Disclaimer: This article is about putting yourself in others’ shoes, not an advocacy for the degradation of your mental health.
Treating others how you want to be treated is a powerful philosophy. The train this general thought deploys, arrives at discovering life’s constant search for balance. We rest when we are tired and eat when we are hungry. We laugh at others’ jokes, and cry in reaction to tragedies occurring; both of which disrupt life’s balance in their specific way. Like a strummed guitar string in slow motion, life tends to vibrate down to perfect balance. Treating others how you want to be treated taps into this notion. It reminds you that everything you say, do, and think, is one strum of the guitar. It is one pebble thrown into the pond, generating ripples that roll toward every perimeter. Your actions and thoughts ripple and splash to the very end of the many channels of life.
The philosophy of treating others in a way you’d want to be treated by them, can be extended further. What if you spoke to others how you prefer to be spoken to? What if you accepted others’ words as if they were your own? We are sometimes the harshest critics of ourselves, and sometimes our own biggest fans. The things you hear from others operate under the same variance. Don’t take either love or hate too seriously, and imagine that you’re just talking to yourself. Imagining the sharing of one consciousness across all of humanity will calm you and improve your effect on others. You’ll become more understanding, accepting of others’ differences, and forgiving of their mistakes.
Learning and Acceptance Are Paired
In order to learn from the people around us, we first need to be accepting of what they’re saying and doing. Even if what they say teaches us lessons of what not to say ourselves, they must still be respected as people, and the existence of their thoughts acknowledged. When someone goes on the journey of presenting their truth to the world, treat them as you presenting your own truth to yourself. The ideas you think and present day to day are subject to being classified under a spectrum of good and bad ones. The same goes for the ideas you hear others present. When you hear a bad idea, or witness an ill-willed act, pretend that your own mind cultivated those words and gave birth to those actions. Yearn to know why other people are motivated to say the things they say, and do the things they do, by understanding that your own mind is capable of doing the exact same.
In order to come close to figuring out why people do the things they do, their mindset needs to be adopted as your own. If the belief is that your mind is undoubtedly unique in its construction and operation, then that exercise is not possible. However, if we assume that we all share the same (or a similar) consciousness, then maybe we can come close to understanding why others do the things they do in their relationships with us. It is by no means a factual assumption, but is a helpful one in attempting to gain an understanding of those around you.
Learning and acceptance are paired in their existence. In order to learn something in an unbiased way, you should accept its existence fully. Acceptance in this case means accepting the action committed for or against you. It means accepting the words said in your favor, as well as the words said to destroy your image and sense of contentment. Accept those actions and those words as if they’ve come from your own mind. Learn from them fully by taking the things people do and say as seriously as you take your own words and actions. Realize why they’re wrong, and improve your mindset going forward. Rather than retaliating, you will be learning. Rather than being upset, you’ll be tuned in and focused on next steps.
Imagine these words were written by you. Imagine the act of others talking to you, as the act of you talking to yourself, and imagine the people that bring you pain as just you being upset at yourself. The words you’re reading now may not be right, and the things you hear later on today may not be either, however, accepting them as your own will ensure that you understand why they’re wrong rather than merely labeling them so. Why would you, yourself, not write the words you’re reading now? Why would you, yourself, not say the words that were spoken to you earlier today? You’ll improve moving forward by realizing that you could’ve very well spoken the words of someone else and committed the actions of another. With this mindset, you’ll realize how easy it is to misspeak and to commit actions which prove to be painful to the ones around us.
When’s the last time you critiqued yourself? Was it the excessively bright pants you wore to work? Was it that time you embarrassed yourself out of nervousness while talking to an attractive individual? Or was it that time you stumbled on the stage as you made your coveted walk at your graduation? We take our own criticisms more seriously than those coming from others. We know ourselves, what we were thinking, and what actions exactly warrant our own criticism. We criticize ourselves in order to improve. The end-goal is to improve as people in life as a whole, but the short-term goal is to improve at whatever domain is in question.
What if you accepted others’ criticism as your own? What if every critique you hear from others is an attempt to improve you as a person? Rather than viewing others’ critiques of you as attempts to destroy you, view them similar to your own attempts at improving yourself. See every criticism you read or hear as a potential idea toward improving yourself or your body of work. These ideas can be bad and they can be good. Take the good ones and run with them while ignoring the bad ones.
Imagining that criticism coming from others is no different than you criticizing yourself will open you up to be more honest with your performances through life. We don’t get upset at ourselves when we are too harsh on ourselves, rather, we sometimes encourage that train of thought. The criticisms you hear from others should be treated the same way. Some may be emotional, some may be ill-willed, and some may be genuinely helpful. It is the same as you criticizing yourself, and should be accepted, then learned from as such.