This One Life Lesson Changed My Perspective Of My Life
Shades of grey.
No! Not the Fifty Shades of Grey! Just never-ending, black and white mixed shades of grey, each different from the other. We all grew up in such a binary world. Good and bad. Rich and poor. Heaven and hell. Thinking that the world exists in only extremes. But the idea of the shades of grey in between, see, that life lesson changed my whole outlook on life.
I’m not going to bore you with what led me to the revelation. Maybe it’s the working of my brilliant subconscious mind. But it was during a fine morning, I put on my earphones and footwear and began marching towards my class. Suddenly, everything… made more sense.
The realization that shades of grey existed changed my perspective of my life by allowing three vital elements.
1. It allowed imperfection.
Binary thinking says it’s either/or. You’re either smart or dumb, a good person or a bad person, or good at writing or bad at writing. Because in between either choice exists something that cannot be labelled or categorized. Somewhat good or somewhat bad doesn’t allow comprehension of to what extent you’re good or bad. So what cannot be put into boxes is much easier called ‘messy’.
I’m a great daughter to my dad. I begin my mornings by giving my dad a hug. I cook him his favourite home-cooked delicacies and I will not stand anyone speaking ill of him. But hey, I’m constantly working on my relationship with my mum which has its own highs and lows. Am I a good daughter to my mum? I don’t know. So where in the spectrum of good and bad daughters do I lie?
But I am trying my best every day while I fail now and then because the reality is more complex and complicated than categories. It’s messy; imperfect. To be honest, that is okay. We’re mere humans trying our absolute best every day with everything that we have and it is okay.
2. It allowed empathy.
To quote my dear friend Dhanya,
“Stopped at a busy R & R and it’s crazy how I have no idea where any of these people are headed or what they’re going through. Are they in love? Going through a break-up? Graduating soon? Got diagnosed with a terminal disease? Suicidal? Grieving? These people that I may never ever see again are real people with real lives and real problems and that’s WILD.”
It is wild. We’re so easy to condone a bad driver for being reckless but maybe he wasn’t a bad driver. Maybe his daughter was sick back home. We know stealing is bad so what about those poor fathers who steal to feed their children because they have exhausted all other available choices? Your friend snapped at you or ghosted you but she just recently lost her grandma. So is she a bad friend?
Our lives are complicated. Human life is complicated. Never were we ever presented with a guidebook on how to go about life or “adult” or even grief. The truth is as much as our brain loves compartmentalizing, our emotions and experiences cannot be compartmentalized.
It is so much easier for people to say I’m a bad daughter than to actually put themselves in my shoes and try to understand if that’s the truth or why it seems that way. This realization allowed more empathy into my life, to actively put myself in the shoes of other people. Let it be family or friends to understand them better.
3. It allowed self-love.
I want to be someone. Someone who is looked up to by others for who I am as a person. For my kindness, charisma, resilience and bravery. But when I experience things that are totally opposite to the ideal version of myself, it feels like I’m living a lie. Especially on social media when I am actively involved in many things and talk about important issues.
Yet, when there are personal experiences that make me fall short of that ideal version, it feels terrible. Am I strong if I’m still questioning my self-worth? Am I resilient when I wake up some mornings and I am back to square one? Am I kind when I disrespect myself and disregard my own feelings due to conditioned avoidant coping?
Well, my life lesson on shades of grey tells me I’m allowed to be all at once. I can be grieving over losing my aunts and still go on and work on my final year project on intimate partner violence. I can have the most terrible day and be happy if my article gets published. Being rude to someone is still possible while I actively reflect and think of handling my anger issues better.
We’re all a messy piece of magnificent art going through the journey of life. There is no right way to do something. It’s not fair to be so hard on ourselves for not being able to live up to impossible standards and ideals when making mistakes and messing things up is very human. I don’t have to feel terrible when some experiences of mine don’t reflect my ideal version of myself. Because I have too many shades of grey. The healing and improving parts of me deserve to be honoured and loved as the greatest parts of me.
Now it’s your turn. Look back and reflect on all the times you have had binary thinking clouding your judgement from reality. Have you been hiding from others or your own shades of grey? How have you been embracing others’ or your own shades of grey? How have you been working on being imperfect, empathetic and loving toward others and yourself?