Looking Beyond Our Assumptions

“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Anais Nin)

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We bring our assumptions into every interaction, every situation. When my assumptions are grounded in internal fears or insecurities, they create distance between me and the people around me. My heart closes up in self-defense.

One of my practices this year has been to notice when I'm acting from fear-based assumptions, and to make the conscious choice in that moment to open my heart back up.

The results still surprise and delight me.

Two recent examples:

- I was facilitating a workshop in which one of the participants was noticeably silent. I knew her to be an outspoken person and as the workshop progressed, my mind spun elaborate stories about her silence: She was bored. She found the workshop content ridiculous. My facilitation annoyed her and she regretted being here. Rather than getting more entrenched in my fear-based assumptions, I approached her during a break and asked how she was doing: "We didn't hear your voice this morning." She shared that she'd been dying to talk, but was trying to be conscious of giving others a chance, as she tended to dominate conversations. Her comment led to a rich discussion with the entire group about what everyone needed to participate fully.

- A few weeks ago I went to an upscale clothing store to exchange a gift. The woman at the counter had expensive blonde hair and looked like she'd walked out of a photo shoot. I felt unwashed (which I was) and middle-aged. She was aloof with the customers in front of me and I inwardly braced myself, preparing to be looked down upon. Noticing how closed off I was suddenly feeling, I opened my heart back up. When I stepped up to the counter, I said, "I love your hat. It looks so beautiful with your hair." (It really did!) Her face immediately softened and she shared that she was feeling self-conscious because she'd injured her eye and it still felt bruised and swollen. She wasn't sure if her make-up covered it up, and had been avoiding looking people in the face. Her discomfort and her relief at being able to share it with a sympathetic ear, were palpable.

In every moment, we can choose how we see. In every moment, we shape what is possible. Behind the projected veil of rejection and judgment, connection is waiting.

(Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash.)