Leaving No Trace

When hiking/camping in the wilderness there is an environmental concept called “Leave no Trace.” This refers to implementing practices that will minimize your impact on the environment so it can continue on as “untouched” as possible.

I realize that I have unknowingly used this minimal impact practice in my life. Often working hard to make sure people didn’t even know I (or my large family) was there or had been there. It has not worked well for me. You see, unlike a secluded wilderness, humans are meant to have lasting impact on one another. Some of that impact will be positive, and some negative. That’s life.

But in my attempt to hide from the judgements of others and never bother anyone (no-impact living), I have only increased the negative impact it in my own life. 

Here is what this has looked like:

-I have tried to be a no-impactspouse, mother and homemaker.  I would apologize to my husband if things were falling apart at home or the house was a mess. “If I wasn’t so incompetent, he wouldn’t have to come home from a long day of work and deal with this mess.”  I would stay up later, wake up earlier and work all the harder the next day to reduce the impact of my weakness on my household and everyone in it. (P.S. My husband has never cared about a mess, but this isn’t about him is it?)

-I have tried to be a no-impact family when the 8 of us go out in the world. When at restaurants or on the airplanes I feel bad when people comment on the size of my family, my crying children, and ask to move seats or tables when our family has sat down next to them. “It must be terrible to sit next to our family” I would think. I would become an unnecessarily strict mother to my children so they would stay in-line and not impact anyone else around us after that. (What the heck?!)

-I have tried to be a no impact patient at the hospital. I spend the whole-time apologizing profusely, I am scared to ask for help, and I will sit in huge amounts of pain long before I complain because, “I don’t want to be THAT Patient.” (You know, the one who needs medical attention after surgery of all the things…)

-I have tried to be a low impact friend and neighbor. I don’t ask for or accept help well. It’s not that I don’t need or appreciate it, but I don’t want to be impacting someone else’s time and life. “They have better things they can do” and “It’s not their fault I had a baby, or moved, or that our son had surgery.” (Heaven forbid, I allowed them the pleasure of serving someone they love).

So, let me be clear about what you will get for trying to live A No Impact Life for everyone else around you…stress and anxiety. That is not a no-impact life my friends. It is a negatively impacted one. And when you hide this way, it’s your life.

We are all humans sharing the same earth, communities and airplanes. We are going to impact each other in positive and negative ways. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. Don’t let the fear of inadvertently having a negative impact in another’s life stop you from perhaps being the being the positive impact on someone else’s. We need the lessons and the experience these interactions have on us, and even though both the good and the bad can have a lasting impact, I know that what that impact looks like in our lives will be ultimately up to us.

When camping, go ahead do your best to leave no trace and reduce your environmental impact. With people, practice BEing someone willing to show up and leave some impact on those around you. They may need it more than you know.


3 Responses

  1. Yes! Usually when I am hyper-focused on not impacting someone else negatively, it is not because I am trying to be considerate of them, but rather because I am totally focused on myself. I am trying to control how they view me because I have made my self-worth dependent on what I perceive is their judgment of me. I am "using" them, like a drug, to give myself the "hit" of self esteem. For obvious reasons, there are problems with this.

  2. I am noticing how many different ways in my life I unknowingly think this way. It's been very eye-opening. Trying to "save" people from some thought or feeling, ultimately, because I am trying to "save" myself from a thought or feeling about it all.

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