“challenge” versus “invitation”

I handled a mountain of laundry today and came across this tank top.

Love the pun, and love the message. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and it can admittedly hold some… internal and external pressures, for the singles and coupled people out there. Shower your significant other with gifts and cards and stories to repost on Instagram. Find the biggest, baddest way to “treat yoself.” Have a cute get together and photo opportunities with your Galentines. The list is endless.

I know that I am easily excitable, and sometimes my passionate energy or intense language can be a lot for my loved ones to handle. I’ve been trying to be more mindful of my audience and to choose language that resonates with them, rather than that which is most comfortable for me. I don’t do this to change what I am saying, but rather, to hopefully help them more clearly understand my side from their unique perspective.

In talking to others, and even to myself, I observe that there is a subtle yet distinct difference between the verbs “challenge” and “invite.” I think at the end of the day, both words will achieve the same goal: a call to action, to movement, to doing or becoming something better/stronger/more aligned. But I notice that some friends respond more positively to one word over the other. I, myself, in different situations, feel more inspired by one word over the other.

In physical situations, “challenge” resonates very deeply. I want to push myself, discover new limits, and work hard towards surpassing them. In emotional situations, “challenge” can be too, well, challenging and triggering. Being “invited” to explore my shadows, find my strength, and unleash my purpose feels much more like a welcoming pull rather than an aggressive push.

These definitions seem easy and obvious. I am challenging myself (ha!) to play with these words and see how they fit in the other context as well.

Can I “invite” myself to sit quietly within my own body, to get in tune with my own heartbeat, to feel the weight in my midfoot as I lift a weight overhead? Can I “challenge” myself to actively seek out tough conversations and people who I knooow will help me grow, even if it will be painful in the process?

Like most single people, I’ve been on the dating apps trying to have fun and trying to find love. They can work – I’ve found love on there before, and I know couples who are now married with kids who met on there. I’ve felt in my gut for a while that I don’t think I’m going to find my life partner on the apps. I’ve met some great and some not-so-great men on there. The overall system feels very… transactional, shallow, disconnected. Genuine connections can happen, but I think the modern day dating culture needs a major transformation. I’ve tried to approach app dating with honesty and transparency (almost to a fault). I’ve admittedly kept the apps this whole time because it’s easy to swipe from the comforts of my home, message while I’m unavailable during my work week, and implement the dates during my week off. I’ve gotten good at playing the game, working within the system. I’ve even guided several friends through navigating the apps.

I think therein lies the problem: I have gotten too comfortable. Dating apps have become a crutch. So, this week, I actually deleted all of my accounts! I even forfeited some remaining paid membership time on a couple of them. Now that they’re gone, I’m observing how much I relied on them to pass time. This current experience feels very much like both words to me. This app-less world is a “challenge” to be more present with myself, and an “invitation” to connect with men in real life. (… I think a face-to-face interaction would make a much better “meet cute” story, anyway :P) Sometimes I believe our lives would be more beautiful and fulfilling without smartphones… so, here’s my chance to play and experiment by removing the smartphone from the dating process. This may not be the right choice for everyone, but this feels like the next and most aligned step on my personal path.

Tomorrow and this weekend, instead of letting yourself feel pressured by the Hallmark industry or your Instagram feed, try this instead. I invite you, challenge you (you pick your own word!), to do ONE brave thing out of your comfort zone. It does not have to have anything to do with romantic love if you don’t want it to! My brave thing was to get OFF the apps. Maybe your brave thing is to write up a profile and get yourself onto the apps! Maybe your brave thing is taking yourself out to eat solo at the restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, or maybe it’s sticking your neck out and asking some friends to join you for ice cream. Maybe your brave thing is spending time with your family, or maybe it’s spreading your wings outside of the nest.

Whatever “challenge” or “invitation” you 1) extend to yourself and 2) choose to accept, I hope you learn something about yourself and see the world from an ever-so-slightly expanding worldview.

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