- The Everyday Philosopher
Lisa Jablon Fowler
What are three values that describe you?
These are things I hope I have in my character: sensitive, intuitive and tenacious.
Do you see those things manifest in your life?
Yes. I do.
What is philosophy to you? How do you understand philosophy?
I don't know if I have the right answer, it's a hard question. It’s a way of looking and understanding the world around you and how you approach everything. Each person has their own philosophy in a way, it's an integration of other things they heard and learned. I guess it's a way of looking at the world and interacting. It’s your core beliefs.
Do you have a moment in your life that you felt was profound or made an impact on you?
There were a lot of those. I think of all the big milestones. It's strange to start so late but I'm starting with boot-camp, then graduating from college, getting married, having kids… The life cycle things come to mind. I can't think of anything from when I was younger. I feel that in the beginning of adulthood each milestone impacted my outlook. What I learned from each of those events.
You mentioned that to you philosophy is the ability to learn from different moments in life, and you brought up specific events that were related to cycles. Do you think there’s a connection between them?
It goes back to the three things I mentioned in the beginning: I knew as a child that I didn’t have some of the things that society really valued, or something that is important to contribute. I wasn’t a maker, I wasn’t an athlete, I wasn’t a star student, I wasn’t an artist like my mother, but I knew that my interactions with people were impactful both for them and for me, and I needed to push myself, I wanted to test my metal, to see if I can do it. It was a defiant thing for me, I wanted to prove to them that I can… I thought “I have valuable things and I can contribute more. I just need to push myself harder.” Once I’ll learn or master that I would feel more confident about myself.
I would feel I had something to contribute. And then each time that happened, I was a little more confident, maybe I have something I can contribute. Each of these things helped me feel more confident, more connected, and that I have a place in society.
What was your motivation to go against “all odds” and against what other people think of you?
It’s terrible to say but as a child I think it was an arrogant thing - “you don’t know me”. I didn’t want to be told that I couldn’t do those things, or to be limited. For me it was: “you don’t know! Only I can decide what I can do or can’t do. You can’t decide for me.”
Even when I was little, it was always “you’re gonna say whatever you want to say, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do…”
It sounded like you had a core that was very strong and very clear.
You know, it’s interesting that you say that because I have always been self possessed or independent or self contained, maybe to my detriment because sometimes I don’t reach out when I need to or ask for things and think I have to do everything on my own.
But even as a toddler my grandfather said to my father: she is very self possessed.
I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.
That gives me a lot of autonomy, I also had a lot of autonomy as a child.
Do you think it’s something that comes from within? Either you have it or you don’t?
I really call it stubbornness, which is such a pejorative thing. Everybody looks at it as such a bad trait to have, but at the same time I think everybody’s great asset is their greatest liability. It works for you or it could work against you. It depends on how you yield it. So tenacity is my way of saying ‘stubborn’ but I’m gonna dig in until I get what I’m going to get…
If you had the ability to talk to a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give to yourself?
I would advise me to be less afraid of failure. When I was young it was very humiliating for me to fail, I didn’t try a lot of things, I didn’t do a lot of things… I would look back and say to my younger version, start things sooner because then you’ll feel better when you do things.
It was much later in life, after I dragged myself through and said “I accomplished that”. I never actually thought I could do things. I didn’t have the confidence to try new things.
I would say to my younger version: just try it! It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, don’t worry about making a fool of yourself.
I never had the patience with myself to learn new things. I was too scared.
In your mind, what does it mean to be a successful person?
It’s an interesting developmental question. My attitude today towards success is much different then 10 years ago or 20 years ago.
It might sound arrogant but right now I feel successful. I still have goals I’m trying to reach, there are professional things I want to do but I feel successful.
I feel successful about my attachment and connection to my children but if something would happen would that be less successful? Would that be a failure? I don’t know…
I’m more aware of how little control I have. I have much more appreciation for what I have, what I’ve done, what I have accomplished at the moment…
Is success to you something you have or done? Is it something that is attached to external things or feelings you might have? Is it something more internal?
I don’t know, internally I’m a very anxious and worried person so I’m always questioning what I’ve done or why I’ve done it. Unfortunately it’s very hard for me to stay in the moment.
External things are successful and in some of them I was involved and made them happen, and some of them I was just lucky, I have great kids, a great husband, friends, whatever...those make me feel successful but those are external forces, right? Internally I never feel it’s my agency, or I made those things happen. But my own psychological work that I’ve done, how I’m regulating or how I treat people, or when I don’t react to things, those feel like successes and those are internal. External successes would be interactions with people that go well or work stuff that goes well or family things go well, when I don’t drop the ball, when things that are happening to me or around then I’ll feel good, then I feel successful.
Do you think there is a connection between these external and internal things?
Attitude is everything. I’m sure that how I feel, and how I'm feeling at the moment affect that. I’m always examining and always questioning that. I’ll always over-analyze or over-look at things but I’ve gotten better at being happy at the moment when things happen.
I’m a little more free at what I can’t control now then I used to be. I’m not as thrown by the external things like I used to be.
Do you have any regrets? Would you do things differently if you had the chance?
It’s impossible not to have regrets in life. I don’t think you are really self-reflecting if you don’t have any regrets. But I don’t know if I would do it differently if I could, and because of who I am, regardless, I would always look for meaning in it. I want the experiences to be meaningful, my interactions to be meaningful, I’m always looking for meaningful work. I was never a person who could coast on the superficial. So even if I was given a different environment I would still be trying to find meaning.
Do you have any advice to a young person out there, who is starting their lives?
This is a thing I wish everybody would know. I wish we all could remember all the time.
You are enough.
You don’t have to do a thing, or be a thing, or accomplish a thing, or look a certain way, you have a right to take up a space in this planet. You are enough.
Because it’s always about striving to be someone better or do something better. Our culture is very driven that way. But you are here for a reason and you are entitled to the space that you take up, no one can take that from you and tell you that you’re not enough this or that. That’s the hardest thing to hold on to in our culture in my opinion. It’s hard to remember that.
You Are Enough.