Lately, more so than usual, social media has been flooded with opinions. Because people are being more vocal about their beliefs, others grow more hostile defending their own in response. Rational discussions are too commonly few and far between. I’ve noticed both through observation and experience that too many hostile disagreements stem from closed-mindedness from both parties. from just persistently not listening.
So, why is open-mindedness an extremely vital part of self-growth?
- It changes your approach to conversations.
I’ve seen way too many people approach debates (I’d honestly hardly call these conversations debates; they’re more like verbal thrashings) with, “If you ______, direct message me & I’ll tell you why you’re wrong.” This dehumanizes the person on the other side of the argument and often makes it seem like they want the worst for everyone. Instead, we must recognize that the person we disagree with has at least a reason for their belief. How do we determine if that reason is reliable and coming from a good place? We listen to them. We recognize them as people who, more often than not, think their way is the safest and best way.
The arguments about police and prison reform were the inspiration for this blog post and the social and political elephant in the room here, but keep in mind open-mindedness is not only a tactic to form your political beliefs (…but definitely use it! Don’t dismiss ideas before you even hear and consider them).
With that being said, let’s switch to looking at this thought process within improving states of our self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety. It’s probably difficult to understand why some friends and family members struggle with anxiety or self-doubt. Instead of saying, “Just don’t worry,” we should be asking them what they’re worried about, why they’re worried about it, and what helps ease their fears. Then, we should express understanding for their anxiety and calmly discuss its rationality and action steps to prevent it in the future. “Just don’t worry,” dismisses real worries and creates shame for having them, which isn’t helpful for growth for either party.
On the flip side, if you struggle with something like anxiety or self-doubt and reach out for help, it’s possible you anticipate you’re too far gone for any of their advice to actually help you. If you hear them without listening, the conversation is fruitless because you’ve already decided you’re the exception. To be helped, you must be open to getting help.
- It allows room for each side to admittedly have flaws.
Hannah Montana really said it best in her song “Nobody’s Perfect.” Viewing our opinions from any perspective at all as infallible because we hold them is entirely unhelpful. If we’re afraid of a kink in our logic, we make our ideas seem more extreme because we’re giving full-fledged solutions instead of saying, “Well, this is the best thing I’ve heard so far. What do you think?” For example, abolitionist-based police reform has been widely discussed and the exact community resources that would replace aspects of the police have been tossed around. If we believe in abolitionist-based police reform, we must be able to recognize that asking people what their ideal version of expanding community resources looks like is extremely helpful in consideration, meaning there may be something more ideal than what you currently believe. On the other side of that, people who are aggressively supporting our current police force often refuse to think anything is wrong with it at all, which also stunts progress.
Within a different avenue, if someone has negative coping mechanisms for stress, they must not sweep them under the rug like they’re no big deal. Instead of saying, “It’s not a problem. I don’t even do it that much,” we have to acknowledge that something is wrong in the first place. Similarly, if their friend tries to suggest a behavior to replace the negative one, the friend shouldn’t believe this is not only the best way, but the only way to live at all. This again goes back to approaching the confrontation, proving the person with negative coping mechanisms probably isn’t trying to have them, but they have to want to get better.
- The conversation will be more honest and productive.
No matter what perspective of any argument you’re coming from, it’s always easy to get caught up in the moment and shift the conversation to personal attacks and angry comments. When we remove these behaviors, we make room for facts, experiences, and true perspectives. An open mind allows the full extent of each perspective to be expressed. This means that at the end of the conversation, even if the two people end up disagreeing, they then can say, “I don’t agree, but I see where they’re coming from,” which results in a lot less bashing and overall hostility.
“How I Realized There’s Enough Pretty to Go Around”
It’s a joke among my friends and family that as a child, I was rather… sure of myself. Some may choose the word conceited, but we’ll go with extraordinarily confident. Obviously, many kids have problems recognizing the positive characteristics they share with others; likewise, I was too busy basking in self-love to see that there were other girls who were also pretty and smart.
At some point, though, a middle school girl who couldn’t bear the idea of leaving the house without makeup started replacing my overwhelming amount of self-assuredness.
Over my six years of social media usage, I started incorporating a rather unhealthy habit of comparison into my daily routine, and I didn’t recognize its severity until I found myself on another girl’s instagram before I went to bed wishing and praying I could have the ever-so-perfect highlight real she portrayed on her profile. Eventually, I became rather upset that this was such a large focus of my day-to-day, but instead of taking action steps to alleviate these self-inflicted unhealthy habits, I let them be. I chose to ignore them, acting like I had no reason to fix anything since I identified the issue already. What more could I possibly need?
It’s irrational to treat our personal setbacks aside like a book laying around we’ve been meaning to read for six years. See, the only way to actually get past the habit of comparison was to allow myself to get upset every now and then. I had to stop ignoring the problem.
So, I started trying. Slowly but surely, I’d catch myself lurking on someone’s page, but then I’d recognize the lies I constantly used to tell myself and do my best to lift my spirits with positivity. One day, scrolling on VSCO, I saw a picture that said, “Just because she’s pretty doesn’t mean you’re not.”
“Just because she’s pretty doesn’t mean you’re not.”
Now, I wish that seeing a sweet, empowering picture on VSCO would entirely change my perspective on life. I wish I could say I never so much as negatively batted an eyelash afterwards, but that’s not the case. What it did mean was that from then on, when the cursed comparison crept in, I’d remind myself that there was enough pretty to go around. Since there’s enough pretty to go around, there’s enough for everyone to be pretty. Someone else’s beauty doesn’t disqualify your own.
I used to think that if I was as “pretty” as the girls I compared myself to, I’d never have another issue. I thought that the pretty people were works of art, and I ran around the margins. Understanding that there’s enough pretty to go around correlates directly with understanding that no one is exempt from sadness. There will always be someone who disappoints us, and there will always be an adversary. There will be no shortage of negativity or sadness.
We play with the cards we’re dealt, but because too many people end up hating their hands, I think our vision of the game is skewed. Something about growing up made me start hating my cards, and that’s not unique to me. Little, overly-confident Erin held closely to her dear Queen of Hearts, but I think it’s time to stop trying to paint the white roses red.
My name is Erin Harrison and I’m a 17-year-old girl from Tupelo, Mississippi. I had a rather tedious journey learning to accept myself in middle school, so when I finally made progress, I wanted to help others make some too. I started a project I like to call “I Feel Pretty” to mentor middle school girls on overcoming insecurity, friendship quarrels, and even different kinds of abuse at home. I spend most of my time babysitting, mentoring adolescents, and hanging out with friends. If you’re interested in my project, check out my website: https://fox-seadragon-7z3b.squarespace.com/about-me?noredirect.
GET THE BOOK BY
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.