ONE OF THE greatest game-changers in my late-blooming self-awareness has been a simple realization: not everyone out there is deliberately trying to be awkward and sabotage my life. They genuinely just don’t always see things the same way I do (gasp!)
I spent the first few decades of my life quietly convinced that I must be the subject of some great cosmic conspiracy, with everyone else ganging up to thwart me. It’s been a relief and a reality check to discover otherwise. The humble truth: I’m actually not that important for people to be wasting a lot of time on. Usually, they aren’t working on a grand scheme, they are just acting out of who they are.
Finally grasping the oh-so-obvious to most everyone else has had two benefits. First, it has given me more compassion for, and patience with, people embracing an alternate view. They can only see what they see, even on the occasions when their version is objectively wrong. Telling them the gray they see is actually red is meaningless, even if that’s the case.
Second, and conversely, it’s made me more comfortable and confident in my own skin—accepting that if other people don’t see things the way I do, then I don’t have to see the things the way they do, either. I am free to be true to me, as kindly as possible.
At the same time, both they and I need to be open to trying on a fresh pair of lenses that just may improve our vision—like the new corrective glasses for people who are color-blind. If only all of us would have the same reaction as these folks when they go from their individual black-and-white reality to the world’s actual full-color, as we see things anew.
A close second-best insight has been to understand that many of us have a particular orientation to time. We may turn to the past, be focused on the present, or be more apt to look into the future. That proclivity can subtly shape our view of the world and how we interact with others.
Recognizing my bent to the past helped me understand my tendency toward sentimentality—a wad of “bookmarks” of old ticket stubs, by way of example—and loyalty. It also explains why I can have a hard time letting go of hurts. Meanwhile, for someone with a future focus, what’s past is past and needs to be left there: Let’s move on! They’re not being dismissive of what’s gone; it’s just not on their radar.
The moral from these two points? If you don’t want to get mowed down when you step out into the street of life, look both ways.
Photo by dmitryzhkov on Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA