I appreciate the uniqueness of seashells. I enjoy their variety: their different colours, shapes, sizes, patterns, diversity. And like us, they each have their own story to tell. And while we could guess at a seashell’s story – they will all be different in small, particular ways that we probably know little about. This is a good reminder – not just that we as people are all different, but that our stories, our histories, our life experiences all differ too – so it’s fair to expect that someone else (who is not me) may see life in an entirely different way to how I do.
I spent a number of months living in Uganda on several occasions. I had expected that the people I interacted with in rural Uganda would be different to me, their experiences and expectations etc, but what I wasn’t prepared for (the first time at least) was that it appeared that their thought processes were also totally different to mine. Looking back I’m not sure why I found this so surprising – but I did. What seemed logical and rational to me was often not to a rural Ugandan.
Similarly when I met my husband, after many years of living alone, I was surprised to find that this man that I shared so much in common with and whom I adored, and who seemed to adore me, had thought processes so foreign to mine in many ways. In hindsight I figure that’s men and women for you – Venus and Mars, from two different worlds and with different perspectives. What surprised me (again) was that I expected our thought processes to be similar when it became apparent that they weren’t. So here we are five years on and we are still learning about each other, still learning what works and doesn’t work for the other – still learning about our similarities and our differences. And that’s ok. I know him better, but I’m still learning. And I still adore him!
The reminder here is that while I expect others to have a different experience, knowledge and perspective from myself – I might also choose to limit my expectations about others – so that I can relax and enjoy their companionship and their diversity, our similarities and our differences, and they can enjoy the freedom to be fully themselves without having to explain, rationalize, or justify their perspective or behaviours.
Do I provide others with an environment where they feel free to totally be their own remarkable, distinct and unique selves?