We Don’t See Things As They Are, We See Things As We Are
We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.
This quote rings my bell ‘cause—wow—it’s so true. I view life through my lens; you view through yours. Each of us interprets situations based on personal opinions and experiences.
It’s important to be aware of this so that we never presume that our take on life is the same as anyone else’s and so that we will be open to different perspectives. Yes, there are such things as shared circumstances—but our interpretations and individual thoughts, feelings and results from even common circumstances will vary.
With that core principle in mind, it’s much more simple to be aware of what your own interpretation of circumstances is, understand why you’re interpreting the way you are—through that lens of yours, and make measured decisions accordingly. Maybe you realize you want to reframe the circumstances so you can feel better and go for a more positive outcome. Or maybe you affirm your interpretation as accurate and let it continue to fuel you in the best direction.
Certainly, this can help you avoid cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias where you only see the things you want to see—just the stuff that supports your preferences and attribution bias where you make blanket judgements about why people behave certain ways without taking time or effort to assess specific factors.
Operating with biases in your everyday life truly limits your ability to learn and grow, face realities, and meaningfully connect with others. One of my guiding tenets is to never live a “verdict in search of evidence” life. I want to be thoughtful and intelligent to seek evidence in order to make determinations…even if that evidence leads me in directions I’m not comfortable with or hadn’t expected—in other words, to see things not as I am.
Recently, I saw a social post about the covid-19 pandemic that decreed “I don’t think anyone is doing well right now…”.
I immediately thought, “hey—speak for yourself!”.
The post went on to offer compassion when “we” are inert, judgey, needy, etc. The entire message was steeped in melancholy and assumptions!
The author’s sweeping statement reveals how she sees the world right now. She tried to lump all of us into her point of view. In doing so, she excluded the voices of those who are experiencing the situation differently and could offer fresh ideas, perspectives, or encouragement.
“Use ‘I’ statements.”
That’s one of the guidelines for my church’s weekly small group discussions., and I really appreciate it. Using ‘I’ statements requires that I share only my perspectives and never default to making broad, general observations about ‘people’ or ‘society.’ It helps me focus on my stance very honestly without imposing it on anyone else, and it leaves space for others to do the same. That makes for more balanced, meaningful conversation.
Interestingly, when I take action based on my awareness that “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are,” the quote itself starts to unravel a bit.
Acting on this awareness, I am more open to seeing things as others see them and learning from them. I am less prone to tie my identity into how I see things at any given time. I realize that my view may change as I gain more life experience or alter my opinions.
Perhaps most importantly, I can actively reverse the order and choose to see things differently in order to become who I want to be.
See what I mean? 😉
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