in a hurry.’
Now I have enough self-awareness to be able to trace these surface-level thoughts deep down into the core of my subconscious beliefs.
Here are my thoughts, stripped down to the bare truth of what I believed about myself:
1. They’re rich and successful. I’m not, so I don’t belong here.
2. They flew to Thailand first class so they have more value than I do. I should let them go first because I don’t deserve it.
3. Their time is more valuable than my time. I’m not important.
To sum up my beliefs: I’m not worthy.
And down to the core of my existence, I’m not enough.
How do I know this?
Well, if I had had more self-worth, I wouldn’t have even hesitated to speak up!
Now I completely understand why my girlfriend wouldn’t talk to me the entire taxi ride back to our hotel.
It wasn’t just me anymore– I hadn’t stood up for my girlfriend either.
She wasn’t impressed by the Louis Vuitton bags– that golf cart they just highjacked was for us and we both knew it. Going to this fancy hotel wasn’t even her idea – it’s what I thought she wanted.
Just like today, I’ll never forget that experience. That time, I failed, big time.
But because I’ve failed so many times, it makes today all the sweeter. Even now, while writing this, I still feel proud of myself after my championship win at the supermarket.
Like my girlfriend had tried to explain to me on our hotel balcony in Phuket, four years later, I finally understand it’s not about picking a fight with someone over something minor, having to be right, or not wasting time.
Today, I clearly understand what it all means.
How I acted in these encounters show my true beliefs about myself, and whether or not I feel that I deserve as much as anyone else.
I used to feel good about being “a nice guy.”
Now I despise this part of me after I realized I was just afraid.
Being “a nice guy” is letting fear control your life. It’s a euphemistic way of saying “coward”.
Not standing up for myself was me being a coward.
Just because the lady that cut in front of me at the supermarket likely drove home in a Mercedes, it doesn’t mean that she’s more deserving or that her life is worth more than mine. My 50-yen-off, slightly brown cauliflower is just as important as her premium-grade eggs!
Just because I’m a guest in this country, it doesn’t mean I have to yield to her right-of-way.
It means that she knows her self-worth.
And after this afternoon, now she knows mine.
Much more importantly, I’ve begun to prove to myself that I’m beginning to know my own worth.
Your Moment of Zen…
It’s taken me 39 years to begin to see through all the B.S. stories I’ve been telling myself to uncover my self-worth and see the truth.
Why I am sharing all this with you?
Because I want you to know this.
You’re reading this email. You’re interested in improving your health, possibly you want to lose weight, or just eat healthier and take better care of yourself.
No matter what your goal is that you haven’t reached, healthwise or anything in life, do you want to know the one reason you haven’t changed?
Deep down, you don’t believe you deserve it.
How do I know this is true?
It was true for me.
Right now, I’d like to take the honor, if I’m the first person in your life to tell you,
You deserve it.
Don’t be a pushover like I was. You deserve better.
Thank you so much for reading my story, a little “miso soup for the soul.” For me, it’s a privilege to have you take the time to read this far!
In Zen, the two events in my life that I described above are examples of what’s called ‘kensho‘ (-an opening experience of enlightenment that requires further realization and deepening) and ‘satori‘ (-that ‘aha’ moment of seeing into one’s true nature. Sudden enlightenment.)
Zen training is a process of removing all our filters that prevent us from seeing reality as it is.
After gaining awareness of all the self-defeating stories we tell ourselves, we can begin to gradually let them go and discover our true selves.
I’m curious. If you were in my situation, what would you have done?
As a child, were you taught to stand up for yourself? Or were you taught that your voice doesn’t matter? “Children are to be seen and not heard.”
I’d love to hear from you and learn from your story!
Sending you love (that’s what you deserve),
PS. Cauliflower and receipt is in my bag. You’re next in line. It’s your turn!
Make today huge.