I glanced at my holiday calendar and found out that today is “Inconvenience Yourself Day”. On the face of it, this seems like an odd concept. Don’t we usually seek out ways to make life more convenient for ourselves? Why would we want to inconvenience ourselves?
A quick search revealed that each fourth Wednesday in February is set aside to find ways to do something nice for others, practice common courtesy, and acknowledge the goodness of others. In other words, today is set aside to focus on other people.
I then realized that most of us spend each day thinking mainly of ourselves. How can I get ahead? How can I make life easier for myself? How can I set aside more time for myself? How can I make life more convenient for myself?
I reversed the questions and understood the logic. How can I help someone get ahead? How can I make life easier for someone else? How can I spend more time with someone else? How can I make life more convenient for others?
Oftentimes, when we make life more convenient for ourselves, we inconvenience others. If I request special treatment or deluxe service, somebody else has to go out of their way to provide it. It doesn’t take long before I start to feel entitled to a smiling sales clerk or an extra perk. I can forget that other people expend extra energy to provide those special gestures to me. They really don’t owe us anything.
I don’t think we purposely intend to create inconvenience for other people. We live within a fast-paced society and have to deal with jam-packed schedules and commitments. We feel so rushed and pressured that we think we do come first, in every instance.
There’s an Internet meme that I’m not comfortable with. You can’t browse social media without coming across “Think of yourself first, don’t give a f*** about other people’s opinions of you.” I realize the intent of this rather rude phrase means that we shouldn’t be a doormat in interpersonal relationships.
However, the unfortunate use of the f-word or the s-word brings this advice down several notches. Many people interpret this meme to mean they can behave any which way they please regardless of the harm they may cause. Some people may think it’s OK to intentionally cause harm and ill-will, just as long as their actions are legal. We might suffer through crude behavior and wish they gave two “f’s” about other people’s well-being.
Today is one of those days we remember that life is a balancing act. Without surrendering myself to the judgements and opinions of others, I can inconvenience myself by not thinking too highly of myself, yet retain my valuable self-esteem. One way to practice this is by going out of my way to perform a good deed.
Today is a good time to practice a random act of kindness. If you can pull it off anonymously, all the better. This reminds me of another popular meme, “Pay It Forward”. We’ve heard about someone paying the restaurant tab for a random fellow patron. The arbitrary, anonymous gift of a free meal to a stranger, without special conditions, is a heart warming act of kindness. Even though the gift-giver may have been inconvenienced, you can bet that he probably feels warm and joyful inside because of his kindness.
You don’t need to buy lunch for a total stranger to inconvenience yourself in a positive way. You might decide to allow someone to cut in line in front of you. This might be on the highway or at the supermarket checkout lane. You might want to inconvenience yourself by making a loved one feel more appreciated, by helping them with an odious chore. These are just idea starters. It’s easy to find situations in which to positively inconvenience ourselves if we pay attention to our surroundings.
Even if I inconvenience myself, just once, I feel good about myself. If I inconvenience myself without bragging about the good deed or just do it anonymously, I feel even better. That’s when I again question the phrase “inconvenience yourself”. Because, in the end, the inconvenience isn’t truly inconvenient.