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By Brianna Wiest
We socialize within groups that affirm one another. That is how we pick and choose the people in our lives. Over time, we begin to adopt the assumption that everybody thinks the way we do. When we dislike other people only for how they think or what they believe, it’s because some aspect of their belief system seems inherently threatening to our own. This is what happens when we identify with our beliefs, thoughts or emotions: when someone else disagrees, it feels as though they are attacking who we are. We reject them, rather than our fears.
Identity is crucial. It is a fundamental aspect of well-being because we can only truly know and experience that which we first understand ourselves to be. Yet, we seem to have a collective issue on this very front: it’s our beliefs that come into conflict with one another. Because we have so much resting on our identities, we can’t find a way to coexist with other people’s. It simply threatens our entire personhood in a way that almost induces a survival response.
The first step to being able to look at life a bit more objectively is by realizing the lengths we go to to insulate our world views. It’s only the first step in a level of radical self-awareness most people probably aren’t interested in attempting, but that’s not what’s important. That’s important is that we start somewhere. Here are 6 ways we insulate our world views, and how doing so makes us intolerant of others.
1. We choose friends based on common beliefs only.
When you bond and then choose to maintain friendships with people only because you have similar views on certain topics – or you’re just within proximity of one another regularly enough – you overlook what it means to really enjoy someone’s company, which is to love who they are regardless of how aligned their thinking is with yours.
2. We dislike people based on their beliefs only.
We typically claim to dislike people when their beliefs are either uninformed or generally “offensive” toward another person or group. Yet, there is no merit and there is no progress in this. It is not more intelligent or better informed. The work that must be done is in seeing others as people first, beliefs and ideas second. The reason why we can’t coexist is because we can’t do that in the first place.
3. We identify with our beliefs only.
If you believe that you are only your beliefs, you will forever be subject to the transitory, shifting ideologies you hold at any given point of time.
4. We think that we must like something to accept that it’s valid.
You don’t have to like someone else’s beliefs to accept that they are also valid. You don’t have to be happy about how a large group of people think to accept that it is, indeed, the way they choose to conduct themselves. It is not your job to be angry for the universe. It is not your job to police.
5. We don’t give ourselves space to evolve because we think changing our minds is being wrong, and being wrong is bad.
When you’re in a place of being healthfully detached from your ideas (as opposed to being attached to who you actually are) you’re far more open to allowing them to evolve. When your sense of safety and personhood isn’t resting on the validity of one idea in particular, you can be open to changing your mind, and this, above all else, is what we all need to strive for, as it’s what the world needs more than anything.
6. We let confirmation bias replace objective reality.
A great case-in-point for this is when people say “Well, I’ve never experienced that,” in response to a national statistic, or objective trend someone else observes. Essentially, we begin to believe that the world we see and experience is the only one that exists, and when we think it’s the only one that exists, we begin to believe that it should be suited to fit our immediate and selfish desires, wants and needs.
Image: Alagich Katya