“I.” A simple, one-letter word that people use too often. We constantly talk about ourselves, showing little to no interest in others. It’s clear that we live in a self-centered society. And with so much shit going on in the world (the lack of liberty in Libya, the earthquakes in New Zealand, the overall poverty and disease), the self-centered attitude is pretty pathetic.
So today I tried an experiment in verbal selflessness. I tried to eliminate that word / letter / syllable from my vocabulary. Needless to say, this was not as easy as expected.
Pre-Challenge: Before partaking in this challenge, ground rules must be set. Obviously “I” will be eliminated from my mouth. But since I teach two dance classes on Sundays, as well as take three additional classes, it’s impossible to eliminate any pronouns related to me. So the words “my” and “me” are acceptable.
Challenge: Before my day of dance of begins, my parents call for our usual Sunday Skype. Do you know how hard it is to answer questions about your life without using “I”? Well, it’s not as impossible as one would think. While talking with my mom and dad, I think about everything I want to say before I say it, something that does not come easy to a very verbal Italian. Granted the conversation takes a little longer and lacks the natural flow of our usual convos, but it works.
After an hour long catch-up, it’s time to say goodbye. And it’s also time for my first slip-up of the day.
“Bye you guys. I love you.”
As soon as the words fly out of my mouth, I cringe. But how can you not tell your parents you love them? I make a note, but let it slide since love is not a selfish thing.
As I walk into the dance room, I think that today may not be so difficult. As long as I think before I speak, I should be ok. So I teach the class, using “you should do” rather than “I want you to do.” Not only is this selfless, but a nicer way to teach. Unfortunately, the class was not “I” free. At times, my mouth moved faster than my brain, leading to the inevitable slips. By the end of the hour, I’ve used “I” 17 times. Not terrible, but not great.
I remain “I” free for several hours. Unfortunately, an unexpected and confrontational call from a friend throws me off my game. When arguing with people, it’s better and more productive to say “I feel you do this” rather than “you do this.” By putting the blame on yourself, you come across more considerate. In terms of today’s challenge, however, it’s best to put the blame on other people. As things get heated, however, the challenge becomes harder. Eventually I break; throwing out “I” like it’s going out of style. I wonder whether it’s worth finishing the challenge, since I probably used “I” hundreds of times during this argument.
For the rest of the evening I try to keep quiet. Even at a group meeting, I limit my comments to ones that don’t require referring to myself. Never has my loud mouth been so quiet.
Post-Challenge: Needless to say I failed today’s challenge. But then again, this was not an easy challenge to succeed at. Not using “I” is the verbal equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, or so I would imagine. Despite my overall fail, I think there was some success in today’s challenge. When chatting with friends, I listened to them the entire time without interjecting a relatable story about myself. When teaching my classes, I taught better by speaking about the dance from their perspective. Although these were little actions, it made me more considerate and a little less selfless.
Removing “I” is not an easy task. I would even go as far to say that it’s impossible. But limiting the use of “I” is more than possible and something everyone should attempt. Little steps to making a the world more selfless.
“I” freely yours,