Have you ever found yourself unfriending or distancing from individuals who disagreed with you, said things that made you feel uncomfortable, or didn’t respond to you in the way you hoped? Have you ended relationships or distanced yourself from friends because they consistently made you feel uneasy?
To clarify, I won’t be discussing here the ‘internet trolls ‘and toxic individuals who engage in gaslighting.
If they have a different opinion, if they are negative about their own life or life in general and are creating strong reactions in you – you may choose to disengage abruptly, opting to either vanish or remove them from your contact list without offering an explanation – you are just ‘done’ with them – you cannot tolerate conflict.
At first sight it seems to be a healthy boundary. But is it?
When I started on the path of personal and spiritual self-knowledge, I started to read only books and online articles that confirmed what I liked to hear, to listen only to certain opinions, to only look for the presence of those concerned with the same things.
I noticed that I was choosing people who confirm the stories I wanted to believe about myself, about the world – that I was no longer willing and exposed to diversity, to difference, and I even started to look down on the ‘un-woke people’.
Whenever someone or something dared to challenge the carefully crafted image I had built of myself – a spiritual, always positive, never angry, gentle, and perfectly healthy fairy-human – I instinctively responded by defending myself and by retreating into my shell.
I began to see the world truncated and to become ‘rigid’.
Where was my once-present openness to what was different, unique and challenged me to evolve? I became a master at avoiding conflict and the more painful parts of my own self.
I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself that true compassion is not biased.
So thank you, dear person who challenges me.
The mirror you present to me helps me to see myself better. Without you, the one who reveals less pleasant things about myself, the forgotten parts of my own self are harder to come to light.
Without you I could not recognise that I am also holding onto anger, some “know it all’, some jealousy, some fear of connection and I would keep projecting them onto you.
Helping me to recognise less pleasant parts of myself was a great reminder that (self)acceptance should not be selective. To accept myself with all my good and bad traits and to embrace a more authentic (and realistic) image of myself is indeed a big gift.
Surrounded only by like-minded people? Yes, it feels good, it feels like belonging. However, the chances of being biased and surrounded by fake people or who no longer have the courage to say what they think from fear of being ghosted or falling out with me or just to ‘protect’ my energy are huge.
Having been around people with different habits and views on life, who are not shy to contradict me or point out when I might be veering off course, feels to me like a recipe for a healthy and balanced existence.
Is it simple? Absolutely not.
I leave you with a few reasons why engaging with differing perspectives allows you to grow:
- They give me perspectives that I cannot see – Interacting with people who are different to me exposed me to a wide range of new perspectives and worldviews. This exposure encourages me to see things from different angles and challenge my preconceived ideas – it makes me more open-minded and adaptable.
- They help me to check my biases or prejudices that I may hold – when I am uncomfortable around people who are different, this can be an opportunity to overcome my biases through interactions. Diversity in thought and experience often leads to innovation and creative problem-solving, which encourages me to think beyond my usual boundaries.
- They help develop my ability to keep an open dialogue (instead of a monolog) and negotiation skills – communicating with people who are different to me often requires greater effort and empathy. I need to listen more attentively, ask questions, and be patient. I often used that space as an opportunity to make my voice heard.
- They give me the chance to practice assertive and authentic communication – The conflict I feared so much was necessary for my growth and going through it helped me to move on to a different and more authentic level of relationships.
- They helped me with my personal growth and to build up a stronger resilience – Engaging with people who challenge my comfort zones can sometimes provide a source of personal growth. It forces me to confront my fears and insecurities. Dealing with discomfort can be a valuable skill.
- Being around people who think differently plays an important role in boosting my self-confidence. Having someone with a distinct perspective around often reveals that I do possess a clear understanding. The contrast in perspectives serves as a valuable guide, leading to more clarity.
In essence, those who make us uncomfortable often serve as catalysts for personal growth by challenging our beliefs, expanding our horizons, and helping us develop valuable skills and qualities. Embracing and learning from these interactions can lead to a more enriched and well-rounded life.
In which mirrors do you find it difficult to look into? What do you not want to know about yourself?