It was a warm summer evening and our family was taking a walk together, which is something we do often when the weather is nice. We were walking and talking and my daughter noticed a stain in the concrete. She laughed and proclaimed “look, it’s a butt.” My son was standing on the other side of the stain and argued, “It’s not a butt, it’s a heart.” They were looking at the same thing, but both saw something totally different. So much of our view of the world is determined by where we are standing and how our brain labels what we see and experience. This is the power of perspective.
Now whether you think this is a butt or a heart, really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that both perspectives can be viewed as accurate. From where each of them were standing, the shape in the ground took on a new form. There really is no right or wrong answer here. I’m sure there are people reading this who can see something else all together.
Whatever your perspective is on the pictures above, take note that this is also an analogy for life. So often we see something and we believe that our view is the one that is correct. We forget to take into consideration that the other person’s view could also be true for them.
So often we try to pull people into our own perspective. We want to make a case for why we are right and they are not. Let’s take into consideration how we form our perspective.
Our perspective is formed by:
- Our experiences- What has happened to us to mold our view of the world? Both positive and negative experiences color the way we see things.
- What we were taught- From birth we are taught what our caretakers believe. This can be things that are blatantly spoken, and also things that are implied. Many of us had unspoken rules in our families as well. Rules, norms, and beliefs are also taught to us on a societal level through avenues such as media.
- Where we stand- There is much that can influence where we stand in relation to the thing we are looking at. Things like our culture, race, gender, socioeconomic status, geographical location of where we live, and our own privilege, all have big influences on where we stand when we are viewing the world.
- Labels- How our brain labels the things and situations we are looking at and experiencing.
Let’s talk more about labels
When I was in graduate school I took classes in Play Therapy so I could work with children in therapy. One of the very first things we were taught was to NEVER label objects for kids. If a child is playing with a block, we should never say “That’s a block.” Because children have not yet learned this black-and-white thinking we cling to as adults. To a child, the block could be a telephone, car, house, animal, person, train, plane, tree… you get the picture. It could be ANYTHING. As we get older we lose our imagination and grab onto what we are told things are, rather than still being able to make something whatever we want it to be.
It makes me sad that we trade in the childlike magic for the stark white boringness of “knowledge.” We THINK we know what things are. But in reality, they are really just what we make them to be. As we grow older, our desire is to take things and make them fit inside a nice little box.
First of all, boxes are boring and far to limiting. Second, our labels create generalizations. Many of those generalizations are unkind and create distance between ourselves and other humans.
Think about a generalized belief you have. I’ll give you a common one I’ve heard people say as an example: “All people on welfare are lazy.” Have you heard this one before? I’m sure you can come up with your own generalized beliefs about groups of people. We all have them. Our job now is to undo them.
Think about the generalized belief you’ve brought up in your mind. Now I want you to think about how many of these people you have actually seen with your own eyes. How many people do you KNOW that meet this description. The reality in most cases is that when it comes down to it, the answer is very minuscule, and quite possibly none.
Most of the time, our labels come from unreliable sources. They come from people who want us to think a certain way to further their own agenda. When we do the work and really think about the generalized beliefs we have and the labels we hold, we realize that it’s not us who created those in the first place. But we continue to hold onto them. It’s time to start thinking for ourselves.
The power of your perspective creates your own reality. When it comes down to it, most of us don’t really even like the reality we’ve created for ourselves. When we dig down deep we understand we are confined. If we allow ourselves to go there for even a second… we can feel the twinge that comes with holding onto perspectives and labels that don’t serve us.
We can learn a great deal from our children who exist in a world that is free of labels. A place where things are simpler and people are just people.
Love and Different Perspectives
People think that in order to love each other they have to have the exact same perspective. However, this thought is a barrier in most marriages and partnerships. I can easily say that in couples therapy this is one of the biggest sources of conflict I see in clients. One person is trying to get the other to think the same way as them. To carry the same perspective, and if they don’t… it’s not pretty. Imagine what it’s like when both people are fighting for their own perspective to be adopted as the one that is accurate and true.
My husband and I have very different perspectives on most things. I can be a little too “woo woo” for him and he can be a little to concrete for me. But he loves me anyway. And even though I give him a really good eye roll on the regular, I love him too. That’s not to say we don’t get frustrated and upset with each other. Yet, it’s something we have to consciously do.
This is true for all of us. It’s super easy to get sucked into the same old way of thinking and never wanting to challenge yourself to think outside the box.
If people are in a relationship where they agree on EVERYTHING, I can guarantee you that someone is not being authentic. They are keeping their own perspective silent in an attempt to keep from rocking the boat.
So many relationships end because people aren’t willing to come together and compromise, bend, and broaden their own perspective. To meet people where they are and put themselves inside their shoes. If we could embrace the difference in one another’s views, the whole world would drastically change.
It is What You Say it is
In order to understand the power of perspective and broaden our view, we must be able to embrace our own limitations. That based on our experience, teaching, position, and labels, we see the world though our very own narrow view.
Take this picture for example. It’s a beautiful illustration of how our own experiences limit the perspective in which we can see the world. Our own view is limited. Now I could argue with everyone that this part of the city is the only place that exists because I can’t see outside of it. Or, I can acknowledge that my view is limited.
That is the key. When we are able to acknowledge the power we have over our own perspective, everything can change. It is at that point where we can realize that we do indeed create our own reality and view of the world… we can then begin to broaden that view.
With a broader view comes a richer life experience, deeper relationships, and a greater way of showing up in the world and for ourselves and others.
That doesn’t mean you have to change what you believe or your own foundation in life, it just means you have to open yourself up to embracing that no one on this planet is going to have the exact same perspective as you. They are not you. They aren’t supposed to be. And they can see the world from a completely different view and it’s actually a VERY beautiful thing.