Three years ago, this summer a good friend shared a profound metaphor with me – the bug body. As Robert Heinlein said, “specialization is for insects.” And, when we have done one thing for a very long time, our environment necessarily shapes us into a form of specialization, enabling us to navigate and survive the “vagaries and proclivities” of said environment.
And, when we leave that environment or when it dissipates – whether we change jobs, discontinue relationships, move to a new city, deal with new health realities – we are left with a specialization (a bug body), which is often no longer appropriate. Not because that specialization is “bad or good,” but because the same response to our new environment simply no longer fits.
Recently, another dear friend told me she hadn’t seen me on social media as much as in the past and she wanted to make sure I was ok. I told her I am very ok and that social-platform algorithms probably dictate how much we interact with our IRL friends more than we want to admit.
But I was transparent as possible and also told her my online habits have changed, somewhat. Partially, I’ve diversified how I spend my online time to avoid the non-stop, toxic polarization caused by ancient tribalism and decades of cable-news brainwashing, as they’ve combined with modern technology manipulation.
However, my ‘online muting’ also began when I started listening and reading more than espousing and declaring. Essentially, this is one of multiple ways I’ve spent the past three years dismantling an obsolete bug body.
I ran into another good friend at the sporting goods store Saturday and talked to him about personality assessments and workshop facilitation. As we caught up I told him about some things I had worked on and he was surprised. Three years ago, he wouldn’t have believed what I was telling him. But, it’s true and I’m doing those things because I’ve been in a new environment and it was appropriate for me to make fundamental changes.
What I realized this morning and wanted to share with you while it’s fresh on my mind, is that you are not your bug body. LOL You are not your environment! None of us are. Sure, our environment shapes us all and it will mash us into a form of and for specialization. It doesn’t matter who you are.
But your response to your environment is merely your temporary container. Like an oddly shaped vase holds water in an oddly shaped form, the people you know, the work you do and where you live can give you a unique shape – but you are the air and water within, not the temporary vase. You are ultimately malleable. You don’t have to be ‘set’ in your ways.
When we change environments, we must have the courage to disassemble our inappropriate bug body. (I like that metaphor better than breaking a vase). But, we must do it with patience and compassion…compassion for ourselves, just like we would show any loved one who needs to make adjustments to their own responses to change.
And, most importantly — when we think back and reminisce about the events that shaped our previous environmental responses (our persona) — we should not convince ourselves our old persona or bug body, dictates how we’ll perform, behave or where we’ll go in the present or in the future.
Those environmental pressures were merely a set of circumstances, which shaped our specialization to deal with that environment at that time. It was and is not who we are, and it certainly doesn’t dictate our future.
Every single person reading this post is dealing with some sort of struggle right now. If my recounting of my experiences does anything, may it remind you that you’re not isolated. You’re not alone. We are all in the same boat.
And, we can indeed be a new creation, we can modify our responses to a new environment. Responses which are more appropriate and bring compassion to us and others and more contentment in the face of continuous change.