The way we define ourselves is by what we like and dislike, what we do or don’t do, what we believe or don’t believe, etc. and the problem with this ego-level method of understanding ourselves is that it doesn’t leave room for other opinions, reconsideration or inherent tolerance for the opinions of others. We have based our own person on ideas of what’s right and what’s wrong– challenge those, you challenge who we believe we are.
We’re conditioned by our individual experiences, and our minds filter through situations in constructed lights crafted by past experiences that our subconscious does not want to repeat. We attach ourselves to or plight ourselves against different things and ideas and people to ground ourselves in some version of reality. We’re choosing the quality of our lives by what we choose to subscribe to by the way of what means having a happy life, a fulfilling life. But in doing this, we forget to consider a crucial element of happiness, and that’s being able to affiliate with people, all people, and to seek greater peace among people: to coexist.
These opinions, or self-definitions as I see them, have become a source of tension on a micro scale, and a cause of world war on a macro scale. What instilled in us the notion that we all have to agree, and that our points and opinions and self-identities are only as valid as we can make others believe they are?
Our differences should be opportunities to learn and grow and evaluate and re-evaluate and to realize that our beings and our mind’s idea of who we are are not the same. To recognize that we should all have respect (and largely do) for the internal beings that reside within even when we most vehemently disagree with what the external of those people are doing.
In an ideal world, we should be using these differences to understand why we’ve chosen to subscribe to a certain belief of lifestyle and then to realize why something means so much to us when another person disregards it as worthless, and why this threatens us so much.
A spectrum of people and ideas and thoughts can be healthy and informative and worthwhile if we learn to not buck them. We need our differences. We actually, literally need them. We’re otherwise destined for nothing but a robotic utopia, denying every part of us that isn’t like the rest; as though the majority’s opinion is the only one worth having.
But we were taught how to have our own opinions, and it’s easy. We get emotionally attached to something and we stick with it. We fear change. But we need to work on curating the new norm for what comes after we’ve sworn ourselves to our own opinions, and that’s acknowledging other people’s ideas as being valid, even if they threaten or undermine ours in some way. Because the issue comes back down to the fact that you can disagree with someone, but that doesn’t mean you can disrespect them.
image – Anna Gutermuth