During trick-or-treating on Sunday night, I had two young people come to my door. Each one was wearing half of a heart. If you’re of a certain age, you remember the inspiration for this costume. We had those best friend / first love necklaces and bracelets. We would keep one and then give the other half to someone who was extra special – the other half of our heart.
One side of the heart costume said “I love” and the other said “you more.” I’d love to tell you I smiled at their romantics, but I don’t like lying in my writing. My honest thought? “What a silly question – who loves who more.” I mean, why do people even say that? Why do we need a love-off? Dance it out instead. *Cue the BeeGees*
Yes, I know I’m cynical. I also know who loves who is a silly question, but it has been on my mind ever since. This question has made me think about this idea of balance and just how powerful and scary imbalances are. Way more scary than that costume.
I imagine two kids on a teeter totter, but one kid is much bigger than the other. The small kid starts by screaming with joy. They’re so excited to be riding high. But after a while, it gets boring just sitting up there. Chasing balance. Usually, they start crying because at this point, the big kid is holding them up there out of torment. Mom comes rushing over. The big kid drops, and we’re balanced again.
These kids could go back to playing, but usually that’s it for the teeter totter. Let’s face it. The teeter totter just isn’t that fun after you’ve realized how much you have to be vulnerable to someone else just to enjoy it. You can go on the swings or slides all on your own without risking your joy.
We learn early not to bet on others.
This is a pattern you don’t just pick up on the playground. It is reinforced when we express our wanting for a promotion and someone else gets hired. It’s when you express your love for someone and they say, “I’m not that into you.” It’s when you share feelings in a letter to a friend and they ignore you. This practice of imbalance seems to be in every layer of each disappointing moment.
But as we age, we don’t run off to our less vulnerable, independent joy next. No. We stay. We keep playing on this teeter totter of imbalance. We justify. Reason. Regret. Make up new stories for our inner children to convince them that next time will be better. I did it at work so many times – bouncing back from a crying fit of “I want to quit” with “how can I do better” as if all the responsibility for this feeling was on me. I did it in a lot of relationships, too.
I did all of that out of survival. The reality is that we can’t react to every imbalance like a child – running off to greener pastures. With that job, I had a lot on the line. I couldn’t just quit not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from. But this reliance on that company – fill in the word “company” with your own person, place, or moment – reinforced this idea that imbalance could just be everywhere without consequence.
That’s just not true.
Imbalance may exist in any two-person relationship (friend, work, sexual, or even strangers) for a short period of time. It’s completely normal to recognize and co-exist with others who may not be where you are or have all the information you have. We have to lift each other up and that is not a balanced act. You can’t just pay that support back in some formula. That’s not what I’m saying. I am telling you that permanent imbalance doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when you’re taking care of a relationship between two people or in a relationship with yourself. We cannot just exist on expected imbalances.
The consequence of that imbalance endured over a long period of time? Resentment.
Resentment is a powerful emotion that can break even the most beautiful thing. It’s kryptonite to love, to friendship, to loving your job and every other relationship that relies on you to wait for someone else to let you down.
However, imbalance is not a requirement of being with people. It just isn’t. We have to set our emotional expectations higher. We have to choose balance. To choose the people, the workplaces, and the small moments that bring us ease and balance. For me, that’s coffee and a donut alone in my car at 7 am. I live alone and I still value these sacred moments so much. At work, it’s making my Friday schedule sacred. I hated working a 4-day work week but I love holding Fridays for no calls.
We can choose to get off this stupid ride. Even when there’s a lot on the line. Even when everything feels different – because when things are different, I can only guarantee one thing. They will feel different. So, if different is what you’re craving, may I recommend some balance?
What’s really scary to me is that this imbalance has existed at work for decades. Probably since the industrial revolution. Damn capitalism.
In other scary news – last Halloween pun, I promise – I wrote about scary job postings in this week’s blog where I prove, yet again, that you can literally search any word and find a bad job post. This time, I used costume keywords. You’ll laugh even if you don’t work in recruiting. Thanks to Sarah Noll Wilson, Rob Dromgoole, Rachel Cupples, Renne B, and Aaron Ayyjay for playing along. You can read that here.
Have a great week and don’t forget to keep chasing balance –
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.