Life is all about continual growth and adaption to new circumstances and challenges. Usually, shifts in our perspective happen slowly over time because of the different people, places, and experiences that we are exposed to.
The changes in my own perspectives have been taking place under the surface for a very long time, but it feels like I woke up one day and everything that I believed in the past had changed in some way.
I wonder if other people have the same momentary realization that they are very different from the person that they were yesterday?
I am also curious if it is as scary for others as it was for me to acknowledge these changes in perspective. I had a great deal of fear around admitting that I had changed and that I saw the world differently. I thought that my friends and family would judge me or think I was foolish.
The lifestyle that I was taught to represent was so deeply ingrained into my thinking that I didn’t want anyone to know that I no longer found it to be right for me. It took a long time, but once I found the courage to talk about these shifts in my views, I became so much more confident about who I am, what I believe in, and how I want to make an impact on the world.
It’s a freeing feeling to sift through the things you believe in and figure out why you believe them. I have been doing that for most of my life, but there were still a lot of beliefs about religion, my place in the world, and right and wrong that I battled with inside for years before letting them come to the light.
I felt pressure to believe the same things that my family and my close friends believed because they were what I knew of the world, and they all seemed so confident in what they thought to be true. I didn’t realize how much it was hurting me to try to shove my worldview into the box that they labeled ‘right’. I also didn’t realize how jaded and narrow-minded it was causing me to be when I refused to accept anything into my belief system that didn’t fit into the box.
All of our personal truths and biases come from some form of our culture or our social norm. We are all products of where we grew up and what was normal around us. The church we go to, the meals we eat, the clothes we wear are all choices that are taught to us by the community that surrounds us. We have all had different experiences, felt different pain, and met different people that have made huge impacts on how we view morality, and how we believe that people should be treated. The right makeup of beliefs for me is not the same for anyone else because I have not seen life through anyone’s eyes but my own.
Some of our beliefs are beneficial for our wellbeing and for the wellbeing of community that we live in. Doing things the way that they have been done for generations is important for maintaining the bonds of family and nationality. Tradition is a wonderful part of life, and it is a beautiful thing that there are so many different traditions out there. However, some beliefs might be crippling us without us even realizing it.
I think that the most damaging thing to believe is that everyone but me is wrong. That I, somehow, with my very limited knowledge, have found all the answers to what is right and what is wrong for everyone. Everyone in the world firmly stands on their values as the ultimate truth, and when that truth is challenged it can bring out some very ugly versions of people. It can cause us to believe that we can treat others badly because they are different from us, or that we are allowed to try to change them into what we think they should be.
Those of us who challenge the traditions that we grew up with go in one of two directions, we either learn a lot and then end up back in the lifestyle that we came from, or we get as far away from the life that we grew up in as possible.
After struggling through my own beliefs, I found myself in the latter category. I not only decided that the ways that I had grown up in were not right for me, but I had become very resentful toward anything that resembled the world in which I had come from. I had become just as closed minded about the life of my past as I had been before about anything other than what I had known then. This resentment was contaminating some of my relationships and was limiting my ability to see life from my loved-ones’ perspectives.
I believe that it is important for me to respect the beliefs that I was brought up with as much as I respect any other worldview. Anything that is believed in an extreme or limiting manner can become harmful to the believer or those who oppose him. Extremism can come in the form of believing very strongly that only one way is the right way, or it can come in the form of believing that a certain way of life is absolutely the wrong way.
Keeping our minds open, kind, and willing to keep learning is the only way to keep us from extremism and allow people from different backgrounds to live in harmony with one another.
It is alright to change how we think and what we accept as true. The only way to know everything would be to have experienced everything, which is obviously an impossible thing to do. However, the more that we do encounter in life, the wiser that we become and the more understanding we become of how little it is that one person could possibly know.
We, as people all over the globe, are very different from one another, but we are also all the same. We laugh, we want to feel like we belong, we want to be comfortable and happy. Once we let go of our fear of the unknown we can share in others’ journeys, learn from different cultures and their theories about the world, and respect that we are not all the same.
This also allows us to show ourselves some grace in our own personal journeys, and gives us the freedom to explore the depths of our souls without the fear of discovering what we will find there.